K-1 Japan returns to action tonight with another stacked card featuring a cruiserweight tournament. But the real appeal of the night lies with its collection of one off superfights. It’s an event with a bit of everything, whether it be bad blood grudge matches, showdowns between promising prospects or showcases for some of kickboxing’s greatest stars. Here’s your trusty last minute guide to navigate you through some of the fantastic Jkick weirdness ahead of us.
The card will kick off at 00:30 EST/21:30 PST on AbemaTV for anyone whose IP address is located in Japan.
60kg Fight: Goshyu ‘The Revolutionary’ Masanobu (24-8-0) vs. Suarek ‘Hyper-Aggressive Muay Thai’ Rukkukamui (96-35-11)
The first superfight on the cards is a gritty battle between two high output veterans trying to reestablish themselves in one of K-1’s most competitive divisions.
Goshyu Masanobu was born with a disability that left him hard of hearing and made him a target for bullies growing up. But despite his handicap, he proved to be a natural athlete and spent his schoolboy years playing baseball, eventually playing in the highly prestigious Koshien High School Championship. After discovering kickboxing after graduating high school, he first debuted in RISE where he won the KAMINARIMON all Japan amateur tournament then the RISING ROOKIES CUP.
Widely considered to be the toughest and physically strongest Japanese kickboxer at his weight, Goshyu utilizes a straightforward swarmer style reminiscent of Yuya Yamamoto. He applies constant pressure and takes center ring; shrugging off his opponent’s blows and retaliating with his own to wear down his enemies. That style brought him great success in Krush, where he managed to inflict the savvy Anpo Riku the first defeat of his career and win the 60kg Krush belt. An activist who claims to fight to ‘give hope to disabled children that they too can grow up to be champions’ K-1 latched onto him as the feel good story of the year back in 2017 and picked him up for the bigger stage.
His opponent Suarek comes from a completely different world. Born in Ubon Ratchathani, a province on the outskirts of Thailand’s borders with Cambodia, Suarek disdained the path set for him as a fifth son of a rural farmer’s household. He started muay thai at the age of twelve and left home at sixteen to seek his fortune at Sityodtong gym in Pattaya. Suarek captured some early success by getting ranked #7 in Rajadamnern’s featherweight rankings at the age of 19 and fighting on BBTV broadcasted matches. However, he quickly grew disillusioned by the world of muay thai, claiming that there were occasions where he would be approached to throw fights. At the age of 23, he retired from pro muay thai in Thailand and came to Japan to rebuild his life as a fighter/trainer in the Japanese kickboxing circuit.
The Japanese audience rarely embrace a Thai fighter, but Suarek quickly became a cult-favorite in REBELS due to an almost reckless aggressive style. A high output kicker and brawler, Suarek became the REBELS muay thai champion and took home wins vs. the likes of KNOCK OUT mainstay Maeguchi Taison and Shota SaenchaiGym.
Both fighters rode their respective momentum into the K-1 60kg tournament that was the feature of K’Festa back in March only to suffer losses. In almost reckless abandon, Suarek chased the veteran karateka Kosuke Komiyama only to run face first into a sneaky high kick that took him out the first round. Goshyu’s workpace and chin carried him into the semi-finals, but his linear plodding style was a prime target against Takeru who used him for target practice before inflicting upon Goshyu his first KO loss in 15 fights.
This matchup represents a prime opportunity for these two fighters to prove that they have shored up the holes in their game. With Takeru in the same division and needing an opponent for the main event of K’Festa.2 next March, a decisive winner here can start building their argument for taking on K-1’s biggest star.
Goshyu Masanobu vs Toshi
Suarek Rukkukamui vs Pilao Santana
62.5kg Fight Anpo ‘Demolition Man’ Rukiya vs. Hayashi ‘Mad Fist’ Kenta (21-4-2)
Since the division’s inception, K-1 Japan’s 62.5kg weight class has been dominated by the Big Three of Koya Urabe, Wei Rui and Gonnapar Weerasakrek. K-1 has been trying to groom a prospect to upset the power balance in this division, and the winner of this matchup between touted prospects will emerge as the vanguard of the new guard.
The 22 year old Rukiya was the beneficiary of one of the hottest hype trains going into 2018. While he was profiled as a karate prodigy that was featured on TV since the old FEG K-1 days, Rukiya truly emerged in 2017 with a gif-worthy flying switch kick over Mizumachi. The natural born highlight factory replicated his flashy success that year by knocking out WLF star Deng Zeqi with a flying knee and dropping Big Bang champion Kyoshiro three times over the course of three rounds.
