In the world of karate, Rafael Aghayev and Raymond Daniels are the skill equivalents of soccer's Leo Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Their accolades in sport karate are outrageous, with each ascending to the highest ranks in their respective karate journeys. The titles and championships earned by each are nearly innumerable, and their legacies have placed each in contention for the title of "Greatest of All Time" in regards to karateka.
Aghayev took the route of WKF style karate whereas Raymond Daniels took the route of American Sport Karate. In their entire competitive karate careers, their paths never intersected.
For fans of each fighter, the debate on which athlete was superior seemed destined to remain unresolved. That was until Saturday, December 17th, when the two fighters faced off for the Interim Welterweight Championship.
While both men are decorated sport karateka, Daniels came into the bout with considerably more experience in full contact fighting. Leading up to their fight, Rafael only had three full contact fights to his name,
Daniels had dozens. Bellator, Glory, Wold Combat League, and K-1 are all full contact leagues in which Raymond has leant his talents to, and earned the nickname "Human Highlight Reel" with outstanding performances in each.
Height and reach were also on Daniels side, as his 6 feet, 2 inch frame towered over Aghayev, who stands approximately 5 feet, 5 inches tall. With so many external factors seemingly to favor Raymond Daniels, many believed that this bout was over before the first round began.
How could Rafael Aghayev, who is still considered new to the full contact fighting world, beat one of the most accomplished strikers the world has ever seen?
With discipline and desire.
Rafael Aghayev had a very direct mission: Play zero games. Waste no movement. Give absolutely everything.
At the end of the final round, Aghayev ascended from the depths of the pit on his hands and knees due to exhaustion. The effort was worth it, as he was crowned Interim Welterweight Champion. Rafael Aghayev did not edge out a victory, either. He outclassed and outperformed arguably the most entertaining fighter to ever live.
STYLES MAKE FIGHTS
While Raymond Daniels earned the nickname “Human Highlight Reel” due to his dynamic kicks, tornado style punches, and unpredictable movement, Rafael Aghayev became the most decorated WKF athlete a very different way: every movement was calculated. Conservative…until it isn’t.
The fighting philosophy differs like night and day between these two combatants, which is why fight fans were able to witness something so unique when the two faced off against one another.
Rafael used superior positioning and had systems in place for every attempt that Raymond made towards him. The distance management employed by Rafael made it extremely difficult for Daniels to connect with any significant strikes.
Kicks were caught. Punches were parried. What could have been blistering back-and-forth battle became mainly a one-sided affair due to Aghayev staying committed to a disciplined game plan.
WHAT'S NEXT FOR EACH?
Aghayev has wrapped Karate Combat gold around his waist, and there is no intent to lose that. Rafael will have to defeat Josh Quayhagen to solidify himself as the true king of welterweights as soon as Quayhagen is healed from injury. Quayhagen at present is considered the second best lb4lb fighter in the league.
Raymond Daniels is the founder of Evolution Fighting Systems. The desire to continuously adapt and evolve as a martial artist is something that he and his style of martial arts openly embraces. After experiencing the first decision loss of his professional fighting career, Daniels claimed that a new fire has ignited within him.
Kindling this flame can be done with deep assessment of his last two performances in the Pit. One victory and one defeat means that some evolving may be required to return to title contention. Until then, we can’t wait to see what he has in store for fight fans, and unfortunately for his next opponent.
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