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K-1 New Weight Class New Heroes

May 2, 2010 - JCB Hall, Tokyo - The inaugural FieLDS K-1 World MAX 2010 -63kg Japan 1st Round Tournament took place tonight in front of 3,871 excited and unusually vocal fans. There were 22 fighters battling it out for just 8 positions in the next round. They all knew simply winning was not enough, and the number of upsets alone shows this forced their motivation and determination to all new levels.

The opening fight of this event was perfect match making: a rematch between the puncher, Yuji Takeuchi, and low kicker, Yuki. In their last fight Yuji had taken so much damage to his legs that his corner threw in the towel. Just as the towel entered the ring, he dropped Yuki with a punch, but then lost the fight via TKO due to the towel. Both fighters were more than fired up to set things straight this time. In the first round Yuji checked low kicks constantly while peppering away with punches that were finding the jaw and temple of his opponent. At the end of the round he landed one combination that had Yuki dazed and looking for his corner after the bell. Yuki wasnft going to go down easily though. In the second round he came out more like a boxer, fainted a looked at Yujifs left thigh and threw the right high kick. Everything went to plan, and Yuji hit the canvas like a 62.9kg sand bag. After a few seconds, he sat up telling the referee he was fine, but his arms and lower body refused to listen and he stumbled into the corner again before even making it to his knees. Rightfully, the bout was stopped.
Next up Toshiki Taniyama, despite having less than half the number of professional fights, showed no fear of his opponent whatsoever. He fired with everything he had, but as usual Hirotaka Urabe stayed calm and used his hands to pick holes in Toshikifs defense. He managed to do so often enough to win the infamously tough to take first round in one judgesf eyes. Toshiki really picked up his pace after this and nearly doubled Urabefs strike rate in the remaining rounds to try and take the decision. The judges decided to see an extra round instead though. Both fighters left absolutely everything in the ring, and rather than buckle under the pressure, Toshiki stepped up to the plate. He landed a jumping knee, a high kick and really mixed it up with punches. When it went through to the judges, once again they couldnft agree. A split decision was announced in favor of the less experienced fighter, Toshiki.

When Shota Shimada came out to the ring smirking similarly to Alexey Ignoshova while the song Danger Zone from Top Gun was playing, I thought Shohei Asahara was in trouble. It takes supreme confidence and massive cojones to make an entrance like that without laughing. However, it would seem the gdanger zoneh was his guard. Fighting with his left hand significantly closer to his knee than his chin, Shota started off with his kicks as usual. It didnft take long for Shohei to start head-hunting. He found his mark in the first round with a high kick, yet didnft manage to convince Shota to lift his guard until dropping him in the second round with a jumping knee. Shota did everything he possibly could to earn those points back; however without at least dropping Shohei in the final round, he was too far behind. Shohei did take a bit of a battering, though he bravely fought back when he found openings. The judges had an easier time this fight, and the man with the height and reach disadvantage, Shohei, took the win.

In the next bout Shunsuke Oishi got the crowd off their feet with his entrance to face Team Dragon fighter, Koya Urabe. Unfortunately for him, the entrance was perhaps the only thing he managed to do according the plan. Koya had an answer for everything his opponent threw at him, and in fact the left straight was finding itfs mark with such ease that in the second round (after joking around with his corner between rounds), he leaned against the ropes with one leg up telling Oishi to come and attack him. Oishi tried. He gave Koya everything he had, but like some other Team Dragon fighters, he proved far too elusive and his counters too fast and plentiful. In the end Koya took a very easy judges decision.
The very second that Fire Harada stepped into the ring to face Kizaemon Saiga, the crowd went ballistic. The man has some serious charisma that totally makes up for the fact he looks like an uncoordinated stick insect while actually fighting. However, he fights with a vicious passion that most fighters his junior could really learn from and his fans adore him for it. Saiga probably stopped him in the first round with a flurry that last nearly half of the round. Fire just flatly refused to hit the canvas though. No matter what Saiga hit him with, he just kept coming forward. He was landing less than a handful of strikes per round while being force-fed hundreds, so when it went to the judges cards they barely needed reading. Post fight Firefs corner needed to virtually drag him back to the dressing room to stop him from attempting to apologize to each and every person in attendance individually.
With all the titles Yuta Kubo has, it would be understandable if he was to underestimate DJ. taiki. So to make sure he didnft, DJ rang his bell in the opening seconds with a massive left hook out of no where. Waking up the vastly more experienced Yuta might not have been a wise move though. Yuta went to work, tenderizing the right side of DJfs ribs, causing them to change to shades of red and purple before the end of the first round. Rather than give up, he fought on and returned to colorful favor to Yuta in the third round. He managed to earn the respect of all in attendance and his own opponent, however DJ didnft score anywhere near enough to sway the judgesf favor, and at the end it was announced as a unanimous decision to Yuta.
It was finally time for Haruki Otsuki to make his way to the ring. Yoshimichi Matsumoto, his opponent, is 10cm taller and 8 years his junior. Yet with that age comes experience, and the ring control Otsuki displayed was something to witness. Matsumoto really seemed off balance for most of the round, and he was stung hard to the body multiple times. In the second Otsuki was controlling the pace and style of the fight still, until Matsumoto threw a right straight to back him into the ropes. He followed that up with a left hook that caught Otsuki right behind the eye. Equilibrium shot, Otsuki did his best to fight back while on rubber legs. He did make it to the bell. The final round again started as if Otsuki was the pace-maker and it may have stayed that way if he hadnft gone in hard with a flurry. Matsumoto fired his arms out like pistons and again landed one hard. And this time, Otsuki went down. He got to his feet and told the referee he was fine to keep fighting after the 8 count. He then spent the rest of the time trying to destroy Matsumoto. The younger fighter had good enough defense to stay safe, and he earned a win over a legend of the sport.

