All round support in 6th IFK World Championship 2022

IFK holds its World championship in early June, 4-5th. The war in Ukraine stops Russia as participants. This means that the Russian dominance that has been the trademark of IFK event don’t kick in this time. IFK with a good all round support from several organizations makes the World Championship happen in Valencia, Spain for the 2nd time in twenty years, the 2nd edition was also held in Valencia, 2002.

IFK World Championship also includes youth classes this time as well, U-16 (new this year), U-18 and U-21. We take a look at the senior classes, which contain 7 classes, 3 for women, and 4 for men. A total of 167 athletes (51 for women and 116 in the men’s category) there is no qualified entry, you can participate freely – only regulated according to quotas athletes per organization / nation.

To understand that this will be a different tournament, not to say what will be different, we have to look a little at the latest IFK World Championship results. During the last World Cup in 2017, Romania, Russia took 10 of 16 medals in the men’s category, and 6 of 8 medals in the women’s class (2 women’s category at the last World Championship) As said: without Russia in the lineup, this will be a totally different World Championship. We could compare it to if Japan was out from the World Championship in WKO – that would be a similar impact. Russian dominance in the IFK tournaments haven’t only been by IFK Russia, but also from Kyokushin-Kan/ Royama group.

5th IFK World Championship 2017, Romania

There are also less participants from the top nations than we are used to see strong into tournaments like this. Countries as Hungary, Armenia, Romania, Poland, Georgia, Azerbaijan (not participating), Lithuania (not participating) use to be dominating in number as well at the podium, these countries brings us about 25 seniors fighters divided in the 7 categories.

Men Lightweight -70 kg

This is the largest category, with (at the time) 39 fighters in the line up (42 in 2017). It would be naturally that we get some cases of “No show” at fight day – but this is a very decent category. From the top 8 last time, three fighters will try to improve their position from 2017. Jamal Aboubakri / Iran came 6th and Daniel Redondo / Spain (Rengokai) came 3rd – both lost to Marsel Mansurov / Russia who ended 2nd. Third one in this years line up is non other than Artur Arushanyan /Armenia (KWF). came in 8th in 2017, but have grown incredible since then – and from what we see, he is one of the best (light) lightweight fighters we got. The 3 times KWU World Champion has been competing in the -60 kg category – so it will be some weight given away.

Artur Arushanyan / Armenia

Arushanyan did also “recently” 2021 take the kwf WT tittle, but the level was not at the same height as the KWU tittles which he has achieved. Attending in that tournament a very strong Dutchman:Davy Brand (KWF). Brand will for sure have a word or two in this party – very tough, demanding fighter, that will leave a mark. Kazakhstan got a large number of participants in this tournament – from several organizations. Four fighters in this category, and if we should pick one, we would Yerkebulan Beisembayev. Very skilled, and do also have merits to back it up – faced the absolute top fighters – and manage to keep them busy. The category does also contains several fighters that we have never seen before, from nations that for us are a little unknown. Time will show, if everybody show fight-day.

Women Lightweight -55 kg

Last time we got -60 and +60, this time we got three categories. In this, the lightest category, the number (13) of fighter are a little lower than the rest, but luckily the fighters are well rounded, known names with merits and experience to make it interesting. World, European champions and runners up in different organisations – and some of them know each other from previous tournaments. Most likely Teona Gazdeliani / Spain will be the biggest favorite. Most merited, kept it very active on a high level over a long time. for those of you that may be a little confused, Teona Gazdeliani represented Georgia in April, now Spain, and back to representing Georgia in September again -due to a dual / split nationality.

Teona Gazdeliani

Looking trough the category, we can with joy see that many nations are represented, and also the strong nations that we are used to see in the top. Bulgaria, Ukraine, Poland – with two, and Kazakhstan with four fighters. The draw will of course make some difference in this category. Many tough fighters, and if some get a nice way into the semi for an example, their opponents can be heavily marked going trough a harder draw. How the draw (seeding?) will be done, we do not know.

