On February 4, 2017 in Newcastle Upon Tyne, the regional capital of North East England, hosted what can only be described as the biggest and most exciting kickboxing event to ever come to the area, aptly named, DUEL GRAND PRIX.For months there was a buzz around the UK Muay Thai and kickboxing scene. With word of a new promotion set to break boundaries, it brings some of the best kickboxing fighters and Nak Muay to compete in a European class event boasting names that ranked in top ten’s everywhere.

Although DUEL Promotions have been around for a few years, Duel GP saw promoter David Weild team up with local veterans Craig Jose and Alex Wright, to bring what has been dubbed as ‘the biggest advancement for North East based combat sports events ever.’

DUEL Grand Prix gave the fighters a stage to showcase their abilities to an international audience, with opportunities to fight on major international promotions, potential new endorsement deals by very well-known equipment brands, and talent scouts from American soil too! The show not only had a stacked undercard of local and national talent, but had fighters travelling from afar to come and show the spectators what it means to be an international level fighter. With two 4-Man Tournaments boasting some of Europe’s elite kickboxers, the competitors spanned from Holland, Romania, Poland as well as from all corners of the British Isles. The crowd was guaranteed to be in for an absolute treat, safe to say, DUEL Grand Prix and the fighters delivered exactly that.

The first of the two 4-Man Tournaments featured on the card was at 95+kg K1 rules competition. The drawer was Kaz Mwamba and Correy Robbins. Both heavyweight fighters came out hitting heavy and making their presence known to the crowd. Being the first of the heavyweights to come out, there must have been some pressure to put on a show however from the early exchanges, if this was the case, then it certainly did not show. You could tell that both fighters were hungry to progress for their chance to win the prize money and DUEL Tournament title. Throughout all three rounds, it was obvious that Robbins struggled with Mwamba’s range resulting in Kaz securing the win on points, and leaving him relatively fresh and ready to progress to the final in the 4-Man Tournament.

Dawid Zoltaszek Duel Grand Prix
Zoltaszek vs Lehman was an absolute classic heavyweight battle

Followed shortly after, the second in the semis for the heavyweights was Dawid Zoltaszek taking on Lukasz Lehmann in what everyone has been labeling, the ‘fight of the night.’ These two warriors put on a display of skill, grit and determination from the first bell which had reminiscence of the famous Griffin – Bonor match on the very first Ultimate Fighter Finale.

A round one knock down of Lehman courtesy of a huge left hook from Zoltaszek looked like it had secured the London based fighter an early win, however a shaky Lehman returned after an 8 count and survived the round.

What can only be described as a war commenced, you could hear the crowd wincing at every crack of the gloves smashing into each of the fighters. To say that one of them had another round to go in the finals, these two were hell bent on hurting one another to secure their place! In a back and forth battle, both fighters had moments that looked like they could of taken the fight. Zoltaszek continued his pressure but couldn’t place the killer blow while every time Lehman looked like he may not survive, he rallied with pressure of his own.

Zoltaszek took the win in a decision victory. But no one in the crowd was in any doubt that Lukasz Lehman was a class act, as he showed his home crowd that he possessed almost super-human powers to stay standing and banging when the going got tough.

61kg Muay Thai tournament. The first draw in the tournament was Mo Abdurahman vs Kris Pearson. Mo Abdurahman trains out of the Lookborai Gym. He has fought on some very big stages both in the UK and internationally. In the interviews that were conducted at the weigh-ins, Pearson was named as the weakest link in the chain so there was no doubt he was here to show them otherwise. Both fighters came out strong from the bell, but it was Abdurahman who was to shine. Pearson was dropped early in the first round by driving his elbow over the top to meet Kris’ nose. It was slightly controversial because the referee, Paul Spinks, had mentioned break to them just as Mo had landed his attack. From that moment the fight was turned up a notch with both fighters meaning business exchanging big blows. Kris was caught with a crushing elbow in the clinch and the fight was drawn to an early end, advancing a still fresh Abdurahman through to the final.

Many would have preferred to see Shaw vs Maxim in K1 rules but even under Muay Thai rules it didn’t disappoint

Chris Shaw vs Adrian Maxim is a fight many would have preferred to see as a K1 rules bout. The decorated Muay Thai consummate pro versus the tough Romanian kickboxer, might have been a fight with more sparks without the Thai rules set, however Chris had said in the press conference that he wanted to draw Maxim, because he will show him that ‘biting down on his gum shield and walking forward wouldn’t be enough to secure him the win’ which set the scene for a great bout.

The fight went the full distance in what could be described as an obviously tactical performance from the Scot, as Shaw played with Maxim throughout the fight utilizing a superior range to his advantage. The difference in styles was apparent, Shaw a Muay Thai thoroughbred, and Maxim who has more experience in K1. Shaw saw Maxim frustrated, but for a few powerful exchanges, he was hoping to take advantage of those REVGEAR fight gloves via a flash KO. However the Scotsman’s class shone through. Although both men put in a fantastic display of Muay Thai, giving the crowd a lesson in what it takes to be the best, Shaw took the win by unanimous decision stating that “Mo had better be ready” as he left the ring!

The final of the 95+kg tournament was a fight that was highly anticipated since the previous two fights that happened earlier in the night. The crowd was alight with the prospect of seeing the big guys throw down for the £2000 purse and title. Dawid and Kaz went to war! Neither one of the fighters were taking a back foot in this battle, but instead putting everything on the line to secure their place at the Superkombat Show, to be aired on America’s CBS. The fight spanned the three rounds and the two beasts that graced the DUEL Grand Prix ring, laid their hearts out on the line. Mwamba was the successor of the two heavyweights and just doing enough to take the win over Zoltaszek. Zoltaszek looked as though he thought he did enough to take the win and voiced his opinion when he came out of the ring but on this occasion the judges went in Kaz’s favor!

The final fight of the night was the 61kg Muay Thai final between Mo Abdurahman and Chris Shaw. In this final, there were bound to be fireworks and fireworks there were. The roof was blown off the Walker Activity Dome when these two went toe-to-toe in the DUEL Grand Prix ring. These two gentlemen put on a master class of Muay Thai, showing the fans far and wide, how much they wanted to take home that £3000 purse and be crowned DUEL Tournament Champion! Chris Shaw won the fight by unanimous decision. Mo put on the pressure from the beginning but Shaw’s experience was just a bit too much for Abdurahman. As in the later rounds, it became apparent that Mo just couldn’t keep up. Both of these fighters are set for great things and DUEL GP would welcome them back to their show any time!

The show wouldn’t have been what it was if it wasn’t for the partners: Popolo, The Holiday Inn Jesmond, Bang On Print, Hope & Cleaver, Love Lunch, For Your Eyes Only, Harley Davidson and Revgear. All had valuable input in to making the fighters welcome in Newcastle. Whether refueling after weigh-ins, provisions of the latest equipment for use during the show, as well as entertainment before, during and after with the location of the weigh-ins and after party.

The next show will be nothing short of a massive step up from this one and the media is already alight with what DUEL Grand Prix will be bringing to Newcastle next time. There is yet to be a date confirmed for the show, but there is already talks of DUEL GP 2. Who would you like to see? Maybe a spectacle of international bouts brought to the North East and premiering the best of the best, in a show that will go from strength to strength.

Photography: Roly Todd, Hero Images

Alex Wright Alex Wright is well known in the United Kingdom from his extensive work in the Mixed Martial Arts Industry for over a decade. He's been involved as a coach, fighter and industry mogul since around 2000 and now heads up the European division for REVGEAR Sports.