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Lion Fight 21 preview and fight video: Kevin Ross vs Tetsuya Yamato I

Tonight, Lion Fight 21 is live on AXS with Kevin Ross vs. Tetsuya Yamato II. Get ready for the fight with this look back at their excellent first encounter.

Kevin Ross vs Tetsuya Yamato, Lion Fight 11
Kevin Ross vs Tetsuya Yamato, Lion Fight 11
Lion Fight Promotions

We are less than 24 hours away from Lion Fight 21, live on AXS TV tonight, Friday March 27 at 10:00 p.m. ET. The main event is a rematch from Lion Fight 11, as Kevin Ross takes on Tetsuya Yamato. What better way to get ready for the show than to revisit that first fight - one of the best in Lion Fight history.

Kevin Ross vs. Tetsuya Yamato I - Lion Fight 11, September 2013

Lion Fight 11 took place on Fremont Street in Las Vegas, lending a unique atmosphere to the event. In response, the company pushed for a big card, with Cris Cyborg, Cosmo Alexandre vs. Nampon, and this - Ross vs. Yamato. Ross came in with a 2-1 record in Lion Fight, just 2 months removed from a close decision loss to Matt Embree. He'd had a bit of trouble getting his footing in recent years, but remained one of the standouts of the US Muay Thai scene and had earned plenty of big fight international experience.

Tetsuya Yamato was a K-1 GP champion from 2010, winning their inaugural 63kg GP in spectacular fashion (his finals win over Yuta Kubo is an all time K-1 classic). Much like Ross, he was a bit up and down in his performances, and came in off back to back losses.

What followed was a fight that far exceeded expectations. The two men went at each other with a tremendous ferocity, mixing in violence and crisp technique beautifully. The best strikes of the night belonged to Yamato, who absolutely dissected Ross's face with his wide array of nasty elbow strikes. But Ross, to his great credit, never gave up, pushing the action with his kicks and staying in Yamato's face. The result is a classic. Check it out now!

Ross vs. Yamato fight video (Click here if embed does not work)

In the end, it's Yamato taking the close split decision in a good call from the judges. As commentator Michael Schiavello points out, this is a tough fight to score in some ways as it largely depends on how you interpret Muay Thai scoring. Rounds 1 and 5 clearly go to Yamato, but the middle 3 are more hazy. It's Ross who lands more and pushes the pace, but he is doing so with mainly kicks and punches (and, to his credit, a few truly incredible dumps, including one that is among the best I have seen). Meanwhile, Yamato is consistently landing those elbows. Under true Thai scoring, elbows are considered a superior strike, and so score higher than a punch or kick. In Thailand, this one is a no brainer to score - Yamato all the way. In the US, it's a bit more dicey, but the Las Vegas judges do a good job holding to the spirit of Muay Thai and give the win to Yamato.

The announce team heaps a lot of praise on this fight afterwards, and it's well deserved. This is an all action fight and the kind of showdown you want to show someone to get them into Lion Fight and the US Muay Thai scene.

In the time since, both men have gone undefeated. Yamato has scored two very impressive wins over Masaaki Noiri and Sagetdao (and has become the lineal Featherweight kickboxing champ for those of you like me who geek out about that sort of thing), while Ross has earned three wins in Lion Fight, avenging his loss to Matt Embree and recently defeating the highly talented Aussie fighter Michael Thompson.

For this fight, both men have offensive weapons from the last fight they can build on, and both have defensive holes to fill. The biggest adjustment either man needs to make is Ross learning to deal with Yamato's elbows. Those were the decision maker last time, and if Ross doesn't have a plan in place to avoid those shots, he'll find himself a bloody mess again. On the other side, Yamato needs to better deal with those side kicks of Ross. He landed them very effectively in the last fight, working over the arm and body of Yamato. They weren't enough to score Ross the win last time, but they were indeed effective and could make a difference here.

Two years ago, these two men put on maybe the best fight in company history. Friday night, they go at it again. Will it top the original? I look forward to finding out.

Join us here at Bloody Elbow Friday night for Lion Fight 21 live results and coverage.

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