11th World Tournament 20-22nd November 2015, Tokyo, Japan

Having attended the 8th and 9th World Tournament in 2003 and 2007 respectively and witnessed a number of controversial decisions and the use of Genten Ichi to favour home fighters I was very keen to see this yearís event after hearing reports that the 10th World Tournament in 2011 had much fairer judging and was eagerly anticipating this potentially spectacular event and hoping for more of the same.

DAY ONE

Block A

Arata (Japan) opened proceedings with a nervy and far from convincing win over Kaszala (Hungary) but got a 5-0 decision to advance. Next up was Zuborev (Russia) against Paulo Zuleta (Argentina), this was a close match and Zuborev was strong with a high work rate but Zuleta did not back down and hit the Russian with a number of hard inside low kicks, another 5-0 decision in favour of the Russian that I felt was a little harsh on the South American. Peshenko (Ukraine) was too strong for Davalos (Chile) and came close with hiza geris but was a convincing 5-0 win by decision. Psarev (Russia) high work rate earned him a 5-0 decision over Manci (South Africa) and then Lushin (Russia) used his hiza geri chudan to great effect as well as strong punches to get another 5-0 decision over Martinicorena (Brazil) to advance. A close fight next saw Dagan (Israel) advance against Markach (Belarus) 5-0 be decision and then former Russian heavyweight champion Akhmedov (Russia) was very impressive with good movement and very powerful low kicks to defeat Kanapin (Kazakhsthan) by decision 5-0. Final fight of the top section of Block A saw Takeoka defeat Mngomezulu again on a 5-0 decision.

Takahashi (Japan) advanced due to a no show of his opponent and the first ippon of the day was by Kurtsikidze (Russia) after a barrage of body punches against Nguyen (USA). Turghunboev (Russia) looked very powerful and scored a wazari for chudan mawashi geri against Sretenovic (Serbia) and then a very casual but classy multiple European and former All Japan Champion Navarro (Spain) had far too much in his armoury as he advanced past Cabezas (New Zealand) 5-0 on decision. Chirkov (Russia) also benefitted from a no show to advance and Osawa (Japan) moved round and picked of the much larger Timev (Australia) and gained a wazari for an inside low kick. Seidokaikanís Tanigawa (Japan) used his very strong low kicks to defeat Garan (Ukraine) 5-0 by decision and the final fight of the Block saw Kochnev (Russia) being a constant danger with his knees before gaining a ippon for a hiza geri chudan against Morales (Uruguay)

Block B

Ueda (Japan) also looked dangerous with his knees and had too much for Youssfi (Tunisia) and earned a 5-0 decision. Lesser known of his countrymen Orudzhov (Russia) gained a wazari for a body punch against Gurung (Singapore) former Russian lightweight champion Saltykhanov (Russia) was very impressive getting the decision 5-0 against the larger Anthony Tockar (Australia) and current European middleweight champion Ismailov (Ukraine) absolutely battered Marhoon (Bahrain) to get a very convincing 5-0 decsion. Another reigning European Champion and this time in lightweight in Grundler (France) looked strong scoring a wazari ippon for punches and ushiro geri against Bahzad (Kuwait). Mikhailov (Russia) advanced via a no show and an energetic Shimizu (Japan) advanced by 5-0 decision against Varabei (Belarus). The big seed in this section in Karpenko (Russia) who looked to go further than the last eight from four years ago looked absolute class and in total control against Tcancenco (Moldova) who did well to not get knocked out and could not argue with the 5-0 decision.

Belkhodja (France) was another fighter benefitting from a no show and Harada (Japan) and Sereno (Argentina) had a real scrap with a 3-0 decision in favour of the Japanese when another round would have been much fairer. The current All Japan Heavyweight Champion Cujic (Australia) looked strong against a tough Zapata (Spain) and took all the flags 5-0. Next up was multiple Russian middleweight champion Titkov (Russia) who was hugely impressive in a devastating demolition against Feng Xu (China) scoring wazaris first for a Jodan mawashi geri and then a perfectly timed ushiro geri. The fight of Ekimov (Russia) and Silva (Brazil) was very close with the Brazilian looking more powerful and was awarded 2-1 flags at the end of the round but the ref signalled a draw and the extension begun. Just as the round started Ekimov threw a perfectly time ushiro mawashi geri jodan that landed square on the chin of Silva to knock him out cold and score the Russian an ippon, the Brazilian took some time to come around but thankfully walked off the mat rather than on a stretcher. Bukowy (Poland) then got an ippon with a body punch against Islim (Lebanon), Kovalenko (Russia) took a 5-0 decision against Mayaba (South Africa) and Kamada (Japan) hit Dizon (Philippines) with a perfectly timed ushiro geri that he did not recover from and a hiza geri followed soon after to gain an ippon for Kamada.

