After Rekindling “Flame” to Compete, Denis Kang Looking to “Finish the Year Off Well” Versus Melvin Manhoef, “Get Back in the UFC”
By Kelsey Mowatt
After having a disappointing campaign in 2011, UFC and PRIDE vet Denis Kang has positioned himself in a high profile fight with the always dangerous Melvin Manhoef on New Year’s Eve, and an opportunity to close out the year with a headline grabbing win. The middleweight tilt will be part of the revived DREAM’s latest event, which will be hosted by the Saitama Super Arena in Japan.
“2011 was kind of a write off, and this year so far, has gone pretty well,” said Kang, who is coming off a first round, knockout victory over Hae Suk Son at a ROAD FC event in June. “I’ve only fought once this year, and it was a win, so I hope this one can finish the year off well. Not only with a win, but because it’s on possibly one of the biggest cards of the year in Japan.”
Of course, it wasn’t that long ago that Kang was the latest, top ranked fighter to join the UFC roster, after the legendary PRIDE organization shut down operations. Although Kang exited the UFC in 2009, after being stopped by Michael Bisping at UFC 105 that November, the vet appeared to get back on track with a three fight undefeated streak.
Last May, however, Kang was submitted by fellow UFC vet Jesse Taylor, and proceeded to lose two more bouts to Seung Bae Whi and Shungo Oyama. The 35 year-old vet, who at one point had gone undefeated in over 20 straight fights, hadn’t lost three bouts in a row since the year 2000.
“Looking back on 2011, I don’t know, I wasn’t that into it,” Kang told Full Contact Fighter. “I’ve been fighting for fifteen, fourteen years, so, it’s hard to always be motivated you know? I finished off 2011 kind of crappy, with losing to Oyama, and then I took a big break. I didn’t fight until June of this year. I think that was really what I needed to do to rekindle that flame, that spark.”
Kang (35-15-2) reports that not only has he rediscovered his motivation to compete, but that further, he believes he has some unfinished business to attend to as he enters the 15th year of his professional career.
“I still feel like I have to do some stuff you know?” Kang admitted. “I’d like to finish off in the UFC or just get back in the UFC. I’m not really thinking about stopping just yet. I still want to be in the sport. For sure, I’m not 21 anymore, but all the experience that I have is a great advantage when I come into a fight.”
If Kang is hoping to make his way back to the Octagon, then a win over an established name like Manhoef (26-9-1) would certainly be a step in the right direction. The 36 year-old Manhoef is coming off a first round, knockout win over Ryo Kawamura at a ONE FC card in October, which showed that the Dutch fighter continues to be a powerful finisher.
“He’s got a pretty simple style to figure out,” Kang noted about Manhoef. “At the same time, the fight starts standing, so, you still have to bring him to the ground and he does have a decent sprawl. He’s pretty explosive and he’s fought a lot of guys.”
“I’ll be honest with you though, I’m not afraid to stand up with him a little back at the beginning and see where that takes me,” Kang added. “The game plan for me is really simple, but at the same time, I’m going to be ready for anything.”
DREAM 18 will feature both MMA action and kickboxing action as part of GLORY’s backing of the event. Some of the other MMA bouts scheduled for the card include Shinya Aoki vs. Antonio McKee, Tatsuya Kawajiri vs. Michihiro Omigawa, and Bibiano Fernandes vs. Yoshiro Maeda.