Samuel Ericsson came away with the win in his Karate Combat debut (Season 3, Event 5) - but it was a close-run thing.
The Swedish lightweight faced fellow debutant Alberto Ramirez, a Venezuelan karateka known as “The Berzerker”, in what was a high-pressure encounter for both fighters.
Ericsson is already a well-known social media influencer, with around a million followers across his various social media accounts.
Ramirez was stepping into The Pit not long after having spent (literally) every dollar he had on flying to the USA for a chance to introduce himself to Karate Combat matchmakers.
It was a cautious encounter at first, both fighters reluctant to hand the other an opportunity by opening up too much. The first round of the fight was mostly a tense feeling-out process, the fighters testing each other’s reactions and probing defenses.
Things opened up more from the second round, though both fighters were still reluctant to over-commit. Ericsson launched his trademark kicking repertoire but Ramirez was able to evade many of his efforts. In return, Ramirez’s best scoring came from taking Ericsson down with sweeps and trips.
By the end of the fight, Ericsson had out-landed Ramirez in strikes, but had been cleanly tripped and taken down several times.
This required the judges to make an evaluation: which was to be accorded more weight, Ericsson’s edge in landed strikes or Ramirez’s slew of takedowns?
It was a divisive question: two judges felt Ericsson had done enough to get the win, while the other gave the nod to Ramirez, resulting in a split-decision win for the Swedish lightweight.
To say it was the most controversial decision in Karate Combat history would be an understatement: social media channels erupted in furious debate when the decision was announced, with many fans siding with Ramirez.
The fact Ericsson was the fighter mostly pushing forwards and controlling the fighting arena probably tipped the scales in his favor; Karate Combat rules score aggression highly, and it may be that some of Ramirez’s takedowns were seen as defensive, coming after he clinched up with the advancing Ericsson.
Ultimately, the fight was not the decisive encounter either man wanted and neither was the result. Split-decisions are by definition a disagreement - this one will be debated for a long time to come.
There was no debate about the result of the evening’s first fight. Nikos Gidakos stopped Gilmarcos De Bastos Jr. in one of the most decisive knockout finishes ever witnessed in the Karate Combat Pit.
In the second round of a heated encounter Bastos edged forwards with the intent of delivering a right hand. Gidakos read his intentions and countered with a right hand of his own.
The thunderous reverse punch was perfectly timed and landed with the combined force of Bastos’ own forward movement and the entirety of Gidakos’ bodyweight behind it. The punch was a showstopper: Bastos was unconscious before he hit the mat.
Between these two fights was an act of giant-killing by Jorge Perez. Fighting out of the Dominican Republic, the stocky Perez was more than six inches (15cm) shorter than his opponent, the Serbian tower Velimir Jeknic.
That height and reach advantage wasn’t enough for Jeknic to keep Perez off him though. Once Perez found his range, he was able to duck his way inside and work from angles which made Jeknic’s height a disadvantage.
Throughout the second round Perez was able to pile on the pressure. With less than a minute remaining he was able to force Jeknic onto his back against the Pit wall and unleash a flurry of punches which prompted the referee to step in and stop the fight.
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