Tomorrow, Krush.14 is set to take place and aside from the semifinals and finals of the Krush Supernova Tournament, the main attraction is Krush -63kg champion Ryuji Kajiwara defending his title for the first time against 2010 K-1 -63kg Tournament champion Tetsuya Yamato. Kajiwara was originally set to face WBC Japan Muay Thai Lightweight champion Rashata, but he was forced to pull out of the fight.
How they match up:
Ryuji Kajiwara (c): 19-10-1 (6 KO) // 176 cm (5'9") // 34 years old
Tetsuya Yamato: 25-8-1 (20 KO) // 171 cm (5'7") // 23 years old
Originally starting out as a boxer, Kajiwara came to kickboxing in 2004, fighting primarily in J-Network before making his All Japan Kickboxing Federation debut in 2006 with a draw against top fighter Naoki Ishikawa. Over the next 3 years, he fought AJKF's best, though losing to most of them, ending with a loss to "Kyoken" Yuji Takeuchi in the first round of the 2009 Krush Lightweight GP. Kajiwara made a bit of a name for himself in AJKF despite his losses, mostly due to his wild brawl with Hisanori Maeda. Though he was known from his AJKF days, Kajiwara had his coming out party in 2011, entering the year on a 3-fight win-streak which saw him avenge a loss to Naoki Ishikawa. He extended his win-streak to 6, defeating TaCa, Kizaemon Saiga and Koya Urabe to capture Krush -63kg Tournament championship. Kajiwara went on to enter the 2011 K-1 -63kg Japan Tournament, losing to Masaaki Noiri in the quarterfinals. Conversely, Yamato is a product of New Japan Kickboxing Federation and has also competed under Muay Thai rules, mostly against Thai fighters, most notably Saenchai Sinbimuaythai and Jomthong Chuwattana, though he lost to both. Yamato was a relative unknown until he got his chance in K-1 in 2010 in the qualifying round of the -63kg tournament against pre-tournament favorite Masahiro Yamamoto. Yamato managed to stay even through 3 rounds with Yamamoto and forcing an extension round before scoring a knockdown in the extension round which scored him the win. Yamato then rattled off three straight KOs to claim the tournament championship. Since, Yamato is just 3-3-1 with a pair of losses to Koya Urabe, a loss to Jomthong and a draw against MMA fighter "Wicky" Akiyo Nishiura.
Kajiwara is one of the top counter-punchers in the division, likely as a result of his boxing experience. Ironically, his boxing defense is where he is most susceptible as he showed in his fights with Kizaemon Saiga and Koya Urabe in the Krush tournament. Though he was able to win those fights on the strength of knockdowns, he took a good amount of shots to the head. Fortunately for Kajiwara, Yamato does not possess the speed of Saiga or the technical prowess of Urabe. Unfortunately for Kajiwara, Yamato hits much harder than both Urabe and Saiga and is willing to take a few to give a few. Yamato's biggest weakness is his lack of speed and somewhat lacking technique. When his opponents bring speed or technical advantages to the table, Yamato is often flustered and cannot produce any significant offense. This can be seen in his recent fights against Koya Urabe, Hiroya and Saenchai, and though there is no video of his fight with Jomthong, seems to be the reason he lost that fight as well.
The way I see it, there are two possible ways this fight plays out. The first scenario is one which Yamato attempts to pressure Kajiwara, but Kajiwara is able to deflect the pressure with a strong jab and counter-punching, likely leading to a Kajiwara decision win. The second, and far more entertaining scenario, is one which Yamato constantly comes forward and the two exchange. I find this scenario more likely because of Kajiwara's lack of a speed advantage and willingness to be drawn into a brawl. Yamato showed he can make a non-brawler get into a brawl in his dramatic win over Yuta Kubo and although it is far in the past, Kajiwara showed he is willing to get lured into a brawl should the circumstances be right. Should the second scenario play out, I believe it would favor Yamato. Though it is very likely both fighters could see the canvas in this fight, Yamato holds the edge in power and has a slightly better chin, as well as an incredible heart and resilience when he finds himself in deep waters. Remarkably, 11 of Yamato's 20 KOs have come in the 3rd round or later. His biggest wins to date over Masahiro Yamamoto and Yuta Kubo in K-1 were a result of an extension round knockdown and 3rd round knockout, respectively, so Yamato can be extremely clutch under the spotlight despite his somewhat embarrassing first loss to Urabe and draw with Nishiura.
One final side note, Kajiwara's 35th birthday is on the day of the fight, December 9th, and Yamato's 24th is the following day. I can guess what both fighters would like.
Recent fight videos of both fighters after the break
Ryuji Kajiwara vs Kizaemon Saiga/Ryuji Kajiwara vs Koya Urabe at Krush Triple Tournament Final
Ryuji Kajiwara vs Masaaki Noiri at 2011 K-1 -63kg Japan Tournament
Tetsuya Yamato vs Hiroya/Tetsuya Yamato vs Koya Urabe 2 at 2011 K-1 -63kg Japan Tournament
Tetsuya Yamato vs Koya Urabe 1
Tetsuya Yamato vs Yuki/Tetsuya Yamato vs Kizaemon Saiga/Tetsuya Yamato vs Yuta Kubo at 2010 K-1 -63kg Tournament
Tetsuya Yamato vs Saenchai Sinbimuaythai