K-1’s card in Osaka this weekend was set up with a lot of rebound and stay busy fights. The absence of truly big match ups, frankly, looked weak on paper. But, as Dana White really wants fans to believe “the weakest cards on paper deliver the most excitement.”
That line may be one of the bigger pieces of BS ever fed to viewers in the history of prize fighting, but once in a while the adage actually comes true. This was one of those times. Those who tuned in were treated to big KO’s, ‘rebound’ opponents exceeding expectations, and a few fun brawls.
So, let’s look at the results of an unexpectedly fun night of fights…
Koji (27-13, 9 KOs) def. Tatsuya Oiwa (17-6, 6 KOs) via extra round split decision
In the main event, local favorite Koji and Tatsuya Oiwa engaged in a forehead to forehead brawl. Oiwa clearly got the better of it early, but Koji hung on, managed to climb back into it to earn an extra round, and escaped with a close (but deserved) split decision win. I remain skeptical about his potential at the elite level, but his trash talking, solid fanbase – particularly in his hometown (I encourage anyone who thinks Japanese crowds are nothing but silence and polite applause to watch him fight in Osaka) – and exciting fights have carved him a niche at the top of Japanese kickboxing. That all just might carry him to a rematch with 60kg superstar Takeru.
Kenta Hayashi (17-5-2, 12 KOs, 62.5kg Champion) def. Deniz Demirkapu (6-3, 5 KOs) via 2nd round KO
Super lightweight champion Kenta Hayashi fought for the first time since taking the title from Koya Urabe back in March. He faced 19 year old prospect Deniz Demirkapu. Demirkapu started very aggressively and dropped the champion in the first, but might have punched himself out trying to finish. Hayashi capitalized and hurt Demirkapu with low kicks, leading him to a stoppage win in the second. Demirkapu will probably go back to the European scene for a bit to keep gaining experience, but the potential he showed – and his exciting style – should ensure that he gets a call back from K-1 in the future.
I’m not too sure what’s next for Hayashi. The logical step would have been a rematch with longtime champion Koya Urabe, but Urabe’s surprise KO loss at the hands of Zhu Shuai threw a wrench in those plans. Hayashi’s most likely challengers will probably be either Krush champion Kongnapa Weerasakrek, who knocked out Hayashi in 2017, or another rematch with Yuto Shinohara. Shinohara is Japan’s best up and comer at the weight, whom Hayashi beat on the way through his December Grand Prix win.
Masaaki Noiri (39-10, 19 KOs) def. Sami Lamiri (27-5-1, 4 KOs) via 2nd round KO
Noiri looked to rebound after losing his de facto #1 spot at 67.5kg to Jordann Pikeur in March at K’Festa2. Lamiri didn’t look too bad early in the fight, considering he was a late replacement. However he lacked the athletic impact and power to keep Noiri, one of the best pressure fighters in kickboxing, off of him. Eventually, Noiri smashed him with a devastating knee to the body in the second, and finished him with hooks shortly after.
Minoru Kimura (30-9-1, 23 KOs) def. Sho Oizumi (0-2) via 1st round KO
Well, there’s no sugar coating this one. This was an absolute joke of a match up. Oizumi was brought in based on his pro boxing background (4-4-2). Unfortunately for him, he wasn’t good at boxing in the first place, let alone kickboxing. Kimura destroyed him in a couple of minutes.
Yasuhiro Kido (48-23-1, 21 KOs) def. Antonio Gomez (50-10-2, 29 KOs) via 2nd round KO
Kido put in his best performance of recent years, schooling Gomez at distance with kicks, and finishing him with a couple of high kicks in the second round. A great performance by the veteran against a potentially dangerous opponent.