Iya Kostova / Bulgaria (KAN/Royama), Anna Bielska / Poland (WKO), Anna Izdebska / Ukraine (WKO), Agnieszka Winek / Poland (WKB), Hayley Beth Rowlands / UK (IFK) and all ready mention Teona Gazdeliani / Spain – all candidates for the podium, plus we might have some “dark horses” in the line up, coming by the four fighters from Kazakhstan. As we mention – the draw will matter.

Men middleweight -80 kg

Last time inn 2017, there was barely any question which fighter that would take it. Artem Nazaretyan / Rus, was never threatened, followed by countryman Artem Solovyev. From last time top 8, it doesn’t seem that any are in the line up this year, from last time. (four fighters from Russia last time in the top 8)

This time we find a good mix, several nations with good fighters in the line up. Hungary and Kazakhstan with three fighters each – a force to recon with. Zsiga Zsolt (IBK) well known for the of us, been in the heat with the very best, always preform with strong spirit and high frequency fighting. No surprise if he enters the top 4. Up and coming country fellowman, Milán Móczó (WKO), only 20 years – but been on the EC podium in almost “every” organization – KWF, KWU, EFKO, WKO – and made it trough the very hard qualifying to the WKO World Championship in September. Could he enter this podium as well? The answer is Yes, he can.

Kazakhstan with three young fighters, from WKO and KAN/Royama, knowing the general level in Kazakhstan we can assume that the will challenge many of fighters the middleweight category, but it seems that it is only Artur Kovalenko WKO that bring in some podium merits from previous tournaments. (3rd place KWU 4th WT)

Poland are represented in this category, both with quite fresh achievements – Szymon Olpiński (WKB) became the KWU EC champion late in 2021 – that was one thing, the semi-final victory over top ranked Artem Nazaretyan by clipping him with a headkick shocked the most of us.

Szymon Olpiński / Poland

Igor Lamot WKO, has recently established himself on the podium in the European Championships, solid, always strong performances – qualified for the WKO World Cup in September. We think Lamot will go far, how far will the draw and opponents decide – but here we are talking about the top level. A man much of the same merits, possibly even a notch sharper – is Swedish Ali Hayder (WKO). Hayder has spent an enormous amount of time traveling the world to train with the best – and it has paid off. The arrow is pointing upwards for Hayder, and the capacity he has indicates top position – a draw can make a difference, and again we do not know how this championship takes the lead when it comes to seeding.

So, we believe this category will be dominated by Poland, Sweden and Hungary – in what order will be significantly more difficult to predict.

Women Middleweight -65 kg

The middleweight for women have similar line up like the men’s division. A good mix of nations and organisations makes the category contain 22 fighters. One can be a little surprised that the organizer, IFK, does not field more than a handful of athletes, a quarter of the total. Anyway, the level of the athletes makes it interesting – with Kazakhstan, Sweden, Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, and The Netherlands with merited athletes-

We start with the last mentioned, The Netherlands, and Valence Bickel (KWF). She is a cool fighter to follow, very aggressive and powerful – and have good set-ups to finish fights. Been (together with Artur Arushanyan) one of the profiles out of KWF, being the World and EC Champion – and clearly ready to wide out “the circle” even more. That said, it feels very right to see her ready for the WKO World Championship i September as well,getting a higher part of fighters from Lithuania and maybe Japan for a start. In this setting it will be very interesting to see her go up against Kazakhstan and Sweden – we believe the hardest nuts to crack will be there, and maybe also reach and weight advantage/disadvantage will be a factor.

World Champion – we got more of them in this line up. Mariela Lyubenova / Bulgaria (KAN/Royama) did also win the KWF World Championship in 2018, but in a higher weight-category than Bickel. Both being denied advance in KWU World Championship the year after (2019) Lyubenova loosing to a young Swedish fighter: Agnes Westrin (IFK). Westerin also ready for this tournament – and who knows, it could be a rematch. Westerin has proven to be a really competent fighter – despite her young age. Many stopped and watched her fight with Emma Markwell in the KWU European Championship 2018 – Westerin lost the fight, but made a very good impression, holding the multi-champion Markweel trough two extensions. manage to reach the KWU World Championship podium in 2019, 3rd place.

