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Kyotaro - The Japanese Hope

Japan is the country that has spawned K-1, developed it, made it work, made it popular, and it seems as though all K-1 fighters worship the country, and why shouldn't they? It gives them bread & butter, gives us, the public an exciting sport and something to talk about. It's great! There is however one chip in Japan's K-1 heart - no Japanese fighter has ever won the Heavyweight K-1 World Grand Prix.

Sure, some have come close enough, for example, Masaaki Satake in 1994, only to be stopped by a rising Peter Aerts, and Musashi in 2003 & 2004, stalled in his tracks by Remy Bonjasky. It's been 5 years since that last attempt, and since then we have only had a couple of ill-fated tries by the sons of the rising sun. Yusuke Fujimoto had a nice run with 2 Asian Grand Prix wins, but fell short of the main title. Then we had the infamous Junichi Sawayashiki, who, after a stellar start of beating such veterans as Jerome Le Banner, and Yusuke Fujimoto has slumped into the pit of incompetency, losing his last 5 fights - 4 by KO!

Now, Japan has gotten itself a new fighter to try his hands at the heavyweight division - Kyotaro. We can't be sure what's been going through Kyotaro's (also known as Keijiro Maeda, Kyotaro Maeda, real name Kyotaro Fujimoto, olden nickname Kyotaro Ranger) head when he took his first fight with K-1 in 2007; maybe he was ashamed for his country, or it might've been the fact that he had no money in his pockets, who knows? In any case, the rainbow hair, a funky ponytail, and a crooked grin have made it so far, together - on Kyotara's head. His donkey-tail came bouncing all the way to knocking Manhoef out, out-pointing Gokhan Saki, and now, finally - Kyotaro's in the Final 16.

The question now is - can he go all the way? Can he muster an assault on the Dutch castle in the face of Bonjasky, Aerts & Schilt? Can he put his country's flag in that vertical table of K-1 World Grand Prix Champions?

Let's see.

KNOCK-OUT POWER - Slightly above average

Would he knock out Semmy Schilt with a single punch, or part Remy Bonjasky's gloves for destructive  straight in the face, or crack legs, ala recent Daniel Ghita's performance  Vs John Love? Well, maybe we're not talking that kind of power, but he did knock out 4 opponents in his 11 K-1 fights. Good enough? Yes.

ENDURANCE - On par with the best

Quite recently, our pony-tailed friend has outpointed Ghokan Saki in a four round battle, and Ghokan Saki is not exactly a fighter whom you might accuse of not being fit. In most of his fights, Kyotaro looks quite happy having a run around the ring, and exhausting his opponents by being extremely mobile and hard to catch. So far - it's been working for him.

DEFENSE - Should be envied by the likes of Laschenko, who's been defiant of getting his legs kicked so much that he actually lost on the account, current Mark Hunt, who seems to be eating punches and kicks left and right, and the unfortunate John Love who appears to practice that defense style - where he blocks punches and kicks with his legs and head! Best of luck to all those above-mentioned gentlemen, we all wait to see them back in the ring.

Kyotaro's speed is his main defense, and it helps him decrease hit absorption, makes him better at ducking and diving, and allows him to slip out of the danger zone after breaking a clinch. He's outpaced Manhoef, and Saki in his recent bouts, and has managed to outrun Mighty Mo's wicked overhand a year ago. To top it all off - Jan Soukup's ambitious combinations, too, failed to reach Kyotaro.


There's always this perennial question; how much damage can a fighter take? With Kyotaro - we do not know, simply because there hasn't yet been a fighter that fed him enough hits to make a difference. So far, Kyotaro has been quick enough to avoid major damage, but wait. Review his recent fight with Manhoef and you will see Kyotaro getting caught proper - he lost his footing and for a second there the Dutchman had his chance, but momentarily, Kyotaro regained senses and was off and away. It seems that someone needs to corner him, block the escape routes, and with enough pressure - he will crack.

But first you've got to corner him - that's the hardest part.


Simply put - speed and close ranged surprises. Speed - we've covered. Now on to the surprises. His latest fight with Czech karate-ka Jan Soukop demonstrated Kyotaro's hands once again. The two are in close range, anything can happen, Jan throws his arm out, it's a long shot, but he's trying. Kyotaro whispers,

"Hey, look what I've been hiding from you."

Overhand hook lands on Jan Soukop's temple, like a jet on a narrow runway in Tibet, we're talking precision.  Jan's out.


The medics are all over the Czech.

Kyotaro's hand's up - all's well in Japan.

At least for now.


