Karate Combat: Season 3 opened with three bouts in the newly-launched bantamweight division. Throughout the season, the fighters will be competing in a Grand Prix-type format, with the world championship on the line at the season’s end.
First to claim victory in the new division was the debuting Eoghan Chelmiah (pictured) - and he couldn’t have asked for a better start to his Karate Combat career.
The Irish bantamweight stopped Kevin Azouz in the third round of their contest, backing his French opponent onto the slanting wall of The Pit before delivering a fight-finishing right hand.
It was a highlight finish to a heated encounter in which both fighters threw continuous heavy blows. Chelmiah came out on top, but wore the scars of battle when exiting the arena.
“I’m not happy with that performance, I know that I’m capable of a lot better. But I love this - all I want to do is fight and I look forward to putting on even better performances in the future,” he said afterwards.
Next into The Pit was Moroccan standout Abdelsalam Ameknassi. He faced Hungary’s Nikolasz Lukacs, the 18-year-old setting a record for being the youngest fighter in Karate Combat history when he stepped into The Pit.
Ameknassi is a decorated competitor on the Middle East / North Africa circuit and has medalled at several high-prestige tournaments, but the young Lukacs was in no way overawed.
The two had a high-pace technical battle over three rounds. Lukacs gave a good account of himself but gradually fell behind in the scoring, with Ameknassi’s diverse and tricky kicking game steadily racking up points.
“I want to thank my coach, my friends, my family so much,” said a breathless Ameknassi after winning a unanimous decision. “I think I can be champion here - this division will be mine.”
Finally two Karate Combat veterans entered The Pit as Brazil’s Teeik ‘The Black Dragon’ Silva faced off with Russia’s Myrza ‘The King’ Tebuev.
Both fighters were dropping down from lightweight to the newly-created bantamweight division, taking the opportunity to compete at a weight more suited to their frames.
Some tension between the two was evident at the weigh-ins, with Silva also promising his rival that he would “break his face” in the fight. As it happened, those words proved prophetic - though Silva didn’t come away with the win.
Tebuev played an outside tactical game through the fight, a showcase of movement and tactical mastery which forced Silva to chase him down. The Brazilian frequently found himself swinging at air instead of the elusive Tebuev - but one blow did some unexpectedly heavy damage.
Despite emerging as the winner after three rounds, a backstage medical inspection found Tebuev to have sustained a skull fracture. The injury was likely received as the result of a Silva spinning backfist which accidentally involved elbow contact.
Tebuev successfully underwent surgery following the fight and is cleared to continue competing in the future. It will be a while before the Russian can return to The Pit - in the meantime, he can content himself with having secured that all-important win.
Karate Combat: Season 3 airs weekly on Thursday nights on CBS Sports Network in the USA, Eurosport across the Eurosport network, BeIN Sports in Australia and multiple networks worldwide.
Uncut episodes can also be watched free and on-demand every Sunday at the Karate Combat YouTube channel.
Karate Combat: Season 3 - Episode 1 Results
Eoghan Chelmiah def. Kevin Azouz (KO, R3 0:43)
Abdesalam Ameknassi def. Nikolasz Lukacs (Unanimous Decision, R3)
Myrza Tebuev def. Teeik Silva (Unanimous Decision, R3)