Block C

Mori (Japan) advanced by no show of his opponent and Stoian (Romania) was too strong for Gutierrez (Bolivia) in another defeat for South American, 5-0 by decision. Former European middleweight champion Tusseau (France) moved well before landed a very quick ushiro mawashi geri for ippon against Chikh (Canada). Gabarev (Russia) scored and wazari against Lei Wang (China) for a tobi mawashi geri and then the hugely decorated Damyanov (Bulgaria) gained a unanimous decision 5-0 against Xavier (Brazil) in what was another tough draw for the Brazilian team. Garcia (Spain) advanced by walkover and Mitsaev (Russia) landed some very strong low kicks against Goodin (Australia) en route to getting the decision 5-0. Onuma (Japan) was extremely fortunate to get the 3-0 decision over Lubanyana (South Africa) in a result the crowd clearly disagreed with following the booing.

Sawamura (Japan) scored a wazari for jodan mawashi geri and then another for a flurry of punches to defeat Sanal (India) then Yoo Kim (Korea) was another recipient of a walkover. Ryzhov (Russia) gained a 5-0 decision against Connolly (Australia) and Uvitskiy used his trademark low kicks to great effect to also get a decision 5-0 against Gabriel Zuleta (Argentina). Up next was one of Kyokushinís rising stars and a fighter I was very much looking forward to see live in Mezentsev (Russia) and he did not disappoint with quick powerful combinations to dominate Mocancu and take the decision 5-0. Yamagawa (Japan) was bit fortunate to get the decision 3-0 against a strong Eliakim (Israel) where the Israeli deserved an extension. Another young Russian in Kolosov looked very strong an as he gained a wazari for an inside low kick and then another for a tobi mawashi geri to advance by ippon against Prada (Brazil). Last up in the block and one of the pre tournament favourites was five time European Heavyweight Champion Yeremenko (Ukraine) who easily advanced with an ippon for a body punch against Alimussinov (Kazakhsthan).

Block D

Former All Japan Champion Ajima (Japan) advanced with a 5-0 decision over Finca (South Africa) and Kondov (Bulgaria) scored an ippon for a body punch against Bogey (New Caledonia). Next up was one of the closest fights of the day as Higuchi (Japan) took on Deguire (Canada), the Japanese fighter was ahead 2-1 on the flags after the first round but an extension was fought and 5-0 was the result in favour of the Japanese. At only twenty years of age Zarinyan (Russia) has already won the Russian lightweight and middleweight title and another fighter I was keen to see, he certainly did not disappoint against Nergui (Mongolia) as he scored an wazari for a crisp chudan mawashi geri and then another for body punch to easily advance. Rising star in seventeen year old Nanbara (Japan) put in the best performance of the home nation of the day with showing speed and powerful combinations to overwhelm Cerquieira (Switzerland). Galiev (Russia) battered Whyte (New Zealand) with body punches and earned a wazari for a well timed punch and Stanislavenko (Russia) made up for his lack of speed with strength to gain a 5-0 decision against Yazd (Iran). Reyes (Spain) had a close fight against Ahcene (Algeria) and after being awarded 2-0 after the first round took the extension 5-0 to advance.

