Ilyass Habibali and Zakaria Eljamari kept the UAE flag flying high at the inaugural K-1 Combat, a 12-fight pro card kickboxing event at the Festival Arena in Dubai.
Returning to action for the first time in nearly nine months, both Habibali and Eljamari didn’t show any rust.
Habibali scored a resounding second round knockout over Algerian Haroun Baka in the headline light heavyweight contest and Eljamari stopped Afghan Faridoon Alik Zai in three rounds in the lightweight division on Friday.
"It was a great feeling to be back in the ring for a pro competition and it was even better to be winning," Habibali told The National.
“The strategy was to go on the offensive from the outset and knock him out in the second round, and it worked exactly the way we planned. Such ploys don’t work most of the time but it certainly did for me on the night.”
Habibali and Baka went after each other in an actioned-packed three-minute opening round.
Baka landed a combination of punches towards the end for Habibali to take a standing count but the Emirati came back strongly in the next round to floor his opponent three times.
Habibali sent Baka crashing with a flying-knee and repeated those strikes twice in succession to end the fight with 10 seconds left in the second round.
“My team and I worked very hard to get it right in this competition,” Habibali added.
“The fight may have appeared to be easy but it wasn’t. Haroun is a tough guy and he had a few goes at me in the first round. I think the first flying-knee did the trick.”
Habibali was returning to action for the first time after striking gold at the Asian Muaythai Championship in Abu Dhabi last December. He won gold at the World Muaythai Championship in Mexico in 2018.
“I practiced both kickboxing and muaythai during my youth days but started concentrating in muaythai in the last eight years,” he said.
“The two martial arts are very similar but when you are out of one of them it becomes a bit difficult to adapt. There is a second kickboxing event scheduled in November and that would be my next competition.”
Eljamari suffered a deep cut above his right eye after a collision of heads in the first round but that didn’t stop him from taking the honours on the night.
The UAE’s third fighter Nouredine Samir lost to Siyovush Gulmamadov of Tajikistan in the light welterweight division but later it was discovered he had suffered a fractured arm.