Westerin are not the only one from Sweden in this category, and quite similar settings we have Mirjam Björklund (WKO) Coming out from the U-21 category with a EC tittle, and into a very hard senior division, but proven to take the challenge and manage two times to step into the top 3 position in the WKO EC 2021/22. Also in this case, we find a young very good skilled fighter – improving as we speak. Kazakhstan have four fighters, and that alone will have an impact – thinking of the level that nation on general basis have. Ioanna Belykh (WKO) have been all over the world fighting, faced all the best and will be a fighter that will matter. Many of us saw the long and the demanding fight in the IFK EC, where Ioanna Belykh lost 3 to 2 flags after going all extensions with Emma Markwell. Did also impress many in the 12th World Open Championship in 2019, secured notable wins over Aneta Meskauskiene / Lithuania, Momo Fujihara / Japan before loosing to non other than the runner up of the championship Inga Mikstaite / Lithuania – but not after two extensions – and with a 3 flag victory for Mikstaite. You can win over Ioanna Belykh – bit it will for sure cost you.

Hungary and Poland have one fighter each in this category, both experienced and it would be surprising if they did not advanced in the tournament. Anna Bojda / Poland (WKO) recently became the runner up in the Shin EC in April, and Hungarian fighter Kerekes Réka (WKO) great potential – have a good reach, and dangerous kicks and knees – also been on the Shin EC podium (2021)

Men Light Heavyweight -90 kg

In this category we have two fighters from the last World Championship podium – Jonas Rosin / Sweden (IFK) and Emanuel Lebo / Austria (KAN/Royama). Both very well enter the podium this time as well. Both on the KWU EC podium in 2021, Lebo into 3rd loosing the semi, but soften-up Aleksandr Sorokopudov / Russia, as Rosin secured the EC tittle. Rosin did also take the IFK EC tittle in 2018 – Lebo became the KWU World Champion in 2015.

Similar to these two in merits and success we have Kristiyan Doychev / Bulgaria (KAN) Royama) Several times at the podium, KWU EC Champion in 2018 – and did almost go all the way in the in the KWU World Championship in 2019 – could not take down his his very competent opponent in the final: Vladimir Artyushin / Kazakhstan (WKO). And as Artyushin also are to find in this tournament, one could have a rematch. We think that these four have a little higher level than the rest of the category – based on their merits and achievements.

If the draw put two on each side – it will be quite even, if the draw put three on one side, and the last on the other side – it will be a significant advantage for the “one” The rest of the category, that in total holds 23 fighters – have a spread, but countries from the Middle- East are quite good represented.

Women Heavyweight + 65 kg

This is the heaviest category for women, and it might be the one with the heaviest merited fighters also. Emma Markwell UK (IFK) will have a big chance being one ending up in an final – and in an final everything can happen. In some stiff competition this time, from various countries. Being tested hard in previous championship IFK/KWU by Russian and Lithuanian fighters – That’s one thing, but the biggest factor is that Markwell has of course evolved, hardworking as she is, always pushing forward. The great prov for this was (as we see it) when she defeated Elizaveta Fiks / Russia in the 4th KWU World Championship final. Being the one ahead trough the whole fight – even doe it went to extensions, Markwell was the one pushing the action being the aggressor. Markwell came in 8th place last time in 2017, with four Russian among the top 8, in -60 kg category.

