After successful tournaments at 55kg, 60kg, 63kg and 70kg, K-1 affiliate Krush has announced yet another tournament for the end of 2011 which could end up featuring some of the top fighters at 63kg. Similar to the K-1 Youth tournaments, Krush is presenting an under-22 "Supernova" tournament, as opposed to K-1's under-18 Koshien tournaments, a 16-man tournament with the round of 16 and quarterfinals taking place in October (possibly the 10th) and the semis and finals taking place some time thereafter(all articles say Friday September 12th, but that is obviously before the qualifying rounds, as well as September 12th not being a Friday. My best guess would be Saturday November 12th).
This tournament presents some interesting possible match-ups as there are quite a few of the top Japanese fighters at 63kg who are products of the Koshien system and are eligible for this tournament. From what I've seen, there is no indication if Krush will be looking for lesser-known fighters or if they will allow more established fighters into the tournament, so after the break, I'll look at some of the notable fighters who are eligible for the tournament.
Koya Urabe: 2010's uncrowned K-1 63kg champion, Urabe fell short in both of his attempts at tournament victories, falling to Ryuji Kajiwara and Yuta Kubo in the finals of the Krush and K-1 Japan 63kg tournaments, respectively. Urabe was widely regarded as the top 63kg fighter in Japan after he defeated K-1 2010 Tournament champion by an extremely convincing decision, but was upset in the finals of the Krush tournament by the surging Ryuji Kajiwara. He tasted defeat again, as he managed to defeat Yuki and Tetsuya Yamato, but not before being severely hampered by brutal leg kicks along the way. This caused Yuta Kubo to take a rather easy decision, focusing on Urabe's injured leg, but not without a spirited effort from the injured Urabe. Urabe is expected to also receive a spot in the K-1 63kg World Tournament due to this effort. Urabe is just 21, making him eligible for the tournament.
Masaaki Noiri: The 2009 K-1 Koshien champion also fell short in both Krush and K-1 this year, losing in the semi-finals of both of his 2011 tournament efforts. In Krush, Noiri took his quarterfinal bout in the 60kg tournament, but was knocked out in the final round of a wild fight with "Kyoken" Yuji Takeuchi in which both men knocked each other down with concurrent left hooks. Noiri then went up in weight in the K-1 63kg Japan Tournamnet, defeating a man nearly twice his age in Ryuji Kajiwara before losing to the noticeably bigger Yuta Kubo who went on to defeat Urabe in the finals. At just 18, Noiri possesses extraordinary skill and is a threat to anyone in his division, even to those at 63kg.
Son Hyun Lee: At 20 years of age, Lee is one of the brightest prospects in K-1, brutalizing Kizaemon Saiga over 3 rounds in 2010 and losing an extremely close extra round decision to Koya Urabe in a fight that could have gone either way. The Krush blog seemed to say that the tournament would be largely Japanese fighters, but did not appear to say anything about ruling out foreign fighters, and K-1/Krush often have a propensity to use South Korean fighters.
HIROYA: Once the golden boy of K-1 and even Masato, HIROYA impressed many at this year's K-1 tournament. Despite losing to Tetsuya Yamato on the scorecards, HIROYA dominated the 2010 Champion outside of a 2nd round knockdown, looking much faster and sharper than his counterpart and many felt he earned an extension round, if not a win against Yamato. At 19, HIROYA sports an impressive physique that he sported at this year's K-1 tournament and as he showed, his skills are starting to catch up with all the hype and praise. HIROYA is looking to be a threat to anyone in his division.
Shota Shimada: Despite losing to Shohei Asahara in his only non-Koshien K-1 bout, Shimada made it to the semifinals and finals of the 2008 and 2009 K-1 Koshien tournaments, losing to champions HIROYA and Masaaki Noiri, respectively. Shimada's 5'10" frame presents an unusual challenge for his opponents, especially at the younger age levels. Shimada is 19.
Yudai/Shoei Haruyama: The 2007 and 2010 Koshien champions and, coincidentally, brothers. At 20 and 16, respectively, Yudai and Shoei are not the only pair of brothers from the Koshien system, but are the most successful. Yudai defeated HIROYA in the finals of the 2007 Koshien tournament when HIROYA was a 15 year old upstart. Since, Yudai has gone 11-0-1 under the NJKF banner, mostly appearing on their BRAVE HEARTS events. Shoei won the strange 2010 Koshien tournament in which the earlier rounds were contested over just one round, while the later fights were 3 round contests. Shoei is a 16(17?) year old prospect who trains under Kozo Takeda. For all of his skill, Shoei's biggest scouting knock is that he seems to fight his opponent's fight as opposed to his. However, this is reasonable for such a young fighter and a habit I expect to disappear as he gets more experience.
Keigo/Katsuki Ishida: Semi and quarterfinalists in the 2010 Koshien tournament, respectively, Keigo and Katsuki Ishida present an exciting, offensive style that would fit the Krush tournaments nicely, as there have been some great fights that have taken place in the previous tournaments. Their weaknesses are similar, as they both have the propensity to get busted up by superior boxing on the inside, but at just 16 and 17(possibly 17 and 18 now), flaws are to be expected. An early round matchup with Urabe would be unfortunate for either, as Urabe possesses the best hands in Japan at 63kg.
Hiroki Akimoto: A finalist at the 2010 Koshien tournament, Akimoto showed power in his run to the finals, dispatching 3 of his 4 victims by way of knockout. Ironically, he lost by stoppage to champion Shoei Haruyama after he appeared to slow down as a result of having 4 prior fights. At 18, he lacks technique, but is something that will come with time. He was a quarterfinalist in the Koshien 2009 tournament, but lost to Shota Shimada.
Ryosuke Sasake: The speedster of the 2010 Koshien Tournament, the 19 year old was thwarted in the semifinals by eventual champion Shoei Haruyama, and like Akimoto, was a victim of his greatest attribute being used against him. Also like Akimoto, Sasake's striking is rather unrefined. Sasake lost in the round of 16 of the 2009 Koshien tournament, being knocked out by Shootboxing 55kg Champion Ryuya Kusakabe.
Though their talent is undeniable and they have competed in K-1 Koshien at 63kgs, I don't expect either Ryuya Kusakabe or Shota Takiya to compete in this tournament. It is possible considering it is an under-22 tournament, but neither will have trouble finding fights at their own weight class with Kusakabe holding Shootboxing's 55kg title and Takiya winning the Krush 55kg tournament and title.
Unfortunately, Yuta Kubo, Hirotaka Urabe, Kizaemon Saiga and Tetsuya Yamato are just slightly above the age threshold for this tournament.\
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