It was in 2018 where a confluence of factors conspired to derail his career. The ugly out-of-ring spat between K-1 and TRY HARD Gym, his former abode, forced Rukiya to leave his old teammates to stay with K-1. He and his brother Riku started up a new team under the ‘All-Win’ banner, but he became the victim of a highlight worthy KO in his return bout against Gonnapar this June. Now the representative of his own gym at just 22, all the pressure is on Rukiya to prove that he is truly worthy of taking a place amongst the upper echelon of the division.
His opponent Hayashi, 23 years old, also suffered a setback against Gonnapar. A heavy-handed puncher who outbrawled the veteran Kyoken Takeuchi to claim the name ‘Mad Fist’, Hayashi was in consideration to be the key star of the 62.5kg division last year, but he stumbled in a step-up bout vs. the muay thai stylist and was finished within the first. Since then, Hayashi has gradually rebuilt his momentum with two KOs in Krush and by winning the Big Bang belt.
This bout is a classic kicker vs. puncher matchup. The pre-fight interviews got quite heated as Hayashi said that he had nothing to fear from Rukiya besides his kicks and Rukiya retaliated saying that Hayashi has nothing save his hands. Putting their disregard of each other aside, these two have between them the top offensive arsenals in their division. Don’t blink!
Anpo Rukiya vs. Mizumachi Hiroshi
Hayshi Kenta vs Kyoken Takeuchi
57.5kg Fight: Ozawa ‘Dynamite Kid’ Kaito (12-6-2) vs Ashizawa ‘The Warhead of Team Pegasus’ Ryusei (20-8-1)
Life came fast at Ozawa Kaito. Two years ago, he emerged from obscurity after riding a streak of KOs on his way to seizing the Krush belt. He then instigated a beef with the superstar Takeru that garnered mainstream attention as their staredown devolved into a physical altercation. Despite being on the losing end of that conflict, Ozawa proved that he was the first credible threat to Takeru’s reign and made it to the finals of the first 57.5kg GP. Many expected this rivalry to be this generation’s Masato vs. Kohiruimaki.
Perhaps so, but Ozawa’s career has paralleled his former mentor Kohi’s in some unfortunate ways since then. For all his athletic talents, Ozawa has failed to find consistency. A pair of losses against Saikyo Haruma stripped him of his Krush belt. Out of the ring, he was forced to part ways with Kohiruimaki. Still, with Takeru moving up a division and K-1 hosting a featherweight grand prix to crown a new 57.5kg champion, the stars seemed to have aligned for Ozawa to finally establish his stardom.
Enter Ashizawa. A product of K-1 Team Pegasus that also entered the GP, Ashizawa entered quickly emerged as one of the most disliked heels within the K-1 roster by turning the very same trashtalk Ozawa used to make his name against him. At every presser Ashizawa needled Ozawa by calling him ‘small fry’, ‘a fake bad boy’ and ‘an idiot who doesn’t have the skills to talk back against [him]’. All hopes were on Ozawa to defeat Ashizawa enroute to becoming K-1 Champion.
But when the fateful day came, audiences were shocked as Ozawa was eliminated in the first round. Meanwhile Ashizawa, despite the hate, managed to make his way to the semi-finals and massively raise his stock. Now with his star on the rise and Ozawa’s falling, Ashizawa reinstigated a twitter beef to set up this grudge match, saying that he was ‘allowing Ozawa to take a fight against [him]’. Ozawa for his part, has played the part of the veteran by largely ignoring Ashizawa’s incessant insults and calling him a ‘catfish-looking bastard’ that he was going to ‘release back into the river’.
This bout features a clash of styles. Ozawa is a fast twitch fighter who constantly looks for the killshot with his knees and liver kicks. Meanwhile, while Ashizawa may look gangly with the muscle definition of a twelve year old, he utilizes a deceptive style reminiscent of the Diaz brothers. He will maintain a high output of clubbing punches that look like they shouldn’t hurt at all until its the third round and they suddenly do.
The winner here will emerge as first in line to challenge Murakoshi for the belt in March.
Ozawa Kaito vs Josh Tonnar
Ashizawa Ryusei vs Sano Junpei
60kg Fight: ‘The Tyrant of Naniwa’ Koji (24-12-0) vs Stauros ‘Iron Fist’ Exakoustidis (33-9-0)
Koji wants to fight Takeru.
Scratch that. Koji believes that fighting Takeru is his destiny and has been on an all out media campaign blitz since March basically treating that fight as a done deal. That might be a bit of a puzzler for many, given that he is a technically adept, but largely undistinguished journeyman who can pull off convincing wins over gatekeepers like Shimano Kotaro and Toshi, but has come up short in championship level contention vs. Urabe Koya and Taiga.