In this category many of the top fighters have fought each other from before. A good mix of young fighters pushing upwards, and fighters with impressive many year at the top level. Julie Lamarre / Canada (KAN/Royama) Entering the Wold Championship podium back in 2011, being the runner up the IKO1 open weight Wold Championship. Two years later,2013, she became the World Champion in weight categories IKO1. Been two times on the KWU World Champions podium, last time in 2019,where she fought Alemgul Sabyrkhan / Kazakhstan (KAN/Royama). Sabyrkhan mange to fight trough Lamarre – who is very good at keeping her distance, disturb the rhythm of the fight and torment her opponents with front-kicks and variations. Sabyrkhan went to the final where she also secured a win, and became KWU World Champion on home soil. In this final she fought reign champion Agata Winiarska / Poland (WKO)

Agata Winiarska are also in the line up this year, and also the reign champion of this tournament. Winiarska did as the only non-Russian fighter win in this championship back in 2017. 5 out of 6 categories went to Russian fighters, the last one to Poland and Agata Winiarska. Russian athletes could not prevent this, and became runner up and 3rd place holders. Winiarska had to dig deep, winning quarter final Mariya Panova / Russia and the final vs Olga Ivanova / Russia, This had only happen one time before, at the very beginning -97 (Paula (Long) Warden). All other gold medals in the IFK women category trough time has gone to Russian fighters. The same are the fact for men, only in 97 a non Russian fighter took the gold, Timmy Warden.

We mention Alemgul Sabyrkhan obove, but the second fighter from Kazakhstan Azhar Akylova / WKO do also have very good record. Azhar Akylova, or Azhar Zhaxybayeva before getting married, can really stand against the best, and can deliver strong kicks and punches trough long fights.

Sweden are also strongly represented with three fighters. All three now what this is all about – to put it that way, and will for sure give their opponents a hard time. All three Swedish fighters was on the EC podium late in 2021 ,December, Amber Lindblom / IFK 2nd and Mette-Marie Nielsen IFK 3rd in the KWU EC, as Sanne Larson / WKO 3rd in European Cup. Roxanne Ramselaar / The Netherlands (KWF) can also be tough to crack, being the runner up in the KWU World Championship in 2019, competing in the +70 kg category.

In short: 4 World Champions – and a wolf-pack right behind!

Men Heavyweight + 90 kg

In this category, it is safe to say that we can not compare with previous World Championships. The category is against normal this time the weakest men’s class, both when it comes to the number of athletes (19) and participation. This class used to be the most generous to win, due to the insane high level and the number of absolute top fighters. To put things in perspective we can look at the latest World Championship results.

  1. Vitaly Ishahneli / Russia
  2. Vasily Samadurov / Russia
  3. Alexander Karshigeev /Russia
    Dmitry Solovyev / Russia
  4. Yuriy Kirakosyan / Russia
  5. Denis Morozevich / Russia
  6. Roel Noordman / The Netherlands
  7. Hristo Georgiev / Bulgaria

Just a quick look at the top 4 gives us the perspective we need, but just for the complete picture we can add the full – top eight. The impact of the Russian fighters in this category has been beyond all other categories, and all of them got so many strong merits that it would take all day to list up. Only Roel Noordman from last time podium will enter this time.

The category misses profiles as we are used to see. Not only if we think about Russian fighter, but profiles overall. Neither are the strong nations that we are used to see in different tournaments represented in this category. Vasil Dimitrov / Bulgaria (KAN/Royama) and Kevin Cid / Spain – both on the KWU EC podium in 2021, but the category could only offer 8 fighters including them self – and we could wish to see them into heavier challenges. Hovhannes Sargsyan / Armenia (IFK) made it into top 8 last time, but in an lighter weight category, secured 8th with two victories – and it will be interesting to see him into a heavier category, and if he can climb higher this time.

For the heaviest merits, we think of that the veteran Ilya Yakovlev / Kazakhstan (WKO) Became the KWF World Champion on home soil in 2018, but took on an even higher harder challenge, reaching 8th place in the 12th World Open Championship WKO in 2019. Time will show how it will turn out and possibilities for a “fast track” to the podium comparing to last time is possible, so we can get “unknown champions” But nothing comes for free in Kyokushin – neither does this on!