Krush started its 2013 year with one of the biggest events in the promotion's history, headlined by a 67kg tournament to crown a champion in one of Krush's two new weight classes with former K-1 stars Yuta Kubo, Yuji Nashiro, Yuya Yamamoto and Shintaro Matsukura, as well as Abdellah Ezbiri, TaCa, Hitoshi Tsukagoshi and Makihira Keita. Also on the card were Krush 55kg champ Shota Takiya taking on Mike Alamos, HIROYA taking on Keiji Ozaki, Masaaki Noiri against Makoto Nishiyama and other Krush standouts like Naoki Ishikawa, Yuji Takeuchi, Hisaki Higashimoto and Yukimitsu Takahashi.
In the first tournament quarterfinal, Abdellah Ezbiri was able to get a unanimous decision victory over 2011 K-1 MAX Japan Tournament champion Yuji Nashiro on scores of 30-27 and 30-28(x2). Nashiro entered the fight down a point as he failed to make weight on his first two attempts. However, that did not seem to make much of a difference as Ezbiri outboxed Nashiro over the course of 3 rounds. In the second quarterfinal, Yuya Yamamoto knocked out Hitoshi Tsukagoshi at 1:59 of the 3rd round on a left hook. Tsukagoshi apparently had the speed advantage, as he was moving up from 63kg while Yamamoto came down from 70kg, but Yuya had a clear power advantage and the hook that put Tsukagoshi down seems to have been pretty brutal. In the 3rd quarterfinal, tournament favorite Yuta Kubo used his signature body work to wear down TaCa en route to a 2nd round stoppage at 1:43. In the last quarterfinal, Shintaro Matsukura cruised to a unanimous decision over Makihira Keita on scores of 30-27 and 30-28(x2).
In the semifinals, Yuya Yamamoto showed he still had some fight in him, but lost an extension round split decision to Abdellah Ezbiri in what appears to have been the best fight of the tournament. After Ezbiri took the first round and the two drew the second, Yamamoto stormed back in the 3rd with his boxing to force an extra round. It seems the two both went for broke, but it was Ezbiri who came out on top, winning the round on 2 of the judges' cards. In the other semifinal, Yuta Kubo cruised to a unanimous decision over Shintaro Matsukura on scores of 30-27 and 30-26(x2). Kubo scored a knockdown in the first on a body shot and was able to outpoint Matsukura for the rest of the fight, however the inability to finish hurt Kubo, as Matsukura chopped away at his lead leg throughout the fight.
The finals saw a rematch between Yuta Kubo and Abdellah Ezbiri. Although Kubo had dominated their first fight, the two needed 5 rounds to determine a winner this time and it was Kubo who came out on top, winning a unanimous decision in the 2nd extension round to win the tournament title, but not without some controversy. It appears Kubo won the 1st round, but the tide started to turn in the 2nd and in the 3rd Ezbiri was able to take advantage of Kubo's lead leg to the point where Kubo was having trouble standing. In the first extension round, Ezbiri seems to have outlanded Kubo and further injured his leg, but was only able to win over one of the judges, as the other two scored it a draw, much to the distaste of the crowd who apparently booed the decision. However, Kubo somehow found it in himself to take over the 5th round, as Ezbiri was reportedly a bit sluggish in the final round and Kubo captured the tournament and inaugural Krush 67kg title. Despite this, Ezbiri was awarded MVP of the event and fight of the night and I wouldn't be surprised at all if he was brought back to Krush for a 3rd time to be Kubo's first title defense. Although Kubo won, there was a bit of an ironic twist, as he had won his K-1 Tournament title with a finals win over Koya Urabe, who had his lead leg decimated by Yuki in the quarterfinals, leaving Urabe as a one-legged fighter.
