European Champions in the men’s division – Lasha Ozbetelashvili / Georgia and Valeri Dimitrov / Bulgaria keeping a steady course, Marek Wolny / Poland and Paulius Žimantas/ Lithuania add a weight category to their merits – Aligismat Hasanov / Azerbaijan 1st tittle!
Sweden pulls of their first European Championship, and does it with the best results one can expect. The Swedish team prove to hang with the best, on the podium in Kata and in Kumite as well.
European Champions Men
Lasha Ozbetelashvili / Georgia seems quite untouchable in the -75 kg category. Third tittle in a row now, if we include the EFKO in 2020 he got four. One of the strongest challenger, that could turn the tables is Ali Hayder / Sweden. Been in the final with Lasha Ozbetelashvili two times – but this time Hayder did not reach the final. in a very entertaining fight, semi-final ⇓, between Hayder and the young raising star from Georgia David Mskhaladze – Hayder seemed to be ahead in the game – but lost by warnings.
Lasha Ozbetelashvili makes it short and painful for his countryman David Mskhaladze in the final, close the deal with a strong body-punch to the liver 30 second into the fight. Short final, but great results in total for both contenders. Georgia continues to impress, taking top spots in major tournaments and challenges everyone in hard and tough fights trough the whole day.
Third place for Hayder, but did get the special award – and that was well deserved. Hayder does really offer some great fighting, the intensity and power – yes, but he adds a variation in the technical aspect as well, maybe the kicking is most visible but one thing for sure: if you want to see a action-packed fight, turn inn on Ali Hayder / Sweden⇓ The 2nd 3rd place went to Laurynas Vaičikauskas / Lithuania, and this is his first podium entry in the EC. One must say that the -75 kg category does have a very high level, and with 30 fighters in the line up it is quit tough to go into the podium. However, it is clearly several levels among the fighters, so one does see a raise of the level trough the day.
In the -85 kg category we had over twenty fighters (an increasing number compared to last year), and as you know some of the most profiled as well. in this category one have to say that the level is averagely high. Quite many have the capacity to reach the podium – maybe not the top of it, but into top 4.
We are used to see the dominance of the Easter Europe countries, but we do notice that in this category countries like Denmark ( Samuel Jacob Hallas and
Julian Daugbjerg Bjerrekær) and Germany (Nikita Bauer ⇑ and Thomas Ritter) hold significant level, and do also advance in the tournament or shows really good skills in close fights.
Illia Serhiienko/ Ukraine and Gergely Fekete / Hungary shared the third place this time, and for both this is the second time they enter the EC podium. These two third place holders are both very competent fighters and possesses very good all round skills. Illia Serhiienko manage to reach the podium in 2021, beating in fact Gergely Fekete in their first fight of the day. Later that day he lost to Valeri Dimitrov. Gergely Fekete did the same thing last year, showing great skills and advancing further in the tournament – before he lost to Dimitrov in the semi-final – a repeat from last year.
Another repeat from earlier: Valeri Dimitrov vs Salahat Hasanov. Both world champions and top skilled fighters. It is inevitable that Hasanov will be overshadowed by Dimitrov, but we will refresh you a bit on what Hasanov has on his side. Ten years ago, Salahat Hasanov came into the EC podium for the first time (Lightweight) . The top four had sky high quality: Rózsa, Khachapuridze, Zinchenko and Hasanov. Since then, Hasanov has been working his way upwards in the categories and level. Been on the EC podium 7 times since 2013.
Hasanov and Dimitrov in the final ended after one extension, slowly but sure Dimitrov own more and more of the fight. It could appear that he got hold of the leg of Hasanov with low kicks, which hit the fight through. As the variation and pressure increased from Dimitrov, warnings also came to Hasanov for holding – which could be a sign of damage – but we’ll never know, as Hasanov’s face is made of stone.
When it comes to Valeri Dimitrov it’s hard to actually describe a 22 times EC champion – and of course World Champion as well. The fact that he still pushes himself to do this is one case – but on a top level is incredible. Now that it has been revealed that he will compete in his 6th Open World Karate Championship in Japan this autumn, the 13th World Open Karate Championship. In Sweden during the EC, no one seems to have him on thin ice. The moment Dimitrov start increase the pace and intensity, and really start to dig into his opponent – he drain his opponents and neutralizes them.
The -95 kg category did also have a classic fight in the final, Marek Wolny / Poland vs Edgard Sečinski / Lithuania. How many time they have fought – we lost count, but it is always very hard long and demanding fights. This time – not an exception! Wolny finally stood as the winner in the Open-Weight EC in December, but have’t the EC tittle in weight category. Edgard Sečinski does, and is the reign champion the three last years! And on top of that, he is the one that have stopped Wolny all three years. In the second round in 2019, in the first round in 2021 and in the semi-final last year.
Finally for Marek Wolny: turn the table and trough a long, long final Wolny could receive his first EC tittle in weight category. Trough the fights Wolny really tournament his opponents with the low-kicks from middle-distance. The clearly made some damage. And when it was mixed up with knees from the same distance – straight front kick to the head, and more, it was hard to resist.
