K-1 is doing live 2017 awards kicking off in a little under two hours:
I'm sure it'll be available for everyone after as well, though.
Meanwhile, NJKF held an award ceremony for the year of 2017 and invited all their top fighters only to announce that their choice for MVP of the year was LITERALLY NOBODY BECAUSE YOU ALL DISAPPOINTED US AND SHAME ON YOU TRY HARDER NEXT YEAR.
Also meanwhile, Kubo Masaya (the one Japanese guy in the Glory China event) is actively calling on his followers to rig the Glory awards. He says that while he's given up on being #1 with Rico in the picture, they should be able to get him up to #2.
I'm not on board any of the Dragon trains, but someone could utilize Mohan Dragon. I continue to be surprised Wu Lin Feng hasn't done anything with him.
I might have been a bit tongue in cheek in mentioning him. He's getting up there in age and I think he's in the retirement mindset more than anything. He was a guy who was originally a sideshow for a smaller kickboxing org and mentioned that his dreams were fulfilled by fighting for K-1/Krush and he has nothing more to look forward to. I presume they want Kimura vs Mohan, but who knows if that's going through.
Other mentions: Jaraya stuff, el Boustati rolling around (in the moment, he pretty much made up for it post fight though) and the handling of both by Enfusion. Something negative to/by Enfusion guy happens? QUICK, HIDE, PRETEND IT DIDN'T HAPPEN! Same situations but benefits their guy and they act just the opposite.
Gotta say, it worked on me since I totally blanked on the Jaraya nonsense.
Don't think I have a real winner for this :/ The major promotions all did good stuff and bad stuff and the overall unevenness and not knowing if things really developed much or not just reigns supreme over any single story.
You hit the nail on the head here. Really, the overarching trend in kickboxing across 2015-2017 seems to be fragmentation by region. In US/Europe, China and Japan there's a few orgs each that can get events with an audience of a couple thousand but aren't recognized beyond that small sustainable core. Without a central core though, we're deprived of fights between talents across orgs and the rankings become meaningless.
Glory's not really recognized as being top dog in China and Japan though they've done a decent job rebuilding. It toys with the idea of going in and dominating China, but if it thinks its UFC-inspired model of going in there with a couple irrelevant fights and a smattering of random locals is going to work its fooling itself.
Japan is inwards looking and doing its own "world tournaments" without securing top talent in certain divisions (cough heavyweight cough). They also don't market at all to an English or Chinese audience. What's K-1 Japan's live English audience? With the Abema VPN thing lets charitably call it a couple dozen.
For all the talk about the Chinese kickboxing product being esoteric, I actually think they've done the most work to try to bridge the geographic gap. Kunlun has really stepped up their English materials. They've also taken smart steps to expanding abroad what with WLF/Krush and Kunlun/RISE partnerships.
Fucking K-1 HW GP goddamn did that just break their magic to me!!111
Don't get me started on K-1 Japan and its silliness. While they've consistently been the promotion I'm most rooting for, its also obvious that they are an org that struggles to get past some compulsions (cough cough 4 Japanese fighters per tournament cough) and is developing a streak of isolationism. They have simultaneously been my favorite and my most disappointing org.
- Nakazawa Jun vs Soda Yasuomi II - Komiyama Kosuke vs Goshyu Masanobu II - Urabe Hirotaka vs Koji
Decent fights. Obviously not as super stacked as the few announced previously, but to add some color - Nakazawa Jun is the current Krush 65kg champion. Soda Yasuomi (who used to be a regular in K-1 Japan obviously) was sent to Krush with a homework given to him by management that he needed to grab the Krush title to be brought back up on K-1. However despite getting two very good wins in Krush, he was upsetted in the titleshot by Nakazawa in a war of attrition. This rematch settles their newly sparked rivalry - Komiyama edged out Stauros in the last K-1 full event. He's obviously known for his array of spinning karate shit, but despite some good wins he hasn't been able to string together a consistent run in K-1 what with some unexpected losses (vs Yun Qi) and some injuries that forced him to pull out of fights. He's still in K-1's good graces though since he earned a ton of good press for them by saving some dudes trapped in a burning car in a newstory that got a bit of mainstream press. His opponent Goshyu is the current Krush 60kg champion. He's also a feel good story as he's a guy born with a severe hearing impediment (effectively deaf without aid), but managed to score a comeback win to take the Krush title - Hirotaka vs Koji is the real interesting fight here. Obviously nobody can really predict how Hirotaka's going to fight these days. His opponent Koji is known as being the biggest shit talker in all of K-1 Japan. In the presser for this, he stirred up shit by saying that Hirotaka was shot and gifting him a helmet to wear in the fight as a handicap which got Hirotaka a bit rattled.
Here's some other stuff I'm expecting - Takei's opponent is probably going to be Terado. Gunji Taito was the frontrunner to be the challenger, but despite winning his fight in K-1 Survival Wars in a pretty dominant fashion, he failed to finish Oiwa (who showed some crazy heart) and probably lost the right to win the title shot. -- That said, Terado's getting up there in years. While Takei asked for the Terado fight, don't know if Terado is ready for it. They could always bring in a decent foreigner (e.g. Jamie Whelan) or as a wildcard give the fight to Tsubakihara who upsetted Saikyo - Mohan Dragon vs Kimura Minoru. Gotta happen - I think Stauros hinted in a Greek article that he's coming to Japan in March. That said, this card is already 60kg heavy with 3 60kg fights on it already. With Taiga, Koji, Hirotaka, Komiyama and Goshyu tied up, I'm struggling to think of someone who might be a good opponent. Maybe Leona Pettis? Or could be that Google Translate got Stauros wrong and he's not in this event - We may or may not get the first Female K-1 Japan fight. Kana asked for the shot after winning the Krush title vs Mellonie. Only question would be whether K-1 really can start up a competitive division there. I'm honestly at a loss to think of someone who would be a good matchup for her
This one's difficult. Lots of great technical battles and real wars of attrition, but usually when it comes to fight of the year I'm looking for back-and-forth twists and turns in the action with a conclusive finish. There's no clear winner here like in 2015 (Urabe bros) or 2016 (Jaraya vs Ben Moh)
I guess I'll go with Ilunga vs Duut. Its a feel good moment, both a great finish for Ilunga in getting revenge over a FOTY contender in 2016 + a redemption for his career on the biggest Glory card of the year.
Honorable mentions - Both Gonnapar vs. Koya Urabe and Gonnapar vs Wei Rui were among the fights that I got most amped watching live. Both of them showcased a great stylistic matchup, outstanding crowd reaction and a huge show of heart from all sides. They deserve a shoutout, but both of them came down to a dynamic of one guy getting a down early and struggling to keep his lead while the other surged back trying to take it back at all costs. Thought they could have both used an extension. - The fight that had the most significance to the sport of kickboxing has got to be Rico Verhoeven vs Jamal Ben Saddik. Yes, we as hardcore followers of the sport knew where Saddik stood in the sport and knew it was gonna be a showcase for Rico. That said, it was a showcase that a lot of people (especially casual fans who mostly watch MMA) caught onto and circulated around twitter and Reddit and whathaveyou. - I mentioned that I liked back and forward brawls. If that's what you're in the market for, you should definitely take a look at KNOCK OUT that has helpfully produced a "top KNOCK OUT fights of the year" ranking video. Shout out to Maeguchi vs Katsuji, Fukashi vs Katsuji, Ogasawara Eisaku vs Wanchalong PKSaenchaiGym all of which were knock down brawls to the death.
Upset(s) Of The Year
This one's easy. I fully expected 18 year old Hiramoto Ren to be butchered by Gonnapar after he prevailed in that war vs. Koya Urabe. The arena really erupted for this one
Honorable mentions - Superbon getting upsetted by Endy Semeleer (WHO?) was shocking news to wake up to. In terms of "WTF HOW" it probably should be higher up than Ren vs Gonnapar, only lessened by the fact that I didn't see it live since I was fully expecting Superbon to clean up and probably still haven't really digested that fact.
Fighter(s) Of The Year
Agreed with Liverkick. In terms of relevance to the sport, there is only Rico Verhoeven. They had a great essay on the topic which articulates the argument better than I ever could.
Honorable mentions - Superbon should have taken this given his resume. If not for a little wrench that got thrown into his perfect plan by Endy Semeleer (SERIOUSLY WHO?!) - In terms of the guy with the next best resume, Wei Rui went 8-0 this year including winning that stacked K-1 62.5kg tournament. He's a great ambassador for the sport in his own right (though I can see why some would be angry at some of the decisions he's won) and a fair pick if you disagree with Rico - Takeru and Tenshin continued to demolish their opposition, put on great shows and gather mainstream appeal in Japan to the extent that it seems like we're seeing a legit kakutougi revival. That said, I don't want to hear a peep out of either of them until they settle this will-they-won't-they bullcrud and finally fuc- fight.
Breakout Fighter(s) Of The Year
There's a lot of worthy guys this year, but I'm going to pick someone I think a lot of Western fans are overlooking and go with Takei Yoshiki. Nabiyev and Allazov, hardcore fans always recognized as being legit guys who didn't get the stage they deserved. At the start of this year Takei was just a kid among dozens of teenagers who went through Koshien and competed in Krush. This year he not only breezed through the K-1 55kg grand prix, he had fights against legit contenders I thought would give him trouble in Izawa and Saravia and utterly destroyed them.
Unpopular opinion, but this is a guy that can probably go out there today and give Takeru or Tenshin a 50/50 fight.
Honorable mentions - I said Alim Nabiyev being a huge underdog on the betting lines vs. Holtzken was a steal. He proved me right! - Chingiz Allazov finally got contracted with a big org and annihilated his opposition. The only real question at this point is whether K-1 can secure a challenger who'll give him a worthy fight since I doubt Hinata has the style to give him a fight - A lot of Japanese fans think that Rukiya is actually better than Koya Urabe and deserved to challenge Wei Rui before him. Not only did he score some fantastic wins (Deng Zeqi, Kyoshiro) that went under the radar, but he got them in spectacular fashion. He actually fights like how Glory imagines Guto Innocente as fighting. Ninja shit in every round - MOHAN DRAGON
Knockout(s) Of The Year
This one's defo the easiest pick.
He scored that nidangeri (i.e. the Demolition Kick) twice against Kyoshiro later in the year and also in the fight before this against a Russian in Emei Legend.
Honorable mentions - Rukiya again with the flying shit vs. Deng Zeqi - The most feel good KO of the year was when Sittichai strummed the rope rings with Yi Long's head
Comeback(s) Of The Year
I'm repeating myself, but it doesn't become much more of a comeback than snapping a 7 fight losing streak with an incredible revenge KO. Danyo Ilunga it is.
Honorable mentions - Kubo Yuta looked like a guy who just didn't have it in him to give the sport his all anymore for a long time now. Just flashes of brilliance vs legit top guys like Kaew and Yamazaki before fading and losing dramatically. I thought he was done for sure this year when he started slipping vs. tier 2 guys and getting more into being a day trader. So grads to him for winning the 67.5kg K-1 GP. It wasn't the most stacked field, but he did finally give it his all again - Kimura went through probably one of the worst stretches of a career ever between 2015-2017. So many 1RKO losses to guys he had no business losing to. It wasn't a full comeback, but volunteering like he did to take the Kido fight when so many other guys in the division didn't want to fight a bigger veteran coming down to their division and triumphing deserves a shoutout.
Controversy(s) Of The Year
Bigfoot vs Rico was disgusting. The only saving grace was that the referee kept it mercifully short. Glory somehow managed to taint that too what with Grisham questioning Dave on that topic twitter. As if it wasn't transparent that they wanted to put on a show by butchering a man well past his prime.
Dishonorable mentions - This was a surprisingly calm year in general on the robbery aspect, but lets not forget RvR vs. Petch. I mean people will take sides on that issue, but I won't touch upon it since its almost an exact reenactment of the Sittichai incident. -- Also Kaew vs Noiri was less of a complete robbery since I can completely understand how that happened with the "must judge" extension rounds. Still not great that the most dominant P4P champ in kickboxing lost his title on what was effectively a random chance event due to a technicality - K-1 Japan made some flubs in matchmaking this year as it became clear that they were railroading towards a March mega-event and turning a blind eye to unexpected happenings. I won't bash them over their heads for failing to come to terms with Tenshin, but Stauros deserved an immediate title shot and Taiga does not deserve a 3rd Takeru fight.
Event(s) Of The Year
K-1 Japan 70kg World GP. Might be a bit of hometown bias there + me being there live, but wow that card was stacked and wow did it delivered. A legit 70kg GP with a huge amount of KOs and crazy moments (Kido dropped Allazov!?). Great title fights like Wei Rui vs Gonnapar and Kaew vs Noiri. New exciting talents signed like Yamato Tetsuya. K-1 really brought their best to the game to fill out their expanded Saitama venue. Heck, they sprinkled on Takeru and Hiramoto on top as basically an afterthought, that's how stacked that card was. 14 fights, the least of which would have been a main card for Krush.
Honorable mentions - Glory Redemption was a big event with a lot of epic moments. I put it under the K-1 event given its lack of volume in terms of high level competitive matchups, but their highs really delivered. - In terms of the card where I got the most enjoyment from seeing, its probably the K-1 62.5kg GP. One of the best fights (Gonnapar vs Koya), the biggest upset (Gonnapar vs Hiramoto), the craziest KO (Rukiya vs Mizumachi), a breakout performance for one of the top fighters of the year (Wei Rui), it really had it all.
Story(s) Of The Year
K-1 Japan announcing that it was returning to Saitama Super Arena was a real gamechanger. Its a homecoming that's 3 years in the making for an org that started with basically just the Krush roster and no real media coverage. That press conference where they held impromptu where they started with the camera zoomed in so you couldn't tell where it was then zoomed out to show that they were in Saitama and actually had a roadmap to getting back there? Then when they called it what looked like their entire Japanese roster of 40+ fighters? Just fantastic. Its the one piece of news that told me that kakutougi is finally coming back
Hirono's considered to be the toughest fighter in Japan's 70kg division. Never been KO'd, never been dropped. He got stopped by Dahlbeck earlier this year by cut, but I thought he was actually putting up a decent fight. Question is whether Hinata can actually KO him since he has a habit of getting clipped when the fight gets brawl-y.