With an ongoing struggle to provide international streaming options for their audience, the return of K-1 couldn't quite deliver on its initial premise of capturing a global viewership. Nevertheless, K-1 did what they do best – put on another memorable night of kickboxing action. While DAZN & FITE TV jumped ship at the last minute, partner promotion QUINTET came in clutch, live-streaming the event for free on their YouTube channel. The event's centerpiece was both the Openweight Grand Prix, which pitted eight fighters from different promotions against each other plus Akihiro Kaneko's title trilogy against Masashi Kumura.
KANEKO VS. KUMURA
The Super Bantamweight title fight between two of Japan's finest fighters once again proved to be the highlight of the event. Starting out the pace was noticeably slower than in their first two meetings. Once the action picked up however, the two couldn't be stopped. The biggest differentiator this time around was Kaneko's more varied approach to his openings. A constant stream of feints, level changes, and changes in pace kept Kumura guessing and made the champion the more successful one on the offense. The challenger was sharp and quick to punish Kaneko with lightning-fast lead hooks, whenever he got too comfortable in the pocket.
After three rounds of back-and-forth action, the judges scored the fight a draw, calling for another round to decide a winner. In the extra round, Kaneko came out as the fresher fighter and was more successful in pushing the pace. All judges agreed – 10-9 for the reigning champion.
After the fight, Akihiro Kaneko already had his eye on his next opponent, RISE Bantamweight champion Masahiko Suzuki, whom he lost to at THE MATCH 2022.
"Even though I lost at THE MATCH, I lost to Kumura in the first fight, and I lost to him in the second fight except for getting the knockdown, I still did my best for the people who believed in me. I wanted to show that even if you lose, you work hard on yourself for a year, your efforts will pay off. I hope that people will get motivated by watching me even just a little bit. However, I still can't say that I'm the representative of K-1. Please let me do it one more time against Suzuki [Masahiko]."
LIU CE'S TOURNAMENT RUN
Liu Ce had an incredible showing in yesterday's Openweight tournament, stopping all three of his opponents inside the distance. Coming in at under 100 KG, the fighter from China was one of the smaller entries. Using his agility to his advantage, Ce stayed on the outside and employed a similar strategy in all of his fights. While his heavier-handed opposition chased him down, he relentlessly kept chopping down their legs with vicious calf kicks. It was obvious that he wasn't comfortable in prolonged punching exchanges, but with enough space, he could dictate the pace and hurt his opponents.
After beating Valentin Bordianu and Ariel Machado, he faced off against Claudio Istrate in the finals. Istrate himself had a great night in the office, knocking out Mahmoud Sattari in the first round, and getting a unanimous decision against Sina Karimian. His outing against Karimian in the semifinals proved to be a difficult task. The Iranian fighter had one of the dirtiest performances in recent memory, coming close to being disqualified due to countless rabbit punches, punches after the break, and low blows.
In the final, Istrate came out throwing heavy leather and pushed Ce into a corner. Ce responded with a heavy calf kick that immediately hurt the Italian fighter. Ce swarmed Istrate, and after dropping him to the canvas the referee had seen enough.
K-1 REBOOT RESULTS
Liu Ce def. Claudiu Istrate – Openweight Grand Prix Finals – KO at 0:45 of R1
(C) Akihiro Kaneko def. Masashi Kumura – Super Bantamweight Championship – Extra Round Decision
Mikio Ueda def. K-Jee – KO at 1:39 of R2
Liu Ce def. Ariel Machado – Openweight Grand Prix Semifinals – KO at 1:57 of R2
Claudiu Istrate def. Sina Karimian – Openweight Grand Prix Semifinals – Unanimous Decision
(C) Taito Gunji def. Angelos Martinos – Majority Decision
Tomoya Yokoyama def. Yuki Egawa – Unanimous Decision
(C) Miyuu Sugawara def. Maria Nella – Unanimous Decision
Kento Ito def. Yuzuki Satomi – KO at 2:18 of R2
Koji Ikeda def. Shinta – KO at 2:48 of R2
Hayato Suzuki def. Mohamed Islam – Extra Round Decision
Liu Ce def. Valentin Bordianu – Openweight Grand Prix Quarterfinals – KO at 1:36 of R1
Ariel Machado def. Michał Turyński – Openweight Grand Prix Quarterfinals – Extra Round Decision
Sina Karimian def. Kerim Jemai – Openweight Grand Prix Quarterfinals – KO at 1:35 of R3
Claudiu Istrate def. Mahmoud Sattari – World Openweight Grand Prix Quarterfinals – KO at 2:19 of R1