Nakamura (Japan) got the decision 5-0 against Shams (Germany, the impressive Sarkhosyan (Russia) overpowered Halkin (Belarus) also a 5-0 decision and Kedzierski (Great Britain) took a 4-0 decision against the larger Henderson (Australia). Next up was the fighter I was very keen to see again after seeing him as back in 2007, was the highly decorated Kapanadze (Russia), another fighter who certainly did not disappoint, his techniques were dynamite and reverberated around the arena and he landed scything chudan mawashi geri for ippon against Cramb (Scotland). Araki (Japan) scored an ippon for a low kick against Struthers (New Zealand), and the next fight with Nakano (USA) against Abastov (Russia) was another very close fight with Nakano getting 1-0 after round one and then genten ichi sent the Russian out. The giant Zeghbab (France) scored a wazari for a low kick against Dominguez (Argentina) and pre tournament favourite and reigning All Japan Champion Sadvokasov (Russia) dropped Mndebela (South Africa) after a barrage of body punches for ippon.

DAY TWO

Second Round

Block A

Another far from convincing performance Arata (Japan) against Hao Dai (China) and took the decision 4-0 and Zuborev (Russia) defeated Filip (Romania) again on decision 4-0. Galinski (Poland) used his extra weight and size against Peshenko (Ukraine) and landed a number of strong inside low kicks and took the decision 5-0. Next up was the one of the biggest weight differences in the event as Mckinnon (New Zealand) at 125kg took on Psarev (Russia) weighting in at 65kg, huge credit to the Russian who never backed down and continually attacked his much larger and stronger opponent and kept up a very high work rate, the decision was 2-0 after the first round and an extension was fought, Psarev again kept up his high work rate but Mckinnonís powerful low kicks were causing him trouble, a well timed burst of low kicks late on helped Mckinnon get the decision 4-0 in one of the most entertaining fights so far. OíFarrell (Australia) could not capitalise on a series of heavy low kicks that rocked Lushin (Russia) who attacked non stop with spearing punches and Lushin took the flags 5-0. Dagan (Israel) had another tough fight against Balan (Canada) with 1-1 after the first round and then 5-0 in the extension. Akhmedov (Russia) then advanced via a now show and Takeoka (Japan) used some well timed low kicks to boss the fight and defeat Munk-erdene (Mongolia).

Oddly Takahashi (Japan) advanced with his second consecutive no show and then Rocha (Brazil) squared off against Kurtsikidze (Russia), this was a very close fight with the Russian trying to dominate with punches but it was the Brazilian who impressed the judges 2-1 after the first round but this was not enough and an extension was fought, the extension followed a similar pattern and was very even and after the extension the flags were 3-2 this time in favour of Kurtsikidze who advanced. Turghunboev (Russia) again looked very strong against an experienced and highly decorated Gogonel (France) who was now in his forties, the Russianís power overcame his opponents movement and took the decision 5-0. Navarro (Spain) continued to impress against Boutouis (Canada) and landed a chudan mawashi geri for a wazari, while Chirkov (Russia) was very casual with explosive quick techniques as he defeated Ardekani (Iran) 5-0. The much lighter Osawa (Japan) used inside low kicks well and moved to avoid the techniques and slow down the much larger Gumede (South Africa) and earned him the decision 5-0. Another defeat for South Americanís as Tanigawa (Japan) again used his strong low kicks to get the decision 5-0 against Bodach (Argentina) and then the ever advancing and non-stop Kochnev (Russia) again used knees to earn him the victory against Stefanou (Greece) 5-0.

Block B

Ueda (Japan) gained two wazaris in quick succession for body punches against Hyun Choi (Korea) and Orudzhov (Russia) kept up a high work rate and used his punches to gain the decision 5-0 against Echeverria (Bolivia). Saltykhanov (Russia) continued to impress and landed a spectacular tobi mawashi geri jodan for ippon against Vardin (South Africa). Ismailov (Ukraine) showed explosive combinations again before landing a powerful ushiro geri for ippon against Torres (Guam). Grundler (France) against Mazurkiewicz (Poland) was a very even fight and looked like go should go another round but all judges went in favour of one of the fighters with Grundler advancing 3-2 in a split decision. Mikhailov (Russia) earned wazari for a body punch against Radu (Romania) and Shimizu (Japan) landed a jodan mawashi geri against Johnson (New Zealand) and Karpenko (Russia) then advanced via a now show.

