Favorites Out Early at K-1 63kg GP

TOKYO, Japan -- The opening round of the inaugural K-1 World MAX 2010 63kg Japan Tournament got under way in front 3,871 fans at a sold-out JCB Hall on Sunday, and already this new division is showing that youth and speed is key.

Despite their late inclusions, Masahiro Yamamoto and Haruaki Otsuki hold a large number of the more prestigious titles available in Japanese kickboxing and were rightfully considered the tournament favorites. Titles and experience meant little though as they both bowed out of the tournament early with shocking losses to younger opposition.

Masahiro Yamamoto was rightfully the odds-on favorite for this tournament, holding wins over some of the better GP participants and having demonstrated the ability to win tournaments in Krush in the past. He was stopped short however when Tetsuya Yamato's power managed to earn him an extra round with the technician. While Yamamoto was landing more, especially with kicks, Yamoto's power shots evened it up and after three rounds two of the judges couldn't separate the pair.

In the extra round, the Muay Thai stylist was able to keep his power going while Yamamoto's speed and footwork failed him resulting in two knockdowns from punch combinations and also resulting in the favorite making an early exit after the judges rendered their final decision.

Noted for his ridiculous power and cocky style, fan favorite Haruaki Otsuki looked good early, landing heavily to the liver of Yoshimichi Matsumoto with punches right from the opening bell. Matsumoto managed to rally his defense though and get his kicks going leading up to a moment in the third, where he mounted enough offense to drop the 36-year-old Otsuki. The trip to the canvas meant that Otsuki needed to score a knock down himself if he hoped to win a decision and so he loaded up power shots, testing Matsumoto's chin almost to breaking point. In the final seconds of the bout, Matsumoto looked to be getting ready to go down but was saved by the bell and so, won the decision.

Although he could not be considered a tournament favorite, prohibitive fan favorite and lovable loser "Fire" Harada also bowed out: going down to the big mouthed Koshien graduate Kizaemon Saiga. Harada's strategy of wading through punishment to attempt to through powerful but unrefined hooks, proved as it all too often does, fruitless against faster and more technical opposition.

Saiga played up his role as the heel, taunting Harada as he bloodied and bruised him with lighting quick kicks and punches. It was hard to watch in the later rounds as even the smallest strikes would cause Harada to lose his footing and slip to the mat and the pain was evident in the elder man's face as he would get up and walk in for more. Harada failed to win a single round.

With Yamamoto and Otsuki bowing out of the running early, Naoki Ishikawa can now consider himself a favorite after his tough fought win over Yuto Watanabe. Ishikawa looked good through the three rounds and although he sustained a massive cut under the lip in the closing minute, he controlled the bout with his trademark kicks and knees in close.

In the evening's main event, Daisuke Uematsu took out the only foreign GP participant, the "Japanese Killer" Jae Hee Cheon. Cheon had a breakout year in 2009, taking out Japanese super stars Norifumi "KID" Yamamoto and Kazuhisa Watanabe. Uematsu, on the other hand, saw his popularity decline after FEG PR efforts were shifted to other fighters in this new 63kg division after some mediocre wins.

Cheon looked primed for another solid win, rocking Uematsu with punches early and backing him into the corner and coming close to scoring a down with punches. The Japanese fighter was able to hang on however and shortly after collecting his marbles, landed a left-right-left hook combination that sent the Korean to the canvas where he was unable to regain his composure in time for the 10 count.

Keiji Ozaki took a questionable decision over Kosuke Komiyama. As the referee raised Ozaki's hand, his face and body was battered and bloody with swelling around Ozaki's eyes. Komiyama looked fresh and stunned. It wasn't all just looks though, Komiyama landed more accurate and powerful shots but most definitely threw less than Ozaki.

Yuta Kubo should have had DREAM representative Daiki "DJ.taiki" Taiki questioning his will to continue after three rounds of kicks to the ribs. DJ.taiki's ribs were purple and he could be seen wincing with every movement but despite the pain, managed a last-second rally with punches and middle kicks to leave an impression with Kubo. He failed to make one with the judges however rightfully dropping a unanimous decision.

In the first of only two finishes for the night, Yuki got his second win over "Kyoken" Yuji Takeuchi with a right high kick KO at 1:53 of the second round. Kyoken looked to have found a solid strategy, using his front kick to stay out of range of Yuki's dangerous low, Yuki's key to victory in their first fight. Takeuchi would then punch hard as he closed the distance and was doing well until a three punch combination landed followed by a missed right high kick. The next one was on the mark and finished the job.

Although there were 11 victors tonight in the 63kg tournament bouts, only eight will progress to the next round. Progression will be based on how exciting the fights were and fan opinion and a decision is yet to be made on who will be moving to the next round.

If anything, tonight's fights were an indication of how well matched and even these fighters are - as the nine decisions and upsets so clearly showed. Also, based on excitement alone it is difficult to single out any one fighter as not being worthy of advancing.

In the evenings sole non-tournament bout, Yasuhiro Kido dropped his third straight fight and lost a decision to Iranian Vahid Rosyani. While Kido appeared to be the greater technician, he didn't posses the power in his hands to get Rosyani thinking outside of his kicks. With that, Rosyani was free to work Kido over with punches and by the end of the third round, Kido had lost a tooth and another decision.

The event is set to air on HDNet on May 28.

K-1 World MAX 2010 -63kg Japan Tournament 1st Round - Results
Sunday, May 2nd
JCB Hall, Tokyo, Japan
K-1 MAX -63kg 2010 Japan Tournament 1st Round:
12. Daisuke Uematsu def. Jae Hee Cheon by KO (Punches), Round 1, 1:09
11. Naoki Ishikawa def. Yuto Watanabe by Unanimous Decision
10. Keiji Ozaki def. Kosuke Komiyama by Split Decision
9. Tetsuya Yamato def. Masahiro Yamamoto by Unanimous Decision (Extra Round)
K-1 MAX 70kg Superfight:
8. Vahid Rosyani def. Yasuhiro Kido by Unanimous Decision
K-1 MAX -63kg 2010 Japan Tournament 1st Round:
7. Yoshimichi Matsumoto def. Haruaki Otsuki by Unanimous Decision
6. Yuta Kubo def. Daiki "DJ.taiki" Hata by Unanimous Decision
5. Kizaemon Saiga def. Fire Harada by Unanimous Decision
4. Koya Urabe def. Shunsuke Oishi by Unanimous Decision
3. Shohei Asahara def. Shota Shimada by Unanimous Decision
2. Toshiki Taniyama def. Hirotaka Urabe by Split Decision (Extra Round)
1. Yuki def. "Kyoken" Yuji Takeuchi by KO (Right High Kick), Round 2, 1:53

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