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K-1 Announces Participants and Matchups for K-1 MAX 2011 -70kg Japan Tournament

  • Written by Dave Walsh

K-1 event producer Sadaharu Tanikawa announced the participants and quarterfinal matchups for September 25th's K-1 World MAX 2011 -70kg Japan Tournament. It is the biggest qualifying tournament for the Final 16 and often takes place in February, but with K-1's struggles it is just now taking place.

In a big surprise, 2002 K-1 MAX Champion Albert Kraus has been announced as a tournament participant and will take on Yuji Nashiro in the first round. Though the Japan tournament has featured foreigner Andy Ologun, this is the first time a high profile foreigner has been placed in the tournament, as well as the first time a former MAX champion has participated after winning. Kraus' participation in the tournament is exciting, but at the same time somewhat disappointing as he is definitely the tournament favorite and if he wins, he may keep an exciting prospect out of the Final 16. Nonetheless, Kraus should add the extra pop in the tournament that K-1 needs and will hopefully draw quite a bit of buzz around the tournament. Kraus has been defeated by Giorgio Petrosyan in the quarterfinals of the World tournament the past two years and is coming off of a controversial decision loss to Yoshihiro Sato in June. Nashiro's placement in the tounrament is somewhat questionable as he lost in the quarterfinals of last year's tournament by KO to Yuichiro Nagashima and lost to Yutaro Yamauchi in the first round of this year's Krush tournament.

In the second quarterfinal, last year's favorite and finalist Hiroki Nakajima will take on undefeated RISE Middleweight Champion Takafumi Morita. Morita has made a splash on the scene, recently defeating former WBC Japan Champion Soichiro Miyakoshi and taking the RISE belt from Yukihiko Komiya by KO. Nakajima had high expectations, making it to last year's finals before falling by KO in a thrilling fight to 2010 champion Yuichiro "Jienotsu" Nagashima. Nakajima then fought very hard competition in his next two fights, losing by dominating decision to Albert Kraus and Buakaw Por. Pramuk. He rebounded with a KO win over YOSHI in the Krush 70kg tournament, but was upset in the semifinals by fellow tournament participant Kenta.

In the other half of the bracket, K-1 has set up a rematch from the Krush 70kg tournament between Shintaro Matsukura and Yuya Yamamoto. In the fight, the two put on an entertaining two rounds until the final round when Matsukura managed to drop Yamamoto with a knee early in the round. After that knockdown, the two began throwing everything they had, making for one of the best rounds of the year. Matsukura took the win as a result of the knockdown and went on to the semis against Yutaro Yamauchi. Again, the two fought a relatively entertaining first two rounds until the action exploded in the 3rd, leading to an extension round where the action continued. However, Matsukura was outlanded by Yamauchi and lost by split decision. Matsukura is just 19 years old and won the 2009 K-1 Koshien 70kg tournament. Yamamoto has been up and down since his appearance in the 2009 World MAX Semifinals, losing to HINATA in the quarterfinals of last year's Japan tournament and going 3-3 overall.

To round out the tournament, Krush 70kg Tournament Champion Kenta will take on 2008 Japan Tournament Champion and Swagmaster Extreme Yasuhiro Kido. Kenta took out Masakazu Watanabe, Hiroki Nakajima and Yutaro Yamauchi en route to the Krush title and is currently riding a 5-fight winstreak with his last loss being to tournament participant Yuji Nashiro. Kido has fallen on hard times in K-1 after his 2008 tournament win, losing in the quarterfinals of the last two Japan tournaments and losing a super fight to Vahid Rosyani last May.

The favorite in this tournament has to be Kraus, but Nakajima, Morita, Kenta and Yuya Yamamoto could prove to be spoilers. If there were an upset to look out for, I'd say watch Morita against Nakajima. Matsukura may well take another win off of Yamamoto, too, though I think it's not as likely.

In the tournament reserve bout, YOSHI will take on Go Yokoyama. Yokoyama was initially announced as a participant of the tournament, but has been moved to the reserve bout. His last fight was a draw against Yutaro Yamauchi at Sengoku Soul of Fight. YOSHI was knocked out by Hiroki Nakajima in the quarterfinals of the Krush tournament.

2010 Japan Tournament Champion Yuichiro "Jienotsu" Nagashima has been announced in a 78kg superfight against Kenmun. Jienotsu has spent most of his off-time from K-1 participating in professional wrestling which probably explains his lack of participation in the tournament. Finally, flashy 63kg standout Kizaemon Saiga will take on Valdrin Vatnikaj. Since upsetting Naoki Ishikawa last July, Saiga has gone 1-4, though his losses have come to Tetsuya Yamato, Son Hyun Lee, Ryuji Kajiwara and Yuta Kubo. {jcomments on}

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