A relaxed Belkhodja (France) landed a well timed and trademark hiza geri jodan against Fadakari (Iran) to earn a wazari and Harada (Japan) and Navojan (Russia) battled out a close fight that was 0-0 after the first round and 0-0 in the extension and saw the first weight decision of the competition as Harada advanced. Cujic (Australia) again looked strong getting the decision 5-0 over Preuss (Chile) the ever impressive Titkov (Russia) was in complete control against Boev (Bulgaria) and took the flags 5-0. Ekimov (Russia) came close with high kicks but still did enough to defeat Ingeaua (Romania) 4-0 on decision and Bukowy (Poland) again looked powerful and earned a ippon for a chudan mawashi geri against McDougall (Canada). Kovalenko (Russia) had too much for Wilson (New Zealand) and advanced 5-0 and Kamada (Japan) showed a good armoury of techniques as he advanced 5-0 against Mancuso (Italy).

Block C

Two time world middleweight champion Mori (Japan) looked very powerful as he scored a wazari for first a chudan mawashi geri and then another for shita tsuki again Gerl (Germany) and Stoian (Romania) turned his fight around in a close fight to defeat Tamura (New Zealand) 3-0 by decision. Tusseau (France) again showed good kicks and scored a wazari for chudan mawashi geri against Prasolov (Ukraine) and Gabarev (Russia) used his punches well to overcome Bagheri (Iran) who started brightly and kept pace with the Russian early on before tiring and losing the decision 5-0. Damyanov (Bulgaria) progressed ominously and looked very strong defeating a gallant Dubrowski (Poland) 5-0 on decision and Sedykh (Russia) scored an ippon for a jodan hiza geri against Garcia (Spain). Another ippon followed quickly as Mitsaev (Russia) dropped Rodriguez (Colombia) with a chudan mawashi geri and Onuma (Japan) took the decision 4-0 against Moriyama (USA).

Sawamura (Japan) and Berg (Canada) had a very close fight that ended 2-1 in favour of the Canadian after the first round and 2-2 after the extension before Sawamura advanced on weight. Yoo Kim (Korea) advanced 3-1 against Struthers (New Zealand) and Ryzhov (Russia) and Patsha (South Africa) had an almighty scrap with the Russian nearly advancing after the first round was 2-1 and then sealing 4-0 in the extension. Uvitskiy (Russia) laboured against a strong Azimi (Iran) and needed an extension after the a 2-1 first round before the Russianís powerful low kicks started to take their toll and earned him the decision 3-0. Next up was the extremely impressive Mezentsev (Russia) who scored and ippon for a perfectly timed an powerful ushiro geri right from the hajime almost in the first second against Maksimau (Belarus) in what could well have been the fasted knock out in World Tournament history. Yamagawa (Japan) had a dead even fight against the strong Demeautis (France) and was very fortunate to get the flags 3-0 after the first round. Kolosov (Russia) then took on Dawes (South Africa) who had fought as far back as the 7th World Tournament in 1999 and the Russian took the decision comfortably 5-0 and Yeremenko (Ukraine) advanced via a now show.

Block D

Ajima (Japan) bossed the fight against Zhang (China) and took the flags and Yunosov (Russia) appeared lightening quick against Bogey (New Caledonia) and earned ippon for a body punch. Higuchi (Japan) again struggled but got the flags against Nunes (Brazil) 4-0. Zarinyan (Russia) again looked classy and defeated Chiripuci (Romania) and took the decision 3-0, and the youngster Nanbara (Japan) was another fighter who impressed again getting the flags 4-0 against Konvalinka (Serbia). Galiev (Russia) took apart Zmija (Poland) with good movement and punches to get a decision 5-0 to advance, the cumbersome Stanislavenko (Russia) used his power and extra weight to defeat Adrienne (Seychelles) 5-0 and then Tockar (Australia) earned a wzari for a low kick versus Reyes (Spain).

Nakamura defeated Botunga (South Africa) 4-0 by decision and a menacing and very strong Sarkhosyan (Russia) advanced with ease against Mykhalov (Canada) 5-0 by decision and despite an early good start by Kedzierski (Great Britain), Gama (Brazil) overpowered him and earned an ippon for a low kick. Huge credit to Sturiale (Italy) who may have been the heavier of the two but took a lot of punishment from the explosive and devastating Kapanadze (Russia) who got the decision 4-0, Nakano (USA) defeated Orosz (Hungary) 5-0 on decision and then Sypien (Poland) took a huge number of low kicks against the giant Zeghbab (France) and after a 1-0 first round and 1-1 extension advanced by weight decision. Final fight of the round was Sadvokasov (Russia) who made short work of Raham (Bangladesh) and got a wazari for a body punch.

