Beyond Kickboxing's 2022 Breakthrough Fighter of the Year: Yuki Yoza

Jan 09, 2023
Yuki Yoza against Aikpikart. Photo: K-1 Japan Group
Yoza entered 2022 as a relative unknown to kickboxing fans, both worldwide and domestically in Japan. He ended the year as the best fighter in his weight class.

Although Yuki Yoza was able to capture gold in four different weight classes during his six-year-long Kyokushin Karate career, he initially failed to achieve the same success in kickboxing. The former Karateka won seven fights in his first year as a pro, but had the streak snapped by Chihiro Suzuki the next year, in what was his first step-up fight. Although he rebounded by winning his next two, his streak was once again snapped, this time by Keijiro Miyakoshi in yet another step-up fight.

Yoza debuted with K-1 on the undercard of Krush 132, with a head kick stoppage of an overmatched Hikaru Hasumi. His reward for this was a non-title bout with the reigning K-1 Lightweight (62.5 kg) champion Taio Asahisa, in what the promotion perhaps saw as a showcase for their titleholder, but the more knowing kickboxing fans might've seen as a tough stylistic match-up. Yoza overcame the champion by decision, out-kicking one of the divisions' best and most versatile kickers. 

While this would've been an impressive performance by itself, Yoza proved the upset was more due to his ability rather than just being a favorable match-up in his next two fights. He first stopped Yuto Shinohara, a former Krush champion and one of the more talented boxers at his weight, in the second round of their meeting. He avoided boxing with Shinohara and instead stopped him through low kicks, utilizing Kyokushin Karate's most notorious weapon. 

In his third and final fight of the year, Yoza won a unanimous decision against the former Rajadamnern Stadium champion Aikpikart Mor.Krungthepthonburi. On top of an impressive performance, it was also an interesting change of style for Yoza. He recently joined the famous K-1 gym KREST, and has undoubtedly incorporated some of K-1 veteran Masaaki Noiri's flashy combinations into his arsenal.

The future looks bright for Yoza and a rematch with Asahisa, with the title on the line, seems to be in his very near future. Should he win, he will cement his status as the best fighter in his weight class.




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Jonathan Di Bella against Zhang Peimian. Photo: ONE Championship

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Mohamed Touchassie walking out. Photo: Enfusion

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Hyuma Hitachi after his knockout against Yuki Kasahara. Photo: SHOOT BOXING

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