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K-1 Super Bantamweight World Grand Prix 2019 preview

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A complete breakdown of all the action on this weekend’s 55kg GP. As well as more details on K-1’s return to action this Saturday night/Sunday morning on Abema TV.

K-1 is back for the first time since their great K.Festa2 card in march, this time bringing 2 title fights and a super bantamweight Grand Prix to the Ryogoku Kokugikan in Tokyo. The Grand Prix, as is usual with K-1’s recent GPs, will pit 4 of Japan’s finest 55kg fighters against 4 international fighters.

The star and favorite of the tournament is 2017 GP winner and current champion Yoshiki Takei (18-2, 13 KOs). Takei hasn’t been getting as much attention recently as the two other Japanese stars of the lighter weight divisions, Takeru and Tenshin Nasukawa, but his results and fighting style are just as spectacular. He’s 9-0 with 7 KOs since joining K-1, and a legitimate pound for pound talent. With Takeru out due to injury, this Grand Prix will be his opportunity to shine as the main attraction of the card.

In the ring, Takei is a very mobile southpaw with some of the best combinations in kickboxing—combining blinding speed and snappy power to overwhelm opponents. His bread and butter is the left straight/right hook/left kick and variations off of it, but he also has a few more flashy aces up his sleeve—with a very good spinning back kick and flying knee. If there’s a weakness in his game, it’s that he doesn’t really check low kicks and has shown some vulnerability to them in the past.

Takei is the rightful favorite but he’ll have a tough road to the finals. In his quarter final, he’ll face one of the other favorites, 18-year-old Spanish phenom Alex Rivas (18-2, 8 KOs). Rivas upset 57.5kg champion Yuta Murakoshi, and his very complete game could pose a lot of problems for the champion. However, Rivas has had some trouble finding his distance against southpaws in the past, which I think will make the difference in this fight.

GP Bracket, left to right: Masashi Kumura, Phetpangan, Koki, Samvel Babayan, Yoshiki Takei, Alex Rivas, Shuhei Kumura, Sadegh Hashemi.

In the other quarter final, Shuhei Kumura (12-5 1 NC, 5 KOs) will face Iran’s Sadegh Hashemi (14-2, 4 KOs), who has some experience fighting at a low level in Thailand. Kumura is fresh off of a Fight of the Year contender against top talent Akihiro Kaneko, and is a consistently exciting action fighter that pushes the pace with punch kick combos. There isn’t too much to say of the little I saw of Hashemi. He seems like a serviceable fighter, but nothing special, and I expect Kumura to make the semis.


On the other side of the bracket, Shuhei’s younger brother Masashi Kumura (11-2, 6 KOs) is fresh off winning the Krush (think of it as K-1’s equivalent of a Fight Nights UFC card) 55kg tournament. He will face Phetpangan Mor Rattanabandit (120-28-2, 11 KOs), who was ranked #4 at Rajadamnern stadium when this fight was signed. Masashi – like Shuhei – relies a lot on his boxing, but is a bit more of a counter puncher and doesn’t combine his combos with kicks as much as his brother does. He’s a more powerful puncher though, and I think has the more potential of the siblings.

Phetpangan is a contender at featherweight in Thailand, he’s mostly a clincher there. But, unlike the last Rajadamnern Champion who was KO’d by Takeru in K-1, he has been shown to have the chops at distance to make a smooth transition to kickboxing rules. He’s also been preparing for this fight with the Weerasakreck camp, which is home to fellow Thai and 65kg K-1 champion Kaew Weerasakreck. His match up with Kumura will be a tremendous test of where both men are at. However, unless Phetpangan struggles with adapting to kickboxing scoring and pace more than I anticipate, I expect the Thai to prevail.

In the final quarter final, 53kg Krush champion Koki (7-3 1NC, 2 KOs) and Samvel Babayan (9-1-1, 5 KOs) should give us the brawl of the tournament. Sharing the honor of being the shortest fighters in the tournament at 5’3”, they’re both pressure stylists known for never taking a step back. I expect them to go forehead to forehead and try to take each others head off for 9 minutes. Babayan seems to push a slightly higher pace and to be a bit tighter technically, and thus I’m picking him to make the semi finals.


Eventually, my projected semi finals are Yoshiki Takei vs Shuhei Kumura and Phetpangan vs Samvel Babayan. Should that happen, I’d pick Takei and Phetpangan to make the finals. But, I think Takei would have a much tougher time beating Kumura than Phetpangan would have with Babayan. Fighting Phetpangan off of two presumably tough fights is an unenviable task even for a fighter as talented Takei.

Anyway it shakes out, this tournament promises to deliver great fights and compelling storylines. Will Takei further cement himself as the king of division? Will the Kumura brothers face each other in the final? Will Phetpangan bring the belt back to Thailand? Is Rivas such a prodigy that he can dethrone the champion and win a major tournament months after his 18 birthday? If you put a gun to my head, I’d pick Phetpangan to take it, but I’ve been wrong before and can’t wait to find out.


As is often the case in Japan, the card is a marathon which will feature almost 20 fights including the GP. While most of them should be fun, there’s 4 bouts I’m really looking forward to outside of the GP:

K-1 65kg champion Kaew Weerasakreck (145-34-4, 45 KOs) will defend his title against highlight machine Rukiya (16-4, 9 KOs). Kaew was the #1 at the weight from 2014 to 2018, when he got KO’d by Ren Hiramoto. While he hasn’t regained the top spot in the division, he won a Grand Prix late last year to take back the K-1 belt and prove he remains an elite fighter. Rukiya has shown a flair for spectacle with multiple flying kick and knee KOs, and is a very good fighter, but given that he got brutally KO’d by Kongnapa Weerasakreck (whom I think Kaew is a better version of) I have a tough time seein him win that one.

57.5kg champion Yuta Murakoshi (27-7, 11 KOs) is not the best kickboxer in the weight class despite his title (that would be one Tenshin Nasukawa) but he’s a smart and crafty southpaw, who’s used a deep tool box to overcome athletic limitations and become a top fighter. He’ll be facing Huo Xiaolong (21-5, 8 KOs), who’s getting this fight as part of the partnership between K-1 and Chinese organization Glory Of Heroes. I’ve only found a few highlights of him, which show him dominating competition I don’t recognize. He does look good on tape; a tall southpaw with the good-if-a-bit-robotic boxing typical of Chinese of fighters, and a signature flying knee to the body. China’s level in kickboxing has skyrocketed lately, and Glory of Heroes usually houses some of the countries best fighters, so it will be interesting to see Xiaolong against proven competition.

Haruma Saikyo (14-4, 4 KOs) is a great prospect that has fallen on some tough times lately, injuring himself in a K-1 GP 57.5kg final last year, and then losing his Krush title to fellow prospect Yuki Egawa. He’s jumping straight back in against strong competition with Jorge Varela, who holds TKO victories over Kaito Ozawa and Ryusei Ashizawa, and took champion Murakoshi to an extra round.

Rounding up my most anticipated fights of the evening is the clash between Kyokushin Karatekas Kosuke Komiyama (33-7, 13 KOs) and Leona Pettas (23-5-1, 9 KOs). Komiyama has long been one of the most creative kickers in the game, and Pettas has been on a quiet tear—winning 7 of his last 8 and looking the best he ever has doing it. He’ll look to break into the top ten with a victory here over the crafty veteran Komiyama.

K-1 will stream Saturday night on Abema TV (Japanese IP required), with the prelims starting at 1:00am ET / 10:00pm PT and the main card at 2:00am ET / 11:00pm PT. The fights will also be uploaded to K-1’s Youtube channel in the days following the event.

Full Card:
TBD vs. TBD – Super BW Tournament Final
Kaew Weerasakreck vs. Rukiya Anpo, K-1 65kg Title
Yuta Murakoshi vs. Huo Xiaolong, K-1 57.5kg Title
Kimura Minoru vs. Cruz Briggs
Daizo Sasaki vs. Fukashi
Haruma Saikyo vs. Jorge Varela
TBD vs. TBD – Super BW Semifinal #2
TBD vs. TBD – Super BW Semifinal #1
Tatsuya Oiwa vs. Ryusei Ashizawa
Kosuke Komiyama vs. Pettas Leona
Fumiya Osawa vs. Yuzuki Satomi
Kaito Ozawa vs. Takahiro
Shuhei Kumura vs. Sadegh Hashemi – Quarterfinal
Yoshiki Takei vs. Alex Rivas – Quarterfinal
Koki vs. Samvel Babayan – Quarterfinal
Masashi Kumura vs. Phetphangan Mor.Rattanabandit – Quarterfinal
Takaya Ogura vs. Yuta Hayashi – Reserve
Jinya vs. Hikaru Terashima
Kazuki Fujita vs. Kazuma Takuda