Branko Cikatic wins first ever K-1 Grand Prix (Retro)
30th April 1993
A crowd of around 2,100 people turned out tonight to witness a new combat sport phenomenon at the Korakuen Hall tonight.
The first ever K-1 Grand Prix tournament featured eight elite competitors from the world of stand up fighting and striking sports. All were invited to fight under the new format with each match consisting of three rounds lasting three minutes each, plus an extra round in the event of a draw.
The opening quarter final fight featured the first of the two hometown favourites Masaaki Satake, who comes from a strong karate background. His American opponent, Todd Hays, was a national kickboxing champion in his homeland.
Both looked to feel their way into the fight in the opening round. Satake landing the first meaningful shot, a heavy overhand right. Hays was busy switching stances, but struggled a little to find his range.
Satake kept attacking the legs of Hays and towards the end of the round, the low kicks looked like they were starting to hurt the American fighter.
Satake carried on his assault of Hays legs in round two and the round was barely underway when a hard low kick from Stake caused Hays to wince in pain. Satake followed in with another hard low kick and Hays dropped to the canvas in agony, where he was counted out.
Speed and guile
Next up saw Croatia’s Branko Cikatic who, at almost 39 years of age, was the oldest competitor. He faced the smallest fighter in the tournament, Thailand’s Changpuek Kiatsongrit.
Changpuek looked to use speed and guile to avoid Cikatic’s heavy punches early on and attacked with some fast punches and kicks, but most just bounced off the much larger Croatian.
Cikatic tested the defences of Changpuek with a few heavy punches and some spinning back kicks. Changpuek looked like he was going to make it through the opening round.
But with less than 30 seconds to go, Cikatic connected with a huge left hook and Changpuek dropped to the canvas. Changpuek bravely got to his feet, but his legs were gone and Cikatic progressed to the semi-finals.
Clash of styles
The second Japanese contender Toshiyuki Atokawa was up next, with the renowned karate fighter facing American Maurice Smith, a WKC and WKA kickboxing world champion.
Smith looked to control the pace from the opening bell, coming forward and attacking Atokawa with hard low kicks and body kicks. Atokawa didn’t manage to land with too much in the opening round aside from a few solid punches.
In the second round Atokawa started more positively, attacking Smith with some hard punches, but the American fighter was soon back in control, landing with more punches now, as well as his sharp kicks.
Atokawa came in with a hard knee, but got caught with a barrage back from Smith. In the final round Smith came out attacking Atokawa with hard punch combinations, the round was barely underway when a barrage from Smith had Atokawa turning away and the referee stepped in to give him a standing count.
Smith pushed forward looking to finish the fight, but Atokawa managed to stay the distance and Smith took a clear decision win.
All Dutch affair
The final quarter-final was an all Dutch affair as Peter Aerts faced Ernesto Hoost. The former is a multiple time Muay Thai world champion while the latter is a kickboxing, Muay Thai and savate world champion.
This would be the second encounter between them, with Hoost claiming a decision win in a Muay Thai bout in the Netherlands almost five years ago. Aerts started the fight the more aggressive, coming forward and attacking with low kicks and hard punches.
Hoost looked defensively sound and used the ring well to pick off Aerts with some sharp counter shots. Hoost slipped to the canvas at one point avoiding a hard right hand from Aerts, but bounced back up and proceeded to trade hard shots.
Aerts got through with a couple of heavy looking rights at the start of round two, but Hoost was soon back in his stride, showing good footwork and controlling the ring.
Both opened up with hard low kicks, but Hoost again looked the sharper of the two as he landed with some slick counters. Both come out attacking each others legs at the start of the final round.
Hoost planted his feet and unloaded with some heavy punches and followed in with a strong body kick. Hoost stumbled down to the canvas again at one point, as he moved out of the way of another hard Aerts right hand.
Aerts landed with a big right hand right on the bell, but it wasn’t enough to turn the fight in his favour and Hoost took the points win.
The first semi-final pitted Branko Cikatic against Masaaki Satake. Cikatic got the action underway with a fast spinning back kick. Satake looked a little wary of Cikatic’s punches and complained that Cikatic had hit him on the back of the head.
In round two Satake started positively, but was soon backed up by some hard punches from Cikatic. The fight looked a little scrappy now as both struggled to find their range. Cikatic kept on looking to land with more spinning kicks and heavy punches.
The final round was less than a minute old when Cikatic found the target with one of his trademark left hooks, dropping Satake for the count to claim his second stoppage win of the evening and earn a spot in the final.
Ernesto Hoost faced Maurice Smith to decide who would face Cikatic in the final. Hoost started the more aggressive, attacking Smith’s legs with some heavy low kicks.
Smith looked to use the ring more, somewhat wary of Hoost’s punches and looked to keep him away with some fast push kicks.
In round two Hoost upped the power with some hard body kicks and more strong punches. Hoost attacked with some strong knees before a sharp combination of punches and a follow in low kick almost span Smith around. Smith opened up with a few punches, but nothing really troubled Hoost who looked in control.
In the final round Smith looked a little more positive and looked prepared to stand and trade punches. This proved to be his downfall though as a fast left high kick in close, dropped Smith for the count.
Before the final the crowd were treated to a karate match matching Nobuaki Kakuda against kyokhushin and seidokaikan legend Andy Hug. Hug stopped Kakuda in the second round with a knee and announced on the microphone afterwards that he would be switching over to fight under kickboxing rules.
The final saw two of Holland’s powerhouse gyms face off. Cikatic trains and fights out of Thom Harinck’s Chakuriki gym while Hoost was representing Johan Vos’s Vos gym.
This was the second meeting between them, with Cikatic getting disqualified in the fourth round of their first encounter back in October 1989, for hitting on the break, after both had scored eight counts earlier in the fight.
Hoost started the final positively, coming in with some explosive counters and using slick footwork to avoid Cikatic’s power shots. The Dutchman also used a sharp jab to control the ring well.
Cikatic took a little longer to get going, but with the opening round just ten seconds away from ending, stepped in with a fast left hook and heavy overhand right. Hoost was out before he hit the floor and Cikatic made history becoming the first K-1 Grand Prix champion and taking home the $100,000 USD grand prize.