Earlier today in Shinjuku, Tokyo, GLORY held its first Road to GLORY Japan event, a 65kg tournament with Masaaki Noiri, Yuki, Ryuji Kajiwara and Hiroya, among others. Also on the card was a big 60kg fight between Hirotaka Urabe and Shigeru.
Zen Fujita and Riki Matsuoka opened up the tournament with the REBELS champ Fujita stopping the Koshien semifinalist with a pair of knockdowns in the 3rd after getting knocked down once himself in the previous round. The second fight was my most anticipated opening round matchup as brawlers Yuki and Mohan Dragon faced off, but it was the former RISE champ Yuki winning a decision on scores of 29-27, 28-27 and 30-27 over the MA Kick champion due to Mohan Dragon having points being taken away for low blows. The third quarterfinal saw a 3rd matchup between former Koshien champs Masaaki Noiri and Hiroya. This fight was much closer than their first two affairs as Noiri was only able to pick up a majority decision due to a point deduction for low blows to Hiroya, resulting in scores of 30-29(x2) and 29-29. The last quarterfinal featured an upset as Yukihiro Komiya defeated former Krush champion Ryuji Kajiwara in an extension round after a split draw. Kajiwara was deducted a point for shots to the back of the head in the extension round, but lost the round on each judge's scorecard, as well.
The semifinals saw Zen Fujita go down again, but this time he was sent right back to the canvas after suffering some of Yuki's brutal leg kicks. Yuki won by TKO at 2:42 of the 2nd round and advanced to the finals. In the other semi, Noiri struggled once again, but again came out with a majority decision over Yukihiro Komiya on scores of 30-30, 30-29 and 30-28. However in the finals Noiri made sure he didn't win a close decision and knocked Yuki down twice in the 1st round and twice in the 2nd en route to a 2nd round stoppage at 1:35 to win the tournament and a spot in GLORY's World Tournament in May.
Despite going up in weight, the tournament win further solidifies Noiri as the world's top Lightweight. It's interesting to see how he'll fare against bigger fighters in the main GLORY tournament, but I don't see any reason to not consider him the early favorite. Sure, scores indicate that he struggled with a bigger Hiroya and Komiya, but until footage of the fights comes out it'll be hard to know. It is very possible he chose to work at range and save his energy, an approach he's taken to tournaments before. Yuki lived up to my expectations by getting past Mohan Dragon, albeit in an unconventional way, and then stopping Zen Fujita. And as I expected, Yuki had the flaws in his game exploited by the technically superior Noiri. Still a good showing from Yuki and a good way to bounce back from the loss to Sung-hyun Lee. Yukihiro Komiya made the biggest impression in the tournament. The former RISE Middleweight champion had looked very good since dropping to 65kg, but his loss to Yasuomi Soda made it seem like it was a bit too late for him to break through. However, he was able to pull off the upset against Kajiwara and gave Noiri a good run for his money. Zen Fujita made it to the semis, but didn't give me any reason to think he's close to a world level. He got dropped by Matsuoka in his quarterfinal and although he showed great heart by coming back and getting a stoppage, he wasn't ready for Yuki's low kicks. Kajiwara had a disappointing night, but it's not as if he wasn't competitive. His run at 63kg was far from a fluke, but his style relies heavily on his opponent coming at him. I would assume the more experienced Komiya didn't fall into that trap and that's why he was able to win, but according to GLORY's Martijn De Jong on Twitter, the fight was action packed, so I guess that's another good way to throw a counter fighter off of his game. Despite losing, Hiroya fighting Noiri close and not getting dropped says, to me at least, that he's made some improvements and that the move to 65kg is bigger than I thought it would be. Mohan Dragon mostly gave me what I expected and I'm not surprised his wild, looping shots resulted in low blows against a fighter who loves to be on the inside. I guess I could say Matsuoka surprised me by dropping Fujita, but his lack of defense cost him.
The event also featured a few super fights, the most significant of which featured Krush 60kg champion Hirotaka Urabe taking on WPMF Japan Super Featherweight champion Shigeru. After 3 rounds of what GLORY's Martijn de Jong called the fight of the night, the two went to an extension round. Less than 30 seconds into the extension round, Urabe opened up a nasty cut with a flying knee and forced a doctor stoppage. Urabe pushes his undefeated streak to 14 and picks up another win over a top 60kg fighter. Although he lost, Shigeru proves he's one of the best 60kg fighters in Japan after defeating Yuji Takeuchi and fighting Urabe even for 3 rounds. Clearly he has some defensive holes, but he's shown he can fight against all different types of fighters and under different rulesets. I'd like to see him fight Naoki Ishikawa in Krush with the winner getting another shot at Urabe.
Quick results after the break