Edgard Sečinski seemed light-footed and movable, keeping long distance and used his reach advantage very good. Mixing it up, closing the distance fast – and following up with variations. This was clearly seen in the semi-final vs a very tough Artur Dymarczyk / Poland. Dymarczyk showed earlier on strong fighting, and this took him to the 3rd place – as he did last year.
Patrik Lajtos / Hungary ended 3rd, and that is his first podium price in the EC Weight-category. We are quite sure that it will not be the last.. Despise his young age, Lajtos seems very experienced. strong techniques, and good variety. Good understanding of timing, and he chooses very right moments to set his techniques. The quarter-final against Orestas Abazorius was a very well executed match, where this could be seen. In the semi vs Wolny the challenge was harder, and Wolny’s strength and drive forward became to much.
Edgard Sečinski vs Marek Wolny in the final was as mention a long hard fight. In the end of a long day, it is always harder to keep stylish. This resulted some time in the clinch (closer than inn-fight), close distance for the use of their best techniques. The main referee chose to enter the fight on several occasions, to separate them, and break up the clinch. Of course the clinch neutralizes the kicks and strikes from your opponent – but unfortunately this happens for both. But after fierce fighting, the winner was announced!
In the lightest category – 65 kg, we got a new “generation” in the final. Looking at the line up, we could guess that fighters as Andrei Zinchenko / Georgia, Mindia Mgeladze / Georgia and Emin Ismayilli / Azerbaijan would be to find in the final – but not this time, and that tells us a little about the level of this category…
Due to the draw, we imminently saw a fight that maybe would be a key fight: Georgia, Mindia Mgeladze (2nd in 2022 EC) vs Emin Ismayilli / Azerbaijan (EC champ 2017/19) in the first round. Trough all extensions with intensity, speed and power the pushed themselves to the maximum to get the victory – Mgeladze did get the victory in an very even and demanding first fight of the day. All have seen the ability of Mindia Mgeladze, that he can go many hard fights in the same day – and this EC was a day like that.
The second fight of Mindia Mgeladze was against Kaveh Zahmatkesh / Sweden – who had advanced with a one combination victory in the first fight. This was a fight that brought attention to Kaveh Zahmatkesh, because most of the viewers did not expect what happen. For Mindia Mgeladze this resulted in another long fight, trough all extensions – with Zahmatkesh never giving up – and the ability to pull him self up time after time to the top level he needed to follow Mgeladze. Finally for Mgeladze, he did get the victory and could go further on in the tournament, as for Kaveh Zahmatkesh a victory on another level – the proof that he can face the best – and go the distance.
One of the biggest surprises (for us) in this category was the young (18 years) Polish fighter Mateusz Dyniewicz, who went all the way to the final. Stopping Mindia Mgeladze in the semifinal, and up to that point he had to wins over Giedrius Miškinas / Lithuania and Nikita Hrabovetskyi / Ukraine.
Aligismat Hasanov / Azerbaijan became the new champion in this category, and looked very strong on his way to the tittle. Turning some heads when he secured a win against the five time EC champion and reign champion Andrei Zinchenko in the quarter final. Earning the decision in the semi and the final by raising the pace in the end of the fight – combined with movement, angle his attacks, then change angles and attack again repeatedly. This tactic made it hard for Mateusz Dyniewicz to use his strong pressure and good riving knees to the body – since the target always was moving. But in total – this category showed us that we could not even predict the podium fighters – there was to many good! And that is great news, especially when we see the very good recruitment.
+95 kg category, the heaviest category, we was leaning toward Lithuania before the fights started. And long story short: that happen. But you never know, so the fights must be fought. Non of the fighters in the line up have an EC Shinkyokushin title fro before, so that became a little case – some runners up but not champions. Paulius Žimantas / Lithuania and Antanas Klibavičius / Lithuania has been in the final before – as this time, but as you know, this time Žimantas became the champion.
Paulius Žimantas went trough the division very convincing. No one could stand his punching power. We assume also that it is not “only” the power alone, but also the timing and the accuracy plays a huge role. Some of the brutal punches that landed seemed to land a bit surprising (and hard) for the opponent and catch the opponent a bit unprepared – that resulted in victories to Žimantas. But one do also notice the variation – like in the semifinal vs Artem Akimenkov / Poland – Žimantas scores with a high punch – then finish the fight later with a punch followed up with a kick to the liver.
In the second semifinal Antanas Klibavičius showed his power against young promising
Serhii Chekhovych / Ukraine who denied Máté Dávid / Hungary his 3rd podium appearance, winning their battle in the quarterfinal. The semifinal vs Antanas became a shorter fight, since the Lithuanian fighter found Chekhovych leg – and took it by low-kicks.
The final was one way drive for Žimantas, earning a scoring in his first intense flurry with punches – following this up with some more when the fights started again – and that’s all folks! Very impressive EC by Žimantas – and Europe must feed up some more heavy-weights – because we believe Žimantas is ready for more…