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K-1 MAX 2011 Japan GP Has Competitors, no Date

  • Written by Dave Walsh

At Saturday's K-1 MAX -63kg 2011 Japan GP, the biggest non-tournament news coming out of the event was the announcement of six of the eight competitors in this year's MAX -70kg Japan Tournament. The Japan tournament is often the highest profile of the qualifying tournaments for the MAX Final 16 and has launched the K-1 careers of many Japanese kickboxers. Notable past winners include Masato, Taishin Kohiruimaki, Yoshihiro Sato, Yoshihiro Kido and last year's tournament champion Yuichiro "Jienotsu" Nagashima.

Last year's tournament rivaled the excitement of the 2010 K-1 -63kg Tournament, providing upsets, spectacular knockouts and a FOTY candidate finals in which Nagashima and Hiroki Nagashima slugged it out until Nagashima rattled Nakajima with a right hand that ultimately ended his night.

The announced participants of this year's tournament are 2010 Japan GP Champion Yuichiro Nagashima, 2010 Runner-up Hiroki Nakajima, 2009 Japan GP Finalist and 2009 World MAX Final 4 competitor Yuya Yamamoto, 2008 Japan GP Champion Yasuhiro Kido and tournament newcomers Shintaro Matsukura and Go Yokoyama. The two open slots will likely go to tournament mainstays Tatsuji and Ryuji are up for grabs and no word has been put out by K-1 regarding the final two slots.

Nagashima is likely to be pushed as the face and favorite of this tournament because of last year's win as well as his appearance in the Final 8 and his upset victory over Shinya Aoki in their exhibition at Dynamite!! 2010. Nagashima hasn't fought since the exhibition against Aoki, making his pro-wrestling debut in the meantime. Looking for a repeat, Nagashima will have to use his heavy hands to blast his way through the tournament yet again.

Nakajima was hand-picked as Masato's successor by the man himself, but has yet to show the level of promise that many have expected. Since his loss in the tournament finals, Nakajima has been outclassed by Albert Kraus at the Final 16 and Buakaw Por. Pramuk at Sengoku Soul of Fight. Nakajima comes in off of a KO victory over YOSHI in the quarterfinals of the Krush 70kg GP. Another trip to the finals wouldn't be unlikely, but with such high expectations, a tournament win is what he really needs.

Kido and Yamamoto are more or less in the same position. Both have been pegged as upcoming talents in the division yet have fallen on hard times recently. After a win at the 2008 Japan Tourmament, Kido knocked out Chi Bin Lim in the Final 16 only to go on a 4 fight losing streak. After two reserve fight wins in the 2009 Final 16 and Final 8 events, Kido was planted by a Yoshirio Sato right hook in a Finals reserve fight and has since dropped decisions to the unheralded Ryuji and Vahid Rosyani. Yamamoto managed to make it to the Finals of the World Tournament in 2004 after an impressive upset over Gago Drago in the Final 8, only to fall to eventual tournament winner and 70kg kingpin Giorgio Petrosyan. Since the loss, Yamamoto has gone 3-3, with upset losses against Hinata and fellow participant Shintaro Matsukura. A Japan Tournament victory may be the thing to re-ignite the careers of both fighters.

Matsukura and Go Yokoyama are relative unknowns, with Matsukura likely being invited to the tournament because of his upset win over Yuya Yamamoto in an entertaining fight in the Krush 70kg Tournament. Yokoyama has fought in K-1 before, losing via 3rd round TKO to Jae Gil Noh at the 2009 MAX Final 8 event. Matsukura brings decent power and combination punching combined with a good chin and great resiliency while Yokoyama brings a flashy karate style in the vein of Keiji Ozaki and Kizaemon Saiga. Honestly, I don't like the chances of either fighter, as Matsukura was being bullied by Yamamoto until a knockdown in the 3rd which won him the fight and Yokoyama often favors dropping his hands when he throws his kicks which got him KO'd against Noh and will most certainly get him KO'd against the likes of Nagashima, Nakajima, Kido and Yamamoto.

The biggest question about the tournament, however, does not involve any of the fighters, but when the tournament will take place. The Japan Tournament often takes place in February or March, but with K-1's financial troubles, they were unable to do so. With It's Showtime's Fast & Furious tournament taking place on September 24th, timing for K-1 will be crucial as many of the world's top fighters are locked up in that tournament. Sooner, rather than later would probably be wise for the tournament if K-1 wishes to have its MAX GP with top fighters in 2011. {jcomments on}

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