Friday marks the last Krush event of the year and the main attraction is the semifinals and finals of the Krush Under-22 ~Supernova~ Tournament. The first two rounds took place in October and saw Masaaki Noiri, Hiroya, Yukimitsu Takahashi and Koya Urabe advance. Semifinal matchups are a rematch between Noiri and Hiroya, and a matchup between Koya Urabe and Takahashi.
Semifinal A: Masaaki Noiri vs HIROYA
How they match up:
Masaaki Noiri: 8-2 (4 KO)// 174 cm(5'8")// 18 years old
HIROYA: 10-3 (5 KO)// 167 cm(5'6")// 19 years old
When the two first met, it was back in 2009 in the semifinals of the K-1 Koshien tournament at Dynamite!!! 2009. Hiroya was the returning champion and Koshien's golden boy while Masaaki was an unknown. Noiri battered Hiroya over the course of three rounds, though Hiroya put up a good fight back and Noiri went on to win the fight and the Koshien tournament. Following that tournament win, Noiri began his professional career, rattling off 5 straight wins before getting reckless in a fight he was winning against "Kyoken" Yuji Takeuchi in the semifinals of the Krush 60kg tournament, losing by KO. He then proceeded to make it to the semifinals of the K-1 -63kg 2011 Japan tournament before falling to the streaking Yuta Kubo. Here, he finds himself in yet another semifinal. Hiroya holds victories over nearly every significant fighter to emerge from the Koshien system aside from Noiri. Since his defeat to Noiri, Hiroya has gone 4-2 with his losses coming to Yuta Kubo in a superfight and a questionable decision loss to Tetsuya Yamato in the K-1 -63kg 2011 Japan tournament.
Looking back at their most recent fights in the opening rounds of this tournament, both fighters seemed to show their glaring weaknesses and enormous strengths. Although Noiri scored knockouts on the strength of his technique and body work, he was dropped in his first fight against the unknown Rambo. Rambo showed sloppy striking, but Noiri became a little careless and was dropped for it. Noiri also got careless in the semifinals of the Krush tournament, being lured into a brawl with the hard-hitting Yuji Takeuchi in the final round, ultimately resulting in Noiri being KO'd. Noiri tends to get too comfortable fighting his opponent's fight, a problem that Yuta Kubo also had earlier in his career. Noiri is still just 18, though, so should he make a change like Kubo did, he has an incredibly bright future. Hiroya absolutely dominated Hiroshi Hoshikawa in his round of 16 bout, but against Sho Ogawa in the quarterfinals, he got a little bit too comfortable and was eating shots from Ogawa throughout the entire fight. Though Hiroya's offensive output ended up being more significant, his defense against his opponent's hands is lacking. He often gets too open with his striking, leaving himself open to counters. This was the case in his losses to Tetsuya Yamato and Noiri. In the Yamato fight, he controlled the entire fight outside of a 2 second period at the end of the 2nd round which resulted in him being dropped and ultimately lost him the fight.
Though there is no significant edge in technical striking, I would lean more towards Noiri because of his length and his consistently good body work. Though Hiroya's conditioning is very good, I could definitely see Noiri wearing him down over the course of three rounds, as Hiroya has shown he doesn't respond greatly to offensive pressure. That being said, I believe Hiroya has an advantage in the power department with his hands and should Noiri get careless with his offense, he could be dropped. I'm picking Noiri to take this rematch with offensive pressure being the key to a decision victory.
After the break, Urabe vs Takahashi breakdown and fight videos of the participants
Semifinal B: Koya Urabe vs Yukimitsu Takahashi
How they match up:
Koya Urabe: 15-2 (2 KO)// 170 cm(5'7")// 21 years old
Yukimitsu Takahashi: 11-3-1 (4 KO)// Height N/A// 22 years old
Coming into 2011, it was hard to make an argument for any other 63kg fighter to be considered #1 in Japan other than Urabe. Winning his fight in the qualifying round of the 2010 K-1 -63kg tournament against Shunsuke Oishi, Urabe was snubbed of a Final 8 spot. Nonetheless, he gratefully accepted a reserve bout against Yuji Takeuchi, beating him by decision. Urabe got his chance when he faced off against K-1 -63kg 2010 GP champ Tetsuya Yamato and he delivered, completely dominating Yamato over three rounds and winning a clear decision, making him a sort of uncrowned king of -63kg. 2011 has been a bit of a different story, as he started off in the quarterfinals of the Krush 63kg tournament narrowly defeating hot prospect Son Hyun Lee. He easily made it past Takuya Shirahama in the semifinals, but fell to teammate Ryuji Kajiwara in the finals. Next up was the 2011 K-1 -63kg Japan tournament, where he defeated Yuki in the quarterfinals, but not before taking significant punishment to his lead leg in the process. Another dominant performance over Tetsuya Yamato led him to the finals where Yuta Kubo took advantage of his injured leg and Urabe dropped a decision. Since, he is 3-0, though he has seemed to fall into the same rut in that once he secures a lead, he prefers to go into cruise control for the remainder of the fight. Takahashi is a bit of an unknown still, even after making it to the semifinals. He narrowly escaped in an extension round against Kazuma before knocking out Kengo Sonoda in the 3rd round of their quarterfinal bout.
Again, with little information on Takahashi, the focus is more on Urabe winning or losing this fight than Takahashi winning it. Though there is no listed height for Takahashi anywhere, he appears to be about the same height as Urabe, if not shorter, so Urabe shouldn't have trouble getting inside and roughing Takahashi up with his boxing. However, Urabe's tendency to get too comfortable in a fight after getting ahead could be his downfall. He is expected to win this fight with ease and win in the finals as well. Should he get ahead early, I fully expect Takahashi to give it everything he has as he is a huge underdog coming into this fight and has nothing to lose. The result could be a late KO or knockdown for Takahashi that could win him the fight, but even if Urabe manages to win, he risks taking significant damage from Takahashi like he did against Yuki, which could come back to haunt him in the finals. Still, I see Urabe taking this fight and give him an advantage over both Hiroya and Noiri in the finals. His offensive boxing is by far the best at 63kg in Japan and is a perfect style matchup for both fighters who have holes in their striking defense. I would favor Noiri's chances over Hiroya's by a bit, but ultimately see Urabe overpowering Noiri with his hands and outworking Hiroya with them.
Masaaki Noiri vs Hiroya 1 at Dynamite!!! 2009
Masaaki Noiri vs Rambo/Masaaki Noiri vs Daizo Sasaki at Krush Supernova Tournament
Masaaki Noiri vs "Kyoken" Yuji Takeuchi at Krush Triple Tournament Final
Hiroya vs Daiki Hoshikawa/Hiroya vs Sho Ogawa at Krush Supernova Tournament
Hiroya vs Tetsuya Yamato at 2011 K-1 -63kg Tournament
Koya Urabe vs Marimo at Krush.12
Koya Urabe vs Ryuji Kajiwara at Krush Triple Tournament Final