Third Round

From this point onwards with 30 Russian fighters and 20 Japanese fighters and many of them as seeded fighters there were going to be a large number of very interesting Russian versus Japan match ups.

Block A

Arata (Japan) used low kicks to good effect against Zuborev (Russia) and took a decision 3-0, whilst an upset for the fight with two 100kg plus fighters saw Galinski (Poland) get defeated by Mckinnon (New Zealand) who again used his huge low kicks and a late flurry to get a decision 5-0. Lushin (Russia) again used good punches and was very fit as he got the decision 5-0 against Dagan (Israel) who can be pleased with his tournament and three good fights. Akhmedov (Russia) was very strong against Takeoka (Japan) and deservedly got the decision as the Russian dominated the fight and continued to look very impressive.

Takahashi (Japan) oddly had his first fight and was worth waiting for, he had exceptional movement and picked off Kurtsikidze (Russia) who despite some strong punches could not get to grips with Takahashiís movement who continually caught him with shots and especially low kicks and advanced 5-0. Biggest shock of the event so far saw Turghunboev (Russia) against Navarro (Spain), the Russian looked very strong once again but Navarro did not look his usual self, Turghunboev pushed Navarro back a number of times took a decision 5-0, it subsequently transpired that Navarro had broken his hand and it was clear this hampered his performance. Osawa (Japan) started very fast against Chirkov (Russia) and the Russian never settled, Osawa kept up his onslaught and Chirkov continued to struggle and Osawa took the decision 4-0. In the final fight of the section Kochnev (Russia) was relentless against Tanigawa (Japan), Tanigawa struggled to cope with the unorthodox style of the Russian and Kochnev advanced 5-0 on decision.

Block B

Ueda (Japan) looked strong and overwhelmed Orudzhov (Russia) and got the decision 5-0, Saltykhanov (Russia) had a close fight against Ismailov (Ukraine) and the Ukrainian took a close decision 4-0, whilst a battle of the last two European lightweight champions saw Grundler (France) square off against Mikhailov (Russia), personally I thought this was a pretty even fight but the judges gave it 5-0 to Mikhailov when an extension would have been in my view the best option. Karpenko (Russia) stalked Shimizu (Japan) for the whole fight and came close to knocking him out, and deservedly got the decision albeit only 3-0.

Belkhodja (France) came close with jodan hiza geris against Harada (Japan) and took the decision 4-0, while the next fight of Cujic (Australia) versus Titkov (Russia) was an absolute war, Titkov was giving away around 15kg but this was not evident on the mat, a very close first round ended 2-0 to Titkov and then the second round started, this round saw Titkov take more punishment especially with low kicks and the Aussie looked slightly on top and the flags went 1-0 in his favour, Titkov however advanced on weight but the feeling was whoever advanced had taken a lot of punishment to take to the final day. Ekimov (Russia) versus Bukowy (Poland) looked a very interesting match-up with the Russianís knock out techniques versus the Poleís power but Bukowy pulled up with a shin injury early on and could not continue. Another shock in the next round as Kamada (Japan) lost to Kovalenko (Russia), Kamada was on top in the first round and looked very strong but was only awarded 1-0 on the flags, in the second round Kovalenko turned the fight round completely as Kamada tired dramatically and was at a standstill at one point taking Kovalenkoís punches and the Russian advanced 5-0 to send one of the top Japanese fighters out.

