Friday, April 28, 2017

Can this man beat Riner?

Reporting by Tsotne Mrevlishvili
Analysis by Oon Yeoh
Video clips courtesy of &

Georgia’s rising star, heavyweight Guram Tushishvili, has now won two top-level tournaments this year.

At the Baku Grand Slam in March, he shocked everyone by beating top fighters Rafael Silva (BRA) and Bor Bana (HUN). At the recently concluded Warsaw European Championships, he impressively defeated the likes of Lukas Krpalek (CZE), Roy Meyer (NED) and his compatriot, Adam Okruashvili (GEO) for the gold. 

He also did a great job in the European Teams’ event, where Team Georgia found itself tied at 2-2 in its semi-final against Ukraine and it was up to Tushishvili to keep Georgia’s hope for gold alive. He defeated Iakiv Khammo by a waza-ari to secure his team a spot in the final against Russia. There, the closely-fought competition ended up with another 2-2 situation and again, it was up to Tushishvili to deliver the final win. And that he did, throwing his very large opponent, Renat Saidov, for ippon with his killer drop morote-seoi-nage.

The big question on everyone’s mind is can Georgia’s new golden boy beat Teddy Riner?

For a while, it was speculated that his teammate Levan Matiashvili might be able to knock Riner off his perch. Matiashvili had given Riner a tough time in the 2016 Samsun Grand Prix and the 2016 European Championships. But this year has been rough on Matiashvili, who lost in the first rounds of the 2017 Paris Grand Slam and the 2017 Dusseldorf Grand Prix and barely salvaged a bronze in the 2017 Tblisi Grand Prix.

It’s long been speculated that the player who can defeat Riner would be someone who is athletic as opposed to being big and fat (that usually means someone who has moved up from -100kg) and someone who can do drop seoi-nage.

The Japanese have several good heavyweights like Ryu Shichinohe, Hisayoshi Harasawa and Takeshi Ojitani but all these are big ashiwaza men with techniques like uchimata and osoto-gari – techniques that would fell other men but not Riner, who is even bigger than them. The player who wants to beat Riner needs to drop underneath him to have a chance of throwing him.

Olympic Champion Krpalek, who recently moved up a weight, is very athletic but he is not a drop seoi-nage player. Tushishvili is another matter. Like Israel’s Or Sasson, he is a former -100kg player who has a killer drop seoi-nage. However, unlike Sasson, this Georgian has never fought Riner before. In all likelihood, he would have to battle the French giant at least once before he can get a good sense of how to beat him. 

Whatever the case, the +100kg division looks set to be an exciting one this year with athletic heavyweights like Krpalek, Sasson and Tushishivili taking on the big boys. 

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