ONE Super Series is establishing its position as the world’s leading purveyor of elite-level striking arts.
Athletes from across the world, of all different sizes and styles, have all played their part in making the kickboxing and Muay Thai contests some of the most exciting of 2018.
When Holland’s Ibrahim “Mr. Cool” El Bouni (37-6-1) and Tarik Khbabez (43-5-1) meet at ONE: PURSUIT OF GREATNESS in Yangon, Myanmar on Friday, 26 October, they’ll bring their Dutch flavor with them, plus a pinch of Moroccan spice.
El Bouni was born and raised in Amsterdam to Moroccan parents, while Khbabez was born Morocco and raised in The Hague from an early age. Their heritage is remarkably similar.
The fact that they will face off in Asia with potential ONE Kickboxing Light Heavyweight Title implications is not just coincidence, but a testament to the skill sets that have brought them to the top of the game.
The tools of their trade, forged in their Netherlands homeland, are typical of the ‘Dutch style’ that is well-known in striking circles, and regarded as one of the most formidable in the ring because of its rapid-fire combinations and power punches.
Against Andre “The Giant” Meunier, “Mr. Cool” used heavy hands to register the second-fastest ONE Super Series knockout to date, and Khbabez used similarly devastating boxing combinations to finishAlain “The Panther” Ngalani in round three.
There are stylistic differences between the two men – their personalities, body types, and coaching help to determine their approaches – but both are fierce punchers.
“When I go in the ring, you can’t look away, as I will make something happen straight away,” says El Bouni, who once boasted a streak of 10 first-round knockouts.
“I come to fight and give a spectacular show. Nothing more, nothing less,” adds Khbabez, who is a two-time SUPERKOMBAT Heavyweight World Champion.
In the pioneering years of Dutch kickboxing and Muay Thai, legendary martial artists such as Lucien Carbin built on a Kyokushin karate base and were influenced by the art of eight limbs, producing hybrid styles. As time went on, they helped to produce athletes that focused on other elements — in particular, Western boxing.
The likes of Rob Kaman and Ramon Dekkers led the way in the ring, establishing their more aggressive, punch-heavy styles, while Thom Harinck and his Chakuriki Gym took his team on the earliest trips to compete in the home of Muay Thai.
The athletes traveling from the Netherlands had limited success at first, but breakthroughs did come. The intensity and work-rate was a key factor from the outset. The Thai style usually sees martial artists easing into contests at a more consistent pace, so a heightened tempo went against the grain.
The Dutchmen also looked to score with heavy punching combinations, counteracting the kick-heavy Muay Thai style. For scoring purposes, the Europeans were at a disadvantage, but their sequences of attacks could catch their opponents off-guard.
Although it was a blend of styles in the beginning, and a constant task of adding and removing techniques that were seen as efficient in combat, the ‘Dutch style’ began to establish itself through K-1 in the 1990s.
In the modern era, it has become so familiar that it too has spread all across the world, with strikers and mixed martial artists seeing it as one of the most useful toolkits for navigating the stand-up game.
Semmy Schilt, Peter Aerts, and Ernesto Hoost will always be revered, and Andy Souwer has bridged the gap to the new generation, which includes Khbabez and El Bouni, as well as ONE Super Series stars Regian Eersel, Chris Ngimbi, Sergio Wielzen, and Brown Pinas.
The nation of 17 million punches well above its weight on the global scale, and is showcasing that in the world’s largest martial arts organization.
The sub-section of Dutch-Moroccan athletes also holds a fearsome reputation within the combat community – with many world champions sharing the same heritage.
An illustrious ONE Kickboxing World Title would elevate either El Bouni or Khbabez to a level of prestige recognized anywhere in the world, and both the light heavyweight and heavyweight belts are on their agenda.
Their focus on strong punching, low kicking, and relentless pressure make them recognizable. They’ve shown the Dutch style can prevail against any other in ONE Super Series kickboxing.
“We come to fight, that’s it,” Khbabez says of the strikers with their shared background.
At ONE: PURSUIT OF GREATNESS, we will find out who will prevail when two of the best square off against each other. Whatever the result, the process is likely to be spectacular.