What that fails to account for is the fact that Koji has established a devoted following as the premier trash talker in all of Japanese kickboxing. A prankster known for antics like bringing a motorcycle helmet for his opponents at weigh ins in insinuation that their chins are shot, Koji has shown absolutely zero respect for his rivals to date. With K-1 hosting its first event in his hometown of Osaka this December, Koji may very well get his shot with a victory here.
But to do so he must get past Stauros Exakoustidis, a man who’s never needed any words or props to sell himself. An iron fisted brawler reminiscent of fellow Grecian Mike Zambidis, Stauros shot to fame by KOing then K-1 Champion Taiga in the first round. While he came up short vs. Takeru this March, he gave the superstar the closest fight in the entire tournament with a brawl that went the distance. Just how much Koji can back up his trash talk is still a mystery, but with him recently moving full time to Tokyo to train at Silver Wolf gym under the tutelage of Susumu Daiguji and the same physical trainer that made Masato into the cardio monster he was, he may surprise us yet.
Koji vs Toshi
Stauros vs Taiga
55kg Fight: Takei ‘the Baby-Face Breaker’ Yoshiki (15-2-0) vs Akram Hamidi (24-2-1)
There are three fighters widely considered ‘must watch’ in the Japanese kickboxing circuit. While everyone knows of Takeru and Tenshin Nasukawa, the man flying under the radar is the 22 year old Takei Yoshiki. What he lacks in Tenshin’s sense of showmanship and Takeru’s raw charisma, Takei makes up with in-ring acumen and the sheer fluidity of his combination work.
The K-1 Japan MVP of the year 2017, Takei’s skills is a product of his unfortunate upbringing. Born to a single mother, as a child Takei was a delinquent that caused problems for his family. Under this stress, his mother attempted to take him down in a murder-suicide, but was dissuaded from this route and ended up entrusting the then 10 year old Yoshiki to a kickboxing gym that tried to reform problem children. The POWER OF DREAM gym, became Takei’s home for the next 12 years. Yoshiki grew up in this strict environment, banned even from making a girlfriend, and focused solely on horning his kickboxing skills.
Once he went pro, it did not take long for Takei’s decade of training to pay off. After dropping two fights early in his career, Takei is now on a 14 fight win streak that included winning the K-1 55kg grand prix. After running through the likes of Izawa Namito, Kubo Kenji and Vitor Saravia the only question mark in his career is whether he can find worthy opponents that pushes him into producing the top notch fights.
Akram Hamidi could very well be that opponent. A muay thai stylist training out of France, Hamidi brings a similar, aggressive combo based style. Despite being even younger than Takei at just twenty, he has emerged with wins over the likes of Nong Rose. This could very well be the fight of the night.
Takei Yoshiki vs Kubo Kenji II
Akram Hamidi vs Nong Rose
60kg Fight: ‘The Natural Born Krusher’ Takeru (34-1-0) vs Daniel Puertas Gallardo (32-6-0)
Three time K-1 Tournament Champion. 29 fight win streak. Superstar.
The man Masato has named as his clear successor, Takeru may very well be among the most exciting kickboxers active in the world today. People expected him to stumble in March as he not only moved up a division, but was forced into a last-minute one night grand prix to win his belt. Takeru barely broke a sweat as he finished three of his two opponents that night.
Despite his utter dominance over the lighter weights, Takeru faces doubts going into this matchup. His move up to 60kg was a pure accident. His move up a division was meant only as an one off superfight vs. fellow champion Taiga. But after that fight fell through and he was forced through a grand prix to win the belt, Takeru has chosen to make 60kg his new home. As a fighter whose best fit was at 57.5kgs and relied on his power to impose his gameplan, who knows how long he can hang on at 60kgs.
By that lens, his opponent is Daniel Puertas Gallardo is possibly the worst imaginable matchup for him. While Takeru is moving up, Gallardo has come down. A W5 champion at 65kgs with wins over the likes of Yetkin Ozkul, Gallardo towered over Takeru at the weigh ins. Takeru’s entire game is centered around using his front mikazuki geri to break his opponent’s momentum before overwhelming him with bodywork. How can that possibly work against a bigger opponent? Takeru is used to absorbing his opponents shots and overwhelming them in brawls. Can he do that against a man of Puertas’ size and aggression? All of Saitama Super Arena is likely to hold its breath for the entirety of this fight.
Takeru vs Vitor Saravia
Daniel Puertas Gallardo vs Sergio Wielzen