Ryo Aitaka (21-6, 9 KOs) def. Sina Karimian (9-1, 5 KOs, 90kg Champion) via 3rd round KO
Cruiserweight champion Sina Karimian was supposed to easily get past a limited opponent who would just swing wide hooks at his head. Unfortunately for him, despite a more varied offensive arsenal, his boxing defense was completely non-existant. Aitaka absolutely melted him in the third round. It was a baffling display of abysmal fight IQ, but who am I to complain about an upset faceplant KO?
Hideaki Yamazaki (29-8-1, 14 KOs) def. Jin Hirayama (16-15-3, 9 KOs) via unanimous decision
Veteran karateka Yamazaki displayed his active hands and versatile kicking game to get past his journeyman opponent without any major trouble.
Tetsuya Yamato (41-17-1, 30 KOs) def. Kensei Kondo (2-3-1, 1 KOs) via unanimous decision
Much too early in Kondo’s career, but a very fun fight. Yamato’s experience earned him a lead over the first couple of rounds. The fight turned into a brawl in the third with Yamato dropping Kondo twice but getting hurt himself by Kondo’s heavy right hand. A clear defeat but a gutsy performance for Kondo, who is a much better prospect than his record indicates. I hope Yamato faces Yamazaki towards the end if the year, now that they have both rebounded from defeats at the top of the division. The two veterans have long been among the best fighters in Japan, but have never crossed paths before. Their Karate and Muay Thai styles should make for a very intriguing matchup.
Yuto Shinohara (13-3, 6 KOs) def. Shinichiro Kawasaki (9-5, 6 KOs) via unanimous decision
The fight of the night in my book. Shinohara looked in control of the fight through his superior boxing, until he got dropped by a left hook in the second round. Shinohara then bit down on his mouthpiece and immediately turned up the aggression to drop Kawasaki twice in the final minute of a round of the year contender. They brawled it out in the third, where Shinohara’s class shone through despite a valiant effort from Kawasaki. As mentioned previously, Shinohara is probably in the running for an end of the year fight with Hayashi. Given both of their fights this weekend, that sounds like a ton of fun.
Kaisei Kondo (3-1-1, 3 KOs) def. Riki Matsuoka (9-6-2, 4 KOs) via 1st round KO
Kaisei Kondo sparked poor Matsuoka in under a round with a couple of sledgehammer right hands. The win reestablished Kondo as one of the best prospects in Japan following the first loss of his pro career (a classic case of ‘too much, too soon’ Japanese matchmaking against Minoru Kimura).
Aoshi (8-1-1, 3 KOs) def. Tatsuya Tsubakihara (7-3-1, 2 KOs) via majority decision
A close fight between two super bantamweight prospects. Tsubakihara controlled most of the fight with kicks, while Aoshi had success with his boxing in spots. I thought Tsubakihara deserved the nod, or at the very least an extra round, but both fighter look like they’ll play important roles in the future of the division. And I’m sure they’ll cross paths again sooner or later.
Kana (14-2, 6 KOs) def. Mahiro (4-2-2) via unanimous decision
An easy victory for Kana, the star of K-1’s female division, who needed a rebound win after losing to Josefine Knutsson at K’FESTA 2 in March. Knutsson is fighting this weekend in Krush (think of it as the equivalent to UFC’s Fight Night events). The two women are 1-1 against each other, and seem likely to conclude their trilogy towards the end of the year.
Toma (3-0, 1 KO) def. Takahito Niimi (6-2, 4 KOs) via unanimous decision
An excellent performance from 16-year-old Toma, who showed great knees, good hands and excellent strike selection. He seems like a fantastic prospect to keep an eye on (knowing Japanese matchmaking, they’ll probably have him fight a top 5 fighter within 6 months).
Overall a surprisingly fun event packed with fun brawls and brutal knockouts that probably set up some fun and more relevant match-ups for the bigger events toward the end of the year. K-1 comes back on November 24th and December 28th for its last two events of 2019, and the expected return of their superstar, Takeru, from injury.
Replays of all the fights can be seen on Abema TV (Japanese IP required) and should be uploaded within the week on K-1’s Youtube channel.