Block C

Mori (Japan) again looked strong versus Stoian (Romania) and took the decision 4-0 and Tusseau (France) was unlucky against Gabarev (Russia) not to go another round as the Russian advanced 5-0 in a battle of former Russian versus European middleweight champions. Another two fighters over 100kg faced off with Damyanov (Bulgaria) against Sedykh (Russia), Damyanov had far too much for the Russian and moved well hitting him with some very heavy low kicks and took the decision 5-0. Mitsaev (Russia) hunted Onuma (Japan) but struggled to get him in his range but still landed some very strong low kicks, Onuma was very busy and threw many combinations that didnít seem to trouble Mitsaev but earned him 2-0 flags. In the extension, Mitsaev did slow down and did not look the stellar fighter he was five or six years ago as Ounuma continued to attack and took 4-0 by decision to advance. Sawamura (Japan) was comfortable in his 5-0 win over Yoo Kim (Korea) in a very scrappy fight Uvitskiy (Russia) defeated Ryhzhov (Russia) 3-0. Mezentsev (Russia) was an absolute machine against Yamagawa (Japan) who had an extra 15kg plus on him but was still could not handle the Russianís onslaught who deservedly took a 5-0 decision and then in perhaps the biggest shock of the tournament so far Yeremenko (Ukraine) and Kolosov (Russia) were in a battle with Kolosov getting flags 2-0 but the Ukrainian definitely looked the stronger in the extension before getting a warning and then a genten ichi that would see the five time reigning European Heavyweight Champion and two time All American Open Champion sadly exit in an undeserved fashion.

Block D

Ajima (Japan) got a 5-0 decision against Yunosov (Russia) that was fortunate but there was no such fortune for Higuchi (Japan) as Zarinyan removed any doubt by landing an excellent ushiro mawashi geri jodan on the much larger fighter for an ippon and see the electric Russian advance. Galiev (Russia) had no answer to the speed an number of techniques Nanbara (Japan) was throwing and the Japanese fighter deservedly advanced 5-0 by decision, while Stanislavenko used his big weight advantage to scythe down Tockar (Australia) with two big low kicks for wazaris.

A very interesting fight up next with one of the top fighters in the world iin Russian Heavyweight Champion Sarkhosyan (Russia) take on Japanese Heavyweight Champion Nakamura (Japan). The Russian was much taller and heavier and I had expected Nakamuraís tactics to be to stay at distance and try and advance on weight but he tried to take the fight to the Russian and got hit with a jodan hiza geri for a wazari, Nakamura had no option but to attack then and as he attacked was caught with another jodan hiza geri for wazari-ippon. Gama (Brazil) did well to hang in there against Kapanadze (Russia) as the Russian battered his opponent at times and took the decision 5-0. Nakano (USA) versus Araki (Japan) was a very scrappy fight and Nakano went down with supposed head punches a few times, the fighters actually went off right at the end of the round and the fight resumed later just as the round ended, two judges gave the flight to Nakano and referee Emil Kostov gave the fight to Nakano for a 3-0 that was harsh on Araki. In the final match of the round and the day Savdvokasov (Russia) took on Sypien (Poland) who had a very tough fight the previously, the Russian capitalised on his damaged legs to throw more low kicks but full credit to Sypien who never backed down and continued attacking but Sadvokasov advanced 5-0.

FINAL DAY

The final day witness a starting line up of a record eighteen Russian fighters making the final day after a second day that generally saw fair judging and on the whole the right fighters progressing.

Final 32

The first fight of the day was perhaps the best atmosphere I have ever witnessed at a tournament as Arata (Japan) took on Mckinnon (New Zealand), the big kiwi had previously performed a haka that endeared him to the crowd and he had not only the support of all the Russian supporters but pretty much every non Japanese supporter in the crowd, plus in addition to that Arata had a huge and very vocal Japanese support. The fight itself was not quite as exciting and Arata was busier and landed more techniques and low kicks especially, the extra minute on the round as today was 3mins-2mins-2mins did not favour the kiwi who still fought well but Arata deservedly advanced 5-0. Akhmedov (Russia) continued to impress and was too strong for the much lighter Lushin (Russia) and landed a succession of heavy low kicks and comfortably advanced 5-0. The next fight was very interesting, Takahashi (Japan) used his excellent movement to avoid the power of Turghunboev (Russia) techniques and picking him off with low kicks, the fight was 2-0 to Takahashi after the first round and an extension was given. As the Russian tired Takahashi was more on top and avoiding most of the big Russianís onslaught and took the flags 5-0. Kochnev (Russia) versus Osawa (Japan) was a very good fight, Osawa continued to press and Kochnev was always dangerous with his hiza geris, a late burst of hiza geris and pressing from Kochnev got him the decision 3-0.

