There's still plenty to discuss about the end of 2010. From the poor Dynamite!! ratings, to the K-1 v. MMA debate, to the Fight of the Year, we definitely remain in year end wrap up mode. But now that it's 2011, and now that we've officially joined the awesome new MiddleEasy.com network (click the link!), let's stop looking back for a moment and look ahead. Because even though K-1 may not be producing any fights for a few months, there's plenty of action upcoming. In fact, we're just a few short days away from the first major event of 2011.
On January 9, Krush presents the Krush First Generation King Tournaments Round 2. Which is a fancy way of saying this show will feature the first round in Krush's tournament to crown an inaugural 63kg champion. The four tournament fights include:
-Koya Urabe, whose last fight was a win over K-1 63kg champion Tetsuya Yamato v. Korea's Sung Hyun Lee, last seen scoring a decision win over Kizaemon Saiga at the K-1 MAX Final 16
-Team Dragon member Ryuji Kajiwara, who defeated Naoki Ishikawa at Krush.9 last year v. TaCa
-Yuki Yamamoto, a WBC Muay Thai Japan champion v. Krush Rookies Cup winner Takuya Shirahama
-Kizaemon Saiga, one of the breakout fighters of 2010 v. Naoki Terasaki
Winners move on to the March 19 finals.
Urabe is the clear favorite to win the tournament, as he has looked more and more impressive with every outing. I would love to see him meet both Saiga and Kajiwara before the tournament is done.
The main event this weekend is a big one for Krush, as the #5 ranked Yoshihiro Sato faces Shemsi Beqiri. Sato is the definite favorite here, but don't rule Beqiri out. He had a great 2010, including a win over Alviar Lima, and is just outside the top 25. He has his work cut out for him, but is an exciting fighter, and this is a good match-up.
Two other MAX veterans are on the card - #17 ranked Yuya Yamamoto faces Masakazu Watanabe, and K-1 MAX Japan 2010 tournament participant Yuji Nashiro looks to continue his strong 2010 as he faces Daisuke Tsutumi.
This is the first of 4 shows Krush already has scheduled for 2011. Up next is the March 19 event featuring the 55, 60, and 63kg tournament finals. After that will be the 70kg quarter finals on April 30 with the finals on July 16. With these tournaments, Krush has great potential to capitalize on the strong year they had in 2010. Thanks in part to K-1 emphasizing the smaller fighters with their new 63kg division, Krush stars have begun to gain greater prominence in the larger kickboxing world. But Krush has always been boosted by a relationship with K-1, and while that helped them in 2010, it may cause them trouble in 2011. If K-1 de-emphasizes MAX and the 63kg division, it will definitely have an impact on Krush. In the short term, it may help them to book more big name fighters who now find themselves with less Japanese fights. But in the long term, if MAX fades, Japanese interest in the smaller weight classes may also fade, which would be a great trouble for Krush. This is definitely a pivotal year for the company as they look to further establish their own identity apart from simply a K-1 feeder.
But that's all down the road. For now, the next 6 months of Krush are bright and full of good fights - and those fights begin this weekend.