As far as impressions go for the tournament, we didn't learn much about Kubo. He was expected to win, as he did, albeit with some controversy, and a third fight with Ezbiri would likely look more like the first than this encounter, as he wouldn't have to battle through a damaged leg. However we did learn a lot about Ezbiri and Yuya Yamamoto. Ezbiri sees his stock shoot up a lot here as before this, he was just another in the list of foreign Kubo victims, but wins over Yuji Nashiro and Yuya Yamamoto, as well as the disputed finals decision, make him one of world's top kickboxers in the 65-67kg range, which isn't the deepest division. Yamamoto saw his stock shoot up after seeing his career sent into a downward spiral in 2012 with losses to Xu Yan and Asami Zaurus. As I said in my tournament preview, I could see Yamamoto beating Tsukagoshi and giving whoever he faced in the semifinals trouble, which he did, and for that he has to be commended. His brawling style works well in the tournament format, but I highly doubt he will ever be regarded as an elite fighter, even in Japan, as he lacks consistency and has shown he can both beat or lose to anyone on any given night. He is a wildly entertaining, but limited fighter.
Recap of the non-tournament fights and quick results below
In the tournament reserve fight, MA Kick Welterweight champion Jun Nakazawa picked up a unanimous decision over Yoshihiro Tomohita. This was pretty expected as Nakazawa is a borderline top 10 fighter in his division while Tomohita was a late replacement.
In the night's top-billed super fight, France's Mike Alamos snapped Krush 55kg champion Shota Takiya's 10 fight winning streak with a unanimous decision on scores of 30-30, 30-29 and 30-28. Alamos, who had a big reach advantage, didn't lose a single round and used his reach to keep the shorter Takiya outside where his power became ineffective. Alamos, who is the younger brother of Lumpinee Stadium champion Damien Alamos, improves to 15-0-0 and picks up the biggest win of his career. Takiya loses his first fight since March of 2010 and will need to improve his game if he wants to remain the 55kg kingpin in Japan. As we saw in his Krush.22 fight against the bigger Takumi, when Takiya can't get inside and take advantage of his power, he is not the best technical fighter. He excels at being a bully, but his ability to get inside against taller fighters appears to be an issue. Unless he changes that before the end of the year, I could see him losing his title in 2014 to Takumi, should he win the 55kg WILDRUSH League.
At 63kg, #1 ranked LiverKick Lightweight Masaaki Noiri dominated M-1 champion Makoto Nishiyama en route to a 2nd round stoppage via 3 knockdowns. The fight was a bit of a mismatch as Noiri was 8-1 in his last 9 and coming off of a huge win over Yetkin Ozkul, while Nishiyama had lost 2 in a row, hadn't fought in over a year, is 35 and never really moved past journeyman status, as he had lost to nearly every top fighter he had faced in his career. Still, Noiri improves to 9-1 in his last 10 and I believe will be fighting Koya Urabe some time in the future. The winner of that fight should be in line for a 63kg title fight.
At 61kg, a fight between "Kyoken" Yuji Takeuchi and MMA fighter Hirotaka Miyakawa was stopped early as a no contest just 1:11 into the 1st round as Takeuchi landed an unintentional low blow as Miyakawa was crouching down for a body shot and Miyakawa was not able to recover from the strike. Takeuchi was coming in off of a loss to SHIGERU, while Miyakawa had lost his last 2 fights in MMA.
In a bit of a surprise, Naoki Ishikawa needed an extension round to get past Junpei Aotsu after a unanimous draw. Ishikawa was coming off of a career-best year which saw him go 2-0-2, drawing Krush 60kg champ Hirotaka Urabe in a pair of title fights. While a great performance may have vaulted him back into an immediate title fight, I think Ishikawa might need to get one more win before Krush puts him against Urabe again. A great fight would be a 3rd fight with Yuji Takeuchi, as the two produced fireworks in their two previous encounters. Aotsu was 6-1 over the last 2 years, but starts 2013 with a loss, albeit an impressive one.
In a 64.5kg bout, Hiroya had a bit of trouble, but was able to get past Keiji Ozaki with a majority decision. Despite moving up in weight and going 2-0, Hiroya is the same fighter. He poses after throwing his strikes and gets countered because of it and his chin isn't good enough to take some of the shots he does. He will always struggle against faster counter fighters and the move up in weight should help with that somewhat, but it does not address his fundamental flaws. He is still fun to watch, but I'm hesitant to say he's improved. Although he lost, good showing from Ozaki who came up in weight and hit a career-low in 2012 with a loss to Taito.
