Krush started its 2013 year with one of the biggest events in the promotion's history, headlined by a 67kg tournament to crown a champion in one of Krush's two new weight classes with former K-1 stars Yuta Kubo, Yuji Nashiro, Yuya Yamamoto and Shintaro Matsukura, as well as Abdellah Ezbiri, TaCa, Hitoshi Tsukagoshi and Makihira Keita. Also on the card were Krush 55kg champ Shota Takiya taking on Mike Alamos, HIROYA taking on Keiji Ozaki, Masaaki Noiri against Makoto Nishiyama and other Krush standouts like Naoki Ishikawa, Yuji Takeuchi, Hisaki Higashimoto and Yukimitsu Takahashi.
In the first tournament quarterfinal, Abdellah Ezbiri was able to get a unanimous decision victory over 2011 K-1 MAX Japan Tournament champion Yuji Nashiro on scores of 30-27 and 30-28(x2). Nashiro entered the fight down a point as he failed to make weight on his first two attempts. However, that did not seem to make much of a difference as Ezbiri outboxed Nashiro over the course of 3 rounds. In the second quarterfinal, Yuya Yamamoto knocked out Hitoshi Tsukagoshi at 1:59 of the 3rd round on a left hook. Tsukagoshi apparently had the speed advantage, as he was moving up from 63kg while Yamamoto came down from 70kg, but Yuya had a clear power advantage and the hook that put Tsukagoshi down seems to have been pretty brutal. In the 3rd quarterfinal, tournament favorite Yuta Kubo used his signature body work to wear down TaCa en route to a 2nd round stoppage at 1:43. In the last quarterfinal, Shintaro Matsukura cruised to a unanimous decision over Makihira Keita on scores of 30-27 and 30-28(x2).
In the semifinals, Yuya Yamamoto showed he still had some fight in him, but lost an extension round split decision to Abdellah Ezbiri in what appears to have been the best fight of the tournament. After Ezbiri took the first round and the two drew the second, Yamamoto stormed back in the 3rd with his boxing to force an extra round. It seems the two both went for broke, but it was Ezbiri who came out on top, winning the round on 2 of the judges' cards. In the other semifinal, Yuta Kubo cruised to a unanimous decision over Shintaro Matsukura on scores of 30-27 and 30-26(x2). Kubo scored a knockdown in the first on a body shot and was able to outpoint Matsukura for the rest of the fight, however the inability to finish hurt Kubo, as Matsukura chopped away at his lead leg throughout the fight.
The finals saw a rematch between Yuta Kubo and Abdellah Ezbiri. Although Kubo had dominated their first fight, the two needed 5 rounds to determine a winner this time and it was Kubo who came out on top, winning a unanimous decision in the 2nd extension round to win the tournament title, but not without some controversy. It appears Kubo won the 1st round, but the tide started to turn in the 2nd and in the 3rd Ezbiri was able to take advantage of Kubo's lead leg to the point where Kubo was having trouble standing. In the first extension round, Ezbiri seems to have outlanded Kubo and further injured his leg, but was only able to win over one of the judges, as the other two scored it a draw, much to the distaste of the crowd who apparently booed the decision. However, Kubo somehow found it in himself to take over the 5th round, as Ezbiri was reportedly a bit sluggish in the final round and Kubo captured the tournament and inaugural Krush 67kg title. Despite this, Ezbiri was awarded MVP of the event and fight of the night and I wouldn't be surprised at all if he was brought back to Krush for a 3rd time to be Kubo's first title defense. Although Kubo won, there was a bit of an ironic twist, as he had won his K-1 Tournament title with a finals win over Koya Urabe, who had his lead leg decimated by Yuki in the quarterfinals, leaving Urabe as a one-legged fighter.
As far as impressions go for the tournament, we didn't learn much about Kubo. He was expected to win, as he did, albeit with some controversy, and a third fight with Ezbiri would likely look more like the first than this encounter, as he wouldn't have to battle through a damaged leg. However we did learn a lot about Ezbiri and Yuya Yamamoto. Ezbiri sees his stock shoot up a lot here as before this, he was just another in the list of foreign Kubo victims, but wins over Yuji Nashiro and Yuya Yamamoto, as well as the disputed finals decision, make him one of world's top kickboxers in the 65-67kg range, which isn't the deepest division. Yamamoto saw his stock shoot up after seeing his career sent into a downward spiral in 2012 with losses to Xu Yan and Asami Zaurus. As I said in my tournament preview, I could see Yamamoto beating Tsukagoshi and giving whoever he faced in the semifinals trouble, which he did, and for that he has to be commended. His brawling style works well in the tournament format, but I highly doubt he will ever be regarded as an elite fighter, even in Japan, as he lacks consistency and has shown he can both beat or lose to anyone on any given night. He is a wildly entertaining, but limited fighter.
Recap of the non-tournament fights and quick results below