The 70kg fight on the card was perhaps the scrappiest on the card. Yasuhiro Kido promised to try and put on a fight that would blow away the -63kg fights, so I presume he will be bitterly disappointed. It started out well, with the heavy handed Iranian, Vahid Rosyani looking to separate Kidofs head from his body while Kido attacked his back leg with lows to take some of his power away. From the second round it turned into something of a clinch-fest, which Vahid was warned for on a couple of occasions. In the final round Kido was clearly looking to set up the knockout. Unfortunately, he wound up taking a low blow which put him out of action for a minute recovering. Upon restarted the Japanese favorite mercilessly attacked Vahid with knees to the body, and just as the momentum was going his way one of those knees strayed low and we had another break in the action while Vahid recovered. The bout ended with both on their feet, and the judges decided that Vahidfs punches had scored better than Kidofs low kicks.
Masahiro Yamamoto came out next to face Tetsuya Yamato. I believe many people expected Yamamoto to come out and dominate from the start, but he seemed to have some trouble in the first round dealing with the speed of Tetsuya. The younger fighter found his mark with punches and low kicks to the back leg repeatedly. In the second Yamamoto appeared to be back in control until Tetsuyafs infamous body blows began to add up. Finally both fighters really went for it, and they landed a similar number of clean, powerful shots. It went to the cards and 2 judges had it as a draw, while the third gave it to Tetsuya. An extra round was called, and Tetsuya used it to make a point. He dropped Yamamoto in the opening seconds with a flurry of punches, and again later in the match with a left knee. Yamamoto landed some powerful counters in the round, but nothing that could make up for 2 downs. He left the ring after the formal announcement with the tears covered by his corner manfs sweater.
The tornado versus the hurricane was next out. Both Keiji Ozaki and Kosuke Komiyama are so proud of their kicks, and they put on quite a display. Once Kosuke had managed to comprehend the single-knee-in-a-clinch rule, they mixed it up well. Both fighters put so much into not being outdone or shown up with some flashy technique that it seemed at times they forgot it was an actual fight. There was so much jumping and spinning I was started to get motion sickness just watching. The blood dripping down Ozakifs face at the end of the first round acted as a solid reminder to them about the real reason they were here. Kosukefs knee caused the cut, and he used that well throughout the entire bout. Ozaki was a little more balanced between his hand and leg attacks, which might have been the key to him being awarded the split decision, much to the crowds surprise.
When it comes to the more traditional kickers of the sport, Naoki Ishikawafs fight against Yuto Watanabe was an exciting bout. Their kicking technique was beautiful. Yuto is only 7cm shorter than Naoki, but he looked like he was at least 2 full weight classes smaller. It is almost unbelievable there was only a 15g difference at the weigh in. Nevertheless, Naoki used both his size and significantly longer limbs to great use. He attacked well while staying out of Yutofs striking range, and jumped in and out of the clinch so as not to take too much damage. Yuto did manage to split Naokifs lip and cut his chin, but overall Naoki scored considerably more points and when the final bell rang there was no one wondering whose hand would be raised in victory.

Jae-Hee Cheon shot to international fame a little over a year ago when he sparked the Japanese superstar KIDfs lights out in dramatic fashion. He came back to Japan to headline this card against yet another Team Dragon fighter, Daisuke Uematsu. Ifm not sure if Uematsu has some psychic powers or not, but when he declared yesterday that the event should start and end with knockouts, he was spot on. The round had barely started when Jae-Hee drilled Uematsu with a punch, causing him to stumble into the ropes. The Korean advanced on him and threw down to end the fight early. Uematsu fought back hard though, and after an uppercut and a token left hand, he hammed Jae-Heefs jaw with a right that took his balance, and consciousness away. Jae-Hee bravely fought to his feet after a few seconds but he never even made it too his feet before tripping over again. The bout was barely 1 minute in, but thankfully the referee stopped the count there and called it off.
Wow!! What a night of fights. So many upsets occurred, and many of the less experienced fighters really stood up and forced the fans to take note of who they are. There is a great mixture of talented fighters that won tonight for the powers that be to make up the 8-man tournament in July. Keeping checking http://www.k-1.co.jp/en/index.php for updates on who will be in the tournament, and what the match-ups will be.

3 May 2010

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