In the opening fights, pretty much everything went as expected. 2012 Youth GP runner-up Hisaki Higashimoto struggled a bit, but was still able to get past Taito with a majority decision. Minoru Kimura displayed his power yet again, this time knocking down 63kg WILDRUSH League participant NOMAN 3 times in the 1st round, forcing a stoppage. The flashy, entertaining Yukimitsu Takahashi scored a pair of knockdowns to get past Atsushi Ogata. In a bit of an upset, Masahiro scored a first round knockdown, which ended up being the deciding factor, of Shuichi Wentz en route to a unanimous decision. Finally, at 60kg, 2012 60kg tournament finalist Katsuya Goto scored a 2nd round knockdown and took a unanimous decision over Leona Pettas. A fun 63kg matchup coming out of this would be Yukimitsu Takahashi vs Hisaki Higashimoto as the fight would likely be entertaining and it would help determine where Higashimoto stands in the Lightweight division. While the win for Masahiro is the best of his career, it's hard to determine how he'll fare at 55kg going forward. He's just 20 and trains at MAD MAX Gym with Kizaemon Saiga, but Wentz usually fights at 51kg. Still, he is an interesting prospect to watch this year.
67kg Tournament Final: Yuta Kubo def. Abdellah Ezbiri by 2nd ext. round Unanimous Decision (10-9, 10-9, 10-9) after a 3rd round Unanimous Draw (29-29, 29-29, 29-29) and an ext. round Majority Draw (10-10, 10-10, 9-10)
55kg Fight: Mike Alamos def. Shota Takiya by 3rd round Majority Decision (30-30, 30-29, 30-28)
61kg Fight: Yuji Takeuchi and Hirotaka Miyakawa fought to a 1st round no contest at 1:11 (accidental low blow)
67kg Tournament Semifinal #2: Yuta Kubo def. Shintaro Matsukura by 3rd round Unanimous Decision (30-27, 30-26, 30-26)
67kg Tournament Semifinal #1: Abdellah Ezbiri def. Yuya Yamamoto by ext. round Split Decision (10-9, 10-9, 9-10) after a 3rd round Unanimous Draw (29-29, 29-29, 29-29)
63kg Fight: Masaaki Noiri def. Makoto Nishiyama by 2nd round KO (3 knockdowns) at 1:56
60kg Fight: Naoki Ishikawa def. Junpei Aotsu by ext. round Unanimous Decision (10-9, 10-9, 10-9) after a 3rd round Unanimous Draw (29-29, 30-30, 30-30)
67kg Tournament Quarterfinal #4: Shintaro Matsukura def. Makihira Keita by 3rd round Unanimous Decision (30-28, 30-28, 30-27)
67kg Tournament Quarterfinal #3: Yuta Kubo def. TaCa by 2nd round KO (body punch) at 1:43
67kg Tournament Quarterfinal #2: Yuya Yamamoto def. Hitoshi Tsukagoshi by 3rd round KO (left hook) at 1:59
67kg Tournament Quarterfinal #1: Abdellah Ezbiri def. Yuji Nashiro by 3rd round Unanimous Decision (30-27, 30-28, 30-28)
67kg Tournament Reserve Fight: Jun Nakazawa def. Yoshihiro Tomohita by 3rd round Unanimous Decision (30-28, 30-28, 30-29)
64.5kg Fight: HIROYA def. Keiji Ozaki by 3rd round Majority Decision (30-30, 30-29, 30-29)
63kg Fight: Minoru Kimura def. NOMAN by 1st round KO (3 knockdowns) at 2:29
63kg Fight: Hisaki Higashimoto def. Taito by 3rd round Majority Decision (30-30, 30-29, 30-29)
63kg Fight: Yukimitsu Takahashi def. Atsushi Ogata by 3rd round Unanimous Decision (30-26, 30-26, 30-25)
55kg Fight: Masahiro def. Shuichi Wentz by 3rd round Unanimous Decision (30-28, 30-28, 29-28)
60kg Fight: Katsuya Goto def. Leona Pettas by 3rd round Unanimous Decision (29-27, 29-27, 30-27)