Part of kickboxing's struggles has been in introducing new talent in the face of the ongoing growth of MMA. MMA pays better, there are more opportunities in it and for a top-level striker the transition to MMA can often feel like an easy one (until they meet the limitations of their grappling abilities). That's why when a new star is born in kickboxing it feels special. That is what happened this past year with Tenshin Nasukawa. At the tail end of the year the 18-year-old dynamo who made a name for himself as an amateur in Japan and through his limited muay thai fights fought in the new Japanese promotion KNOCK OUT.
The show lived up to its name and Tenshin's fight was perhaps the best example of that. He made short work of Wanchalong and it become one of the most-talked-about knockouts of the year. Then he made his MMA debut in December for RIZIN with a dramatic submission escape only to finish off his opponent. He then took the house mic and demanded another fight in two days at the next event, to which the promotion was happy to oblige. In his second MMA fight he won via submission and, really, he's a muay thai fighter/kickboxer who won via submission in his second MMA fight.
There is a lot of Japanese talent right now in kickboxing, but none of them have broken through like Masato was able to, facilitating the creation of K-1 MAX. Is Tenshin that guy? Perhaps. It is also a lot of pressure to put on a young fighter, but there is a lot of potential there and he has the world's attention.
The 2016 LiverKick Awards
- Fight of the Year: Jaraya vs. Ben Moh
- Fighter of the Year: Cedric Doumbe
- Knockout of the Year: Guto Inocente
- Prospect of the Year: Tenshin Nasukawa
For more, listen to our year-end podcast.