Kyotaro can fight on points, or he can knock people out. He has a few wins over notable K-1 fighters, such as Melvin Mahoef, Gokhan Saki, Mighty Mo, and Musashi.  Across this spectrum of beaten opponents we can see a range of styles that our fighter had to adjust to. The single punch knockout power of Mighty Mo, the aggressive forays of Manhoef, the fluidly sharp Saki, and a like-minded countryman Musashi. Kyotaro's single loss comes at the hands of the lumbering Ewerton Teixeira, and that was a decision.

The facts are there - Kyotaro is the best heavyweight that Japan has to offer at the moment. Can he bring the title home?

We'll see.

Alex Evdokimov

Kyotaro's Fight History taken from the official K-1 website.


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Pablo (795 posts)
Posted: 2009-08-14 at: 02:32
Rather entertaining article
Rob, Holland reporter (1964 posts)
Posted: 2009-08-14 at: 04:07
Another well written and as Pablo said entertaining piece! Thnx Alex!

I would like to add that Kyotaro does maintain a fighting style I personally disaprove. He constantly runs away and when his opponent is so frustrated and starts launching the big swings, he pops out of nowhere and goes for the KO punch. Note: this is a very good and effective strategy. But I always prefer to see a fighter give it his all and not back away from the fight. Maybe it's my personal frustration with such counter fighters or the lack of excitement they bring to the ring...I don't know. But such tactics don't work unless the other guy keeps up the pace. And this is often forgotten. At least the other guy is trying to make it look entertaining. I mean put two counterpunches in the same ring and you'll need a pillow for when you fall asleep.

But I'm glad the Japanese finally have a new strong fighter whom they can follow in his upcoming years. Let's hope he makes it on his own strenght and doesn't have to rely to much on questionable Japanese judging.

If they're smart they'll put him against Musashi so there is at least one Japanese fighter in the FInal 8. Or they'll match him with an "easy" fighter.

Thnx again for this exclusive article Alex. I hope to read more from you in the future.
Alex Evdokimov (138 posts)
Posted: 2009-08-14 at: 10:58
Hi Rob,

I reckon your'e right - his fighting style is not the best, but that's how he fights, and he is Japanese best bet for a GP. It's funny your mentioned a pillow, because I fell asleep watching him fight Teixeira. For unknown reasons every time Teixeira steps into the ring - I start yawning, he's a very strong guy and can take damage, but he just bores the monkeys out of me.

You're right, if they match Kyotaro with Musashi - a Japanese guaranteed in the Final, but Musashi... Please, I think I've seen enough of his sloppy limbs last year. hehe

Thanks for the comment Rob,

Daniel, Sweden reporter (2501 posts)
Posted: 2009-08-15 at: 02:02
yet again a very nice article from you Alex, well done!

IMO Kyotaro will not stand a chance against the top level fighters, he is to smal framed and i question his defence. Running away wont work against all fighters, sooner or later he will be caught, and that will be hard. I am happy for the japanees fans that they got a new hero but if you ask me I say he will never come close to win a WGP final.
Alex Evdokimov (138 posts)
Posted: 2009-08-16 at: 03:04

Perhaps you're right Daniel. I was thinking about this myself, but I have this inkling that he will go to the top 8 :) We'll see. He'll probably get paired up with with Musashi and outpoint him or get someone more or less easy.

Talk later,

szanpan (2088 posts)
Posted: 2009-09-13 at: 10:20
I would add to the surprise factor that he is a Japanese and a new name and a funny look, so i think he was by far not being taken to seriously by those who fought him. I think he is more heavily built than a normal japanese fighter maybe will develop a better style than his countrymen, anyways defence and moving also makes up the most of Remy's tactic, i wonder how the 2 would get on wiith each other :D I think he will make Ruslan tired and his punches are stronger also than his, so i think he will be among the 8 then we will see. I also wonder how he would get on with Ghita :)
szanpan (2088 posts)
Posted: 2009-09-13 at: 10:31
as a ps i add that what i like in this guy is that he is colorful personality of K-1 and that he doesnt try to look different than he is really , not taking even himself so seriously, and not trying to seem hard as nail or such thing, i think he will be better than Musashi was if he survives this one without a big loss.
Alex Evdokimov (138 posts)
Posted: 2009-12-13 at: 12:43
to szanpan - I too, had high expectations for him, but after his two recent loses, to Karaev and Spong, I have to say - I am a little disappointed.

To Daniel - you were completely right, he didn't come close to winning WGP Final...
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Alex Evdokimov

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