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2012: Learning More About The Landscape Of The Lightweight Division

The lightweight division, which we consider to be around 60-63.5kg, has always been living in the shadows of the two main divisions in kickboxing, 70kg and heavyweight. It still is, but 2012 was a big year for the lightweight division.

One of the main problems in evaluating the lightweight division has always been the separation between the fighters in Japan and the fighters in the rest of the world. Since Japan has so many quality fighters in this division, it's always been essential that we see some crossover and that fighters from Japan fight fighters from outside Japan, so we can really just get an overall feel for the landscape of the division. Well, that's started to happen this year with Krush's efforts to bring in foreigners, and to a smaller extent, other Japanese promotions such as RISE. There still really isn't a big stage like K-1 or GLORY where all of the best lightweights can fight on, but compared to the past, what Krush has done this year is a great start and was very much a large factor in LiverKick starting to do rankings for the lightweight division.

Even outside of Japan, there were a lot of meaningful and relevant fights between 60-63.5kg with some of the best fighters fighting each other. France is one of the main fight hubs for lightweight fights, housing Yetkin Ozkul vs. Thomas Adamandopoulos and Thomas Adamandopoulos vs. Karim Bennoui this year, to name a few. France, aside from in my opinion being one of the strongest countries in all of kickfighting, is also one of the strongest when it comes to the lightweight division, which I've been able to determine based on French fighters' results internationally and the quality of fighters domestically. More importantly, Krush forged good relationships with French managers and brought us fights between some of the best French fighters and some of the best Japanese fighters at lightweight, two powerhouses in the division.

Aside from Krush, It's Showtime played their part in putting on Javier Hernandez vs. Masahiro Yamamoto, another very important fight for the rankings of the division. Hernandez alone was involved in quite a few fights that were helpful in evaluating the landscape of the division, notably against Ruben Almeida, against Yuki in RISE, and against Mickael Peynaud. Top lightweights in general have been pretty active this year in regards to fighting each other, and the same goes for fighters sitting outside the rankings that are trying to establish themselves as top fighters. As a result of all this crossover it's become much less of a difficult task to evaluate where lightweights stand amongst each other in kickboxing.

If everyone sticks with what they've said in regards to 2013, next year should be an even better year in establishing not just lightweights but lighter weights below 70kg in kickboxing. Krush is already bringing in foreign fighters for their scheduled January events and there are plans to bring in even more, and possibly even bring Japanese fighters to fight in Europe. K-1 is supposed to be doing 63kg next year and GLORY in turn is doing 65kg, which are the two platforms that can really spark interest in weights below 70kg and attempt to take these weights away from the realms of relative obscurity that they've been in for most of modern kickboxing's existence. 2012 was a good start in that there was finally some crossover created in match-ups internationally. Hopefully it continues throughout 2013.

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Krush Announces 67kg Tournament Quarterfinal Matchups

Krush kicks off 2013 on January 14th with one of the best tournaments in the promotion's history, a 67kg tournament featuring Yuta Kubo, Yuji Nashiro, Houcine Bennoui, Abdallah Ezbiri, Yuya Yamamoto, Shintaro Matsukura, Makihira Keita and Hitoshi Tsukagoshi. While the participants were announced over the course of the past few weeks, the quarterfinal matchups were just announced at a press conference earlier today. In the top half of the bracket, 2011 K-1 MAX Japan tournament winner Yuji Nashiro faces Abdallah Ezbiri while 2009 K-1 MAX World Tournament Semi-Finalist Yuya Yamamoto faces -63kg WILDRUSH League runner-up Hitoshi Tsukagoshi. In the lower half of the bracket, ISKA Light Welterweight champion Yuta Kubo takes on Houcine Bennoui while 2012 Krush 70kg Youth GP champion Shintaro Matsukura faces Makihira Keita. The biggest note from this is that Krush seemed to match the foreigners with their top two fighters in Kubo and Nashiro, producing the tournament's best two quarterfinal matchups. The winners of those fights will be favored to win their semi-final fights as well and move on to the finals, though both Matsukura and Yamamoto have the power to cause problems should they make it to the semis. Unfortunately for fans, Matsukura vs Yamamoto 3 looks a bit unlikely as the fight would have to happen in the finals and even if it were to happen, neither fighter is renowned for his gas tank. Other interesting rematch possibilities are a Kubo vs Ezbiri final and a Nashiro vs Yamamoto semifinal. Check back to LiverKick in the days leading up to the tournament for my full tournament breakdown and a ranking of each fighter's chances.

The other news Krush brought was that, once again, Andy Howson would have to be replaced due to an injury. Howson was set to face Krush 55kg champion Shota Takiya, but will be replaced by Mike Alamos. If the name looks familiar, it's because Mike is the younger brother of Lumpinee Stadium Super Lightweight champion Damien Alamos. Alamos is 18 years old and has complied a 14-0-0 (7 KO) record. The hard-hitting Takiya will be a very tough test for him.

The injury bug also bit former RISE champion Kan Itabashi, who was set to face Junpei Aotsu. He will be replaced by Naoki Ishikawa, who is fresh off of his 2nd straight draw against 60kg champ Hirotaka Urabe on the 14th. A win could easily vault Ishikawa into a 4th fight with Urabe.

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Muay Thai Combat TV Ep 1: Andy Souwer

Muay Thai Combat TV is a new web series brought to you by the folks behind Yokkao and are looking to make a big impact. As Yokkao Extreme 2013 rapidly approaches you can expect more content from them previewing the event and you won't see us complaining. In this first episode Stefania Picelli of Muay Thai Combat and promoter of Yokkao Extreme flies to Holland to catch up with Andy Souwer as he prepares for his upcoming fights.

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FIght Nights - Battle at Moscow 9: Mineev, Stetsurenko, Ramazanov

Fight Nights has become one of the biggest and most successful promotions in Russia, drawing big crowds for events featuring kickboxing and MMA. Their main stars in kickboxing are Batu Khasikov, who actually helps run the promotion as a producer, and Vladimir Mineev, a 22 year old Russian with a ton of potential that right now could already hang with the top 95kg fighters in kickboxing. The promotion is back in Moscow on this Sunday, December 16 with a nice fight card on the kickboxing end.

Khasikov won't be on the card, but Mineev will and he'll face his toughest test to date in Ali Cenik. Cenik fights for GLORY and recently fought the It's Showtime 95kg champion Danyo Ilunga, dropping a decision but landing a ton of punches in the process. Cenik has a high work rate at times and this should be an interesting fight to see how Mineev deals with a volume fighter who will try to establish his own pace.

Also on the card is Alexander Stetsurenko, one of the top light heavyweights in kickboxing, who comes off winning the 2012 Tatneft Cup tournament with a decision victory over fellow top light heavyweight Hicham El Gaoui. Stetsurenko will face Karapet Karapetyan, who sufferred some losses earlier this year to Nieky Holzken and Joe Schilling, but rebounded and looked much improved in August with a KO win in Greece over Alexandros Chatzichronoglou.

Ramazan Ramazanov has found himself featured on Fight Nights as well, splitting fights with Mamadou Keta this year. Ramazanov will fight Fabian Gondorf from the Netherlands. Gondorf will be facing the highest level of competition he's ever faced here.

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