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70kg Eight Man Tournament on Mar. 24 with Henri van Opstal, Armen Petrosyan

The month of March this year is insanely stacked for kickboxing and Muay Thai. Another event to look forward to in March takes place on the 24th at Haarlem Fight Night in Haarlem, Holland.

The event will feature an eight man tournament at 70kg. Armen Petrosyan and Henri van Opstal are the biggest names in the tournament, which also features veterans like Anthony Kane and William Diender, as well as up and comers like Robbie Hageman. The full tournament lineup is as follows:

Henri van Opstal

Armen Petrosyan

Anthony Kane

William Diender

Robbie Hageman

Kevin Hessling

Mourad Tounoutti

Maiki Karathanasis

Also, the reserve fight will see Nick Beljaards fight Moreno Janssen. This will be the biggest Haarlem Fight Night event yet and more information will be coming out soon.

 

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Krush 67kg Tournament Preview

Krush kicks off 2013 with their anticipated 67kg tournament, set to crown a champion in one of Krush's two new weight classes. This post is an attempt at ranking the 8 fighters by their chances of winning the tournament, as I have done with previous one night tournaments.

1. Yuta Kubo - Kubo would have been the tournament favorite if his quarterfinal opponent was still Houcine Bennoui or Roman Mailov. Now, he has the easiest first round matchup against TaCa and a pretty clear path to the finals, as he would fight Shintaro Matsukura or Makihira Keita in the semifinals, neither of which are near Kubo's level. Throw in that he owns a win over one of the upper bracket favorites in Abdallah Ezbiri and he would be the favorite against Yuji Nashiro as well. Add on to this that he is one hell of a tournament fighter, as he made it to the finals of the first K-1 63kg tournament and was winning the fight until a 3rd round knockout, and he won the second 63kg tournament with wins over Kizaemon Saiga, Masaaki Noiri and Koya Urabe, three of Japan's best Lightweights. He even was slotted into the finals of the 2009 AJKF Lightweight tournament as a reserve fighter and was beating tournament favorite Masahiro Yamamoto until a 3rd round knockdown. If there's one downside for Kubo, it is that everyone is expecting him to win this tournament, so there may be a bit of pressure there. He also has shown tendencies to crack a little in the key moments of tournament finals, so it is definitely not out of the realm of possibility that Nashiro could exploit that in the finals.

2. Yuji Nashiro - Despite the toughest quarterfinal matchup, Nashiro will be aided by a drop in weight and fighting someone close to his size. Nashiro has had mixed results in tournaments, being KO'd by Yuichiro Nagashima in the opening round of the 2010 K-1 Japan MAX Tournament, then famously winning 2011 Japan MAX Tournament after an upset win in the quarterfinals over Albert Kraus, a win that shocked everyone watching. Should he get past Ezbiri in the quarters, he could possibly rematch Yuya Yamamoto in the semis, the man he knocked out to win the Japan MAX Tournament. Nashiro was able to excel in a weight class that he was not built for, so I don't see any reason why he can't do it in a more natural weight class for him and maybe even give Yuta Kubo a run for his money in the finals. (Side note: Nashiro came in overweight on his first two attempts and will be deducted a point to start his quarterfinal matchup against Ezbiri)

3. Abdallah Ezbiri - Being the only foreigner in the tournament, Ezbiri has a bit of pressure on him, and it won't be easy as he faces Yuji Nashiro in the opening round. Ezbiri fought Kubo back in June, but was knocked down twice and wasn't able to take a round off of him. It's hard to judge where Ezbiri stands against a fighter like Nashiro, as Kubo can make any fighter look bad. Because of this, and the talent drop off after Nashiro, I have Ezbiri at 3rd and should he get past Nashiro, I would definitely peg him as the favorite of the remaining 3 fighters in his half of the bracket to make it to the finals. I even think he could give Kubo some trouble in the finals, as he has shown some weaknesses in tournament finals.

4. Hitoshi Tsukagoshi  - The WILDRUSH League runner-up has one distinct disadvantage as he is coming up from fighting at 63kg, though was not able to move up over the course of a year like Kubo and as so, will likely be one of the smaller fighters in the tournament. That being said, he has a favorable quarterfinal matchup against the struggling Yuya Yamamoto. There's no reason he can't get past Nashiro or Ezbiri in the semifinals, but he will certainly not be the favorite and will need to find some magic if he wants to have a chance of getting to the finals, let alone winning the tournament.

Fighters 5-8 after the break

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Genji Umeno vs Chang Hyun Lee Rematch Added to RISE 92

On March 17th, RISE will host their first major event of the year, excluding the Infinity.II co-promotion with M-1, at Korakuen Hall and it is already shaping up to be a huge event.

The first fight to be announced for the card that was not announced at Infinity.II was a highly anticipated rematch between Genji Umeno and Chang Hyun Lee. The two first met at the K-1 FINAL 16 in October in a super fight that was meant to showcase Umeno to a wider audience. What we got instead was the fight of the year and the emergence of a new star in Lee, who broke out much like his training partner Sun Hyun Lee. Since, Umeno has fought just once, a one-sided 3rd round TKO of Korean fighter Kim Sung Ryeol at Infinity.II. Likewise, Chang Hyun has fought just once since their fight, knocking out Daiki Nagashima at the first Infinity event. The good news for fans is that this fight will be a 5 rounder. While that could mean both fighters may try to pace themselves a bit more, Umeno will likely want to start quick and I can imagine Lee would be obliged to do so as well.

Previously announced at Infinity.II was a fight between Masahiro Yamamoto and Karim Bennoui. Yamamoto was the last person to hold the It's Showtime 61kg title, winning it from Javier Hernandez last July. He is currently riding a 6-fight win streak, dating back to a 3-fight losing streak in 2010. Bennoui held that same title after winning it in March of 2011 from Sergio Wielzen. However, he lost it in his first defense to the aforementioned Hernandez in a fight of the year contender just 3 months later. This will be Bennoui's first fight in Japan, though he was originally scheduled to face Koya Urabe at Krush.25 in December before an injury forced him out. Since the loss to Hernandez, Bennoui has scored a pair of wins over Krush 63kg champ Thomas Adamandopoulos.

Also announced at Infinity.II was a RISE 65kg title fight rematch between current champ Koji Yoshimoto and #1 contender Yasuomi Soda. The two first met at RISE 86 last January with Yoshimoto handing Soda his first pro defeat by a narrow margin. Since that fight, Yoshimoto has fought just once, but scored a big win over Raz Sarkisjan at Infinity in December. Soda is 2-0 since their first encounter, stopping Dong-soo Kim and earning his rematch with a win over Yukihiro Komiya. Soda has likely improved since their first bout while Yoshimoto isn't getting any younger at 33, but I expect a close fight once again, though I can see Soda coming out on top this time.

The last fight set for the event as of now is a fight for the vacant RISE 55kg title between Dyki and Seiya Rokukawa. After back to back losses about a year ago in the RISE 55kg tournament final to Kenji Kubo and afterwards to fellow semifinalist Ryuma Tobe, Dyki seemed to be on the outside looking in. However, he has since gone 4-0 with wins over MA Kick champ Takashi Ohno, Shooto champ Mikihito Yamagami, J-Network champ Hiroaki Mizuhara and Ariaki Okada.  On top of that, Kenji left kickboxing altogether for boxing while Tobe hasn't been seen since his knockout loss to Katsuki Sakaki in Krush and Dyki has found himself as the top Super Bantamweight in RISE, getting him seeded into this vacant title fight. Rokukawa is 5-1 since 2012, winning the DEEP*KICK 55kg tournament with a pair of knockouts to start 2012, but losing his undefeated pro record against Takashi Ohno at RISE 89. He has won 3 in a row, including a defense of his DEEP*KICK title and a pair of wins to earn him this fight in the RISE 4-man 55kg Tournament at Infinity.II where he narrowly edged out Yuta Murakoshi in the semifinals by an extension round split decision before knocking out Hiroki Maeda in the finals. 

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Check Out Jonathan Snowden's Awesome Strikeforce History

StrikeforceThis weekend marks the end of an era in both Kickboxing and MMA as Scott Coker's Strikeforce brand, which was acquired by UFC's parent company, Zuffa, will finally promote its last show. Scott Coker's history with martial arts extends way beyond just MMA as he was in action films, competed in martial arts himself and Strikeforce began as a Kickboxing promotion which in turn helped to run K-1 USA. Basically, Coker and Strikeforce did a lot for Kickboxing here in the United States before going full MMA and with Kickboxing in the US in the state that it is now, it is a good thing to reflect on one of the last guys who did K-1 correctly here in the States.

BleacherReport's Jonathan Snowden just compiled a pretty awesome Oral History of Strikeforce by interviewing a lot of the major players as well as members of the media who witnessed it. I urge you to read this first part where there is a lot of talk about the early Kickboxing and Muay Thai day, as well as looks at their glory days in MMA as well.

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