Aghayev Tops Daniels to win Karate Combat Interim Welterweight Title
A clash of titans took place in the main event of Karate Combat 37 as Olympic kumite silver medalist Rafael Aghayev of Azerbaijan challenged arguably the greatest point fighter of all time, Raymond "The Real Deal" Daniels. The martial arts world has often seen competitors from the World Karate Federation (WKF) and North American Sport Karate Association (NASKA) clash in traditional kata events, but it is a rare occurrence to see this clash of styles in a fighting discipline. Even more fascinating is that this wasn't just a matchup of two average combatants from those backgrounds, rather two of the very best to ever do it on either side.
The commentators, including fight experts Bas Rutten and Georges St-Pierre, were in awe of Daniels' movement and highlight reel abilities before the bout, and justifiably so. The expectation seemed to be that The Real Deal would be able to overwhelm Aghayev with his vast array of creative striking skills. However, Aghayev quieted those predictions early by charging forward and stalking his opportunities to land big shots on Daniels.
As Daniels attempted a skipping attack, sometimes setting up a knee and other times being followed with hands, Aghayev would dive in with a strong left hand over the top to connect and force Daniels to reset. With his corner telling him to strike down the middle, Daniels continued to search for the skipping knee or front kick but Aghayev did a great job of sticking to his game plan and landing his left hand.
Another key technique Aghayev used on defense was grabbing the kicking leg of Daniels. This frustrated Daniels at times as Karate Combat rules only allow one step and one technique to be thrown by the receiver after catching a leg, but Aghayev took some additional steps on a few occasions. Regardless of how legal or not the moments following the catches were, the fact that Aghayev was able to effectively neutralize the kicks of Daniels with these grabs was a huge part of the fight.
In the closing moments, the crowd anxiously awaited in anticipation of Daniels to have one more trick up his sleeve. He did, of course, but it was too little too late. Daniels landed a beautiful jumping knee that may have hurt Aghayev, and proceeded with a desperation onslaught of strikes. Aghayev was able to defend himself long enough to make it to the final bell and claim the belt with a well-earned unanimous decision victory.