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LiverKick 2016 Awards: Prospect of the Year - Tenshin Nasukawa

Part of kickboxing's struggles has been in introducing new talent in the face of the ongoing growth of MMA. MMA pays better, there are more opportunities in it and for a top-level striker the transition to MMA can often feel like an easy one (until they meet the limitations of their grappling abilities). That's why when a new star is born in kickboxing it feels special. That is what happened this past year with Tenshin Nasukawa. At the tail end of the year the 18-year-old dynamo who made a name for himself as an amateur in Japan and through his limited muay thai fights fought in the new Japanese promotion KNOCK OUT.

The show lived up to its name and Tenshin's fight was perhaps the best example of that. He made short work of Wanchalong and it become one of the most-talked-about knockouts of the year. Then he made his MMA debut in December for RIZIN with a dramatic submission escape only to finish off his opponent. He then took the house mic and demanded another fight in two days at the next event, to which the promotion was happy to oblige. In his second MMA fight he won via submission and, really, he's a muay thai fighter/kickboxer who won via submission in his second MMA fight.

There is a lot of Japanese talent right now in kickboxing, but none of them have broken through like Masato was able to, facilitating the creation of K-1 MAX. Is Tenshin that guy? Perhaps. It is also a lot of pressure to put on a young fighter, but there is a lot of potential there and he has the world's attention.

The 2016 LiverKick Awards

For more, listen to our year-end podcast.

 

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Check Out Steven Wright's 2016 Year in Kickfighting Highlight

There was a lot of really great action in the sports of muay thai and kickboxing over the span of 2016. Promotions sprouted up, powered forward and put forth their best fighters in exciting fights and MMA striking and kickboxing coach Steven Wright has once again put together his annual "Best of Kickfighting" video featuring some of the greatest moments from the past year.

Check it out.

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The Narratives Leading Out of GLORY 37: Van Roosmalen, Kongolo and More

For a lot of people, GLORY 37 snuck up on everyone. It's easy to understand, there is a lot going on in the world right now and the brief reprieve that we had from the usual onslaught of kickboxing shows was perhaps a welcome one. But it's right back to it and GLORY 37 saw a lot of interesting things happen. So here we are, let's break them down.

The smaller ring meant more action. This was a product of the venue and what worked best there, I suppose, but man did it really impact the night. The larger, more standard ring makes a lot of sense when it comes to heavyweights duking it out, but for lighter weight classes it has always felt a bit large. The smaller ring absolutely impacted the fights and it was interesting to see who benefited from it and who didn't. The smaller ring meant that more technical, outside fighters like Adesanya and Embree found themselves against strong pressure fighters being pressured. In the case of Adesanya it is fair to say that a larger ring could have yielded a completely different result. While a fight is a fight, things like gloves, the size of the ring and the slickness of a mat might seem incidental but can have a huge impact on the action. 

Not everyone can instantly adjust to kickboxing rules. This feels like a big one. Zoila Frausto has primarily fought in MMA and muay thai, this was her first kickboxing bout and it showed. When the fight got close she couldn't throw elbows, clinch and start throwing knees and it led to the fight being exciting to watch, but a bit of a mess. The same can be said for Matt Embree, who is an incredibly talented fighter who had a bit of trouble when it came to van Roosmalen's Dutch style. 

California is a mess. The issue of Robin van Roosmalen's weight cut and him being stripped of the title is an interesting one. While Robin's post-fight speech did perhaps try to shift away the blame from himself and his camp for him missing weight, there is a valid point that I've heard from others in California that everything with the commission gets gummed up there. Robin didn't have an official scale during his cut, was "on" in his hotel scale only to find out that he missed weight. That can't feel good. Something was clearly not communicated well during this process and van Roosmalen seemed to feel that he could have made weight if things had gone more smoothly.

Expect judges to rule against logic. One of the problems with the growing pains of kickboxing is referees and judges that don't have a strong connection with the sport. According to the GLORY rules and what we can assume was a literal interpretation of them by the judges, Wilnis was always going to win that fight. It was an incredibly close fight that really could have gone to either guy. That is on both fighters. What isn't is how the judges score these fights. Adesanya landed the better shots throughout the fight and kept Wilnis on the defensive, unable to land many of his trademark bombs. Yet, Wilnis waded in with the earmuffs on and controlled the ring. I saw a lot of disappointment that Adesanya didn't get the nod, even people upset at one particular bad scorecard that gave Wilnis four rounds. 

Robin van Roosmalen is a beast at Featherweight. Seriously. Sure, the weight cut happened, but there's a difference between having to overcome the mentality of being done with a weight cut only to find out you were off and being able to know exactly where you stand. It was .8lbs, which in the grand scheme of things, isn't the end of the world. As long as Robin van make the weight he's going to be a near-unstoppable force in this division. 

Cedric Doumbe's first challenge is set. There's a natural narrative in Kongolo fighting Doumbe for a third time, with that being Kongolo holds wins over Doumbe. Doumbe has grown a lot since those fights and has looked incredible, but styles make fights. It'll be interesting to see how Doumbe holds up against Kongolo in their third outing and there is really a natural story built in to this fight. Embrace it.

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