Brutal KO kick leads to disqualification of would-be winner in karate gold-medal match

The Olympics play by different rules than UFC. 

What would have qualified for a KO victory in professional mixed martial arts instead resulted in the disqualification of the would-be winner in a karate gold-medal match to close out the sport’s Olympics debut on Saturday.

Iran’s Sajad Ganjzadeh faced off with Saudi Arabi’s Tareg Hamedi in the men’s 75-kilogram kumite final. Karate athletes competed in individual demonstrations called kata and one-on-one combat called kumite. 

Leading the match 4-1, Hamedi landed a violent kick to Ganjzadeh’s head, leaving the Iranian unconscious on the mat. The fight was officially over after a 10-count. Hamedi celebrated, thinking he’d won gold.

He had not. 

Judges conferred and disqualified Hamedi based on a serious violation of the rules called a hansoku, per the Associated Press. According to AP, competitors aren’t permitted to fully follow through on their blows in Olympic competition, unlike professional fighting, which rewards violent knockouts. 

TOKYO, JAPAN – AUGUST 07: Sajad Ganjzadeh (L) of Team Iran gets injured as he competes against Tareg Hamedi of Team Saudi Arabia during the Men’s Karate Kumite +75kg Gold Medal Bout on day fifteen of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Nippon Budokan on August 7, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Wei Zheng/CHINASPORTS/VCG via Getty Images)

Ganjzadeh, still suffering the immediate effects of the knockout blow, was named the gold-medal winner. Hamedi won silver after the DQ loss. Per AP, Hamedi left the mat in tears. 

“If you ask me if I agree or not, I disagree, of course, because I love the gold medal,” Hamedi said through a translator. “But I am satisfied with the level of performance I gave, and I accept their decision. I don’t have any objection. I think I played well. That’s all I can say.”

The two fighters appeared at a post-fight news conference together. Ganjzadeh learned about his gold medal after re-gaining consciousness in a medical room.

“The last thing I remember was that I was behind by scores, and then that incident happened and I don’t remember much after that,” Ganjzadeh told reporters. “And what I remember was that in the medical room I woke up and I heard from the coach that I won the match. I’m very happy that I achieved this gold medal but I’m sad that it had to happen like this.”

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