(Photo by Susumu Nagao.)
Strikeforce continues to cherry pick the best available fighters from Dream, its overseas promotional partner. The company’s latest signing is Dutch striker Melvin Manhoef. Known as the Mike Tyson of Holland, Manhoef is incredibly aggressive in competition, muscular and compact – and has done time in prison.
Born in Suriname in 1976, Manhoef’s family moved to Rotterdam, Netherlands when he was three years old. As a youngster, his interest was in soccer, although he was introduced to Muay Thai by his younger brother Moreno. His first fight was at the age of eighteen, and he won by unanimous decision. After a brief hiatus, he returned to competition, making a comeback in 2001.
Manhoef delivers nonstop action by rushing forward and dictating the pace. Every punch is a swing-for-the fences and Manhoef posseses knockout power in both hands. His combinations are followed up by brutal leg and head kicks and vicious knees. Manhoef’s career kickboxing record is 34-4 and his mixed martial arts record is 23-6-1. In MMA competition, more than 95 percent of his wins came by way of KO or TKO, with few of his opponents making it to see the second round.
In 2002, Manhoef made his K-1 debut against Remy Bonjasky in K-1 Holland GP 2002 in Arnhem, Netherlands, losing by unanimous decision. He faced Bonjasky again in 2008, and lost by knockout. After being released from a prison stay following an arrest in Croatia, Manhoef entered the Cage Rage promotion in 2004. The following year, he beat
Fabio Piamonte to become the Cage Rage Light Heavyweight World champion.
Manhoef has said that his time in prison made him see that he had options – he had to work hard and stay on the straight and narrow to achieve his goals in his career and in life. In an April 2008 interview with FightNewz.net, Manhoef said he wants to be a role model for children. He spends some of his free time organizing K-1 tournaments for children ages eight to fifteen. Said Manhoef, “I want to motivate the kids so that they don’t make the same mistakes I did. Don’t be on the streets, have a goal, this is very important.”
At DREAM 4 in June 2008, Manhoef defeated one of his MMA heroes, Kazushi “The Gracie Hunter” Sakuraba, in just ninety seconds by TKO from hammer fists. Manhoef’s win advanced him to the semifinals of the DREAM Middleweight Grand Prix, where he was submitted by Gegard Mousasi.
With his incredible Muay Thai and standup skills, the only area in which Manhoef has room for improvement is his ground game. He followed his loss to Mousasi with a knockout win over Mark Hunt and another submission loss to a resurgent Paulo Filho.
Manhoef is a game opponent for Strikeforce middleweights who like Robbie Lawler, Scott Smith or Cung Le who prefer to strike, but the promotion’s better 185-pound grapplers would pose serious problems. Win or lose, the Manhoef signing gives Strikeforce added depth at middleweight and a made-for-tv showstopper.