Ueda (Japan) against Ismailov was another close match ups with little between them, the taller Ueda did appear stronger and a flurry of knees to the body by Ueda helped him get a decision 5-0. Karpenko (Russia) picked of Mikhailov (Russia) expertly with almost very technique in the book, a really classy performance from Karpenko got him all the flags 5-0. Belkhodja (France) versus Titkov (Russia) had the makings of a great fight despite the punishment Titkov had taken the day before in his war against Cujic, there was very little between the two fighters until Titkov was caught by a jodan hiza geri late in the round to get a wazari that would see Belkhodja through. Ekimov (Russia) versus Kovalenko (Russia) was a very even fight despite Kovalenkoís weight advantage and then out of nowhere what looked at first liked an attempted hiza geri that turned into a jodan mawashi geri from close quarters by Ekimov knocked Kovalenko out cold for ippon.

Mori (Japan) looked strong against Gabarev (Russia) and landed some heavy low kicks, Gabarev came back with a number of techniques but Mori looked in control and it was unfortunate a genten ichi was awarded against Gabarev as it was developing into a very interesting fight. Damyanov (Bulgaria) dwarfed Onuma (Japan) and the smaller Japanese fighter looked like he was limping during the tameshiwari and a quick end was anticipated to this fight, Onuma however showed tremendous spirit and kept coming at Damyanov despite taking a huge amount of punishment, the Bulgarian finally landed a jodan mawashi geri for a wazari after coming close with a few but a fantastic performance by Onuma with a never say die attitude. Sawamura (Japan) then advanced past a wooden Uvitskiy (Russia) 5-0 on decision that was very harsh on the Russian with neither fighter doing enough in my view to convincingly win. Mezentsev (Russia) hit Kolosov (Russia) with explosive punch and low kick combinations as he took the fight to Kolosov and earned a 5-0 decision.

Another big Japanese fighter out as Ajima (Japan) could not handle Zarinyanís (Russia) speed, technique and power as the Russian never gave an inch despite his inferior weight and was a very deserved 5-0 win for the exceptional Russian as Ajima could not get to grips with his opponent. The very impressive Nanbara (Japan) took on the much heavier and slower Stanislavenko (Russia) in what looked like an ideal fight for the quick and good moving Japanese. The fight ebbed and flowed with both fighters on top, Nanbara then carried out one of his electric bursts with a barrage of punches and kicks, but then completely run out of steam in the last ten or fifteen seconds where the he seemed to stop completely as the Russian attacked him with big low kicks, the judges gave it 3-0 which was very harsh on Nanbara as his late blow out cost him dear. The next fight should have been a last eight match up and not this early as two of the most impressive fighters saw Sarkhosyan (Russia) take on Kapandze (Russia). It is not often Kapanadze gets stalked but Sarkohsyan was the much larger fighter, Kapanadze was fighting the round perfectly moving away and picking his opponent off with punches low kicks and came close with an ushiro mawashi geri. Kapanadze got the flags 2-0 but an extension was called, Kapanadze continued with the same tactic and Sarkhosyan tired and the flags this time were 5-0 to Kapanadze to make the last 16 of the world tournament for the third time in a row. Nakano (USA) had no answer to Sadvokasovís punching power and the Russian dominated throughout and go a no arguments decision 5-0.

Last 16

Arata (Japan) and Akhemdov (Russia) had a war in the first fight of the this round, this was definitely Arataís best performance yet and it needed to be against a very strong Akhmedov who impressed more and more with every fight and his powerful combinations. The first round finished 0-0, the second round was just as close in a ferocious battle with Arata using low kicks much more effectively but with the immovable Akhmedov never backing down and continuing to attack but this time the flags were 1-0 and a encho sen was called. Both fighters refused to back down in the brutal final round and the judges gave it 3-0 to Arata, the fight was very close but in my view there was no way Akhmedov lost. The next fight was Kochnev (Russia) versus Takahashi (Japan) which was a real contrast of styles, the tall Kochnev constantly pressed and almost ran at his opponent where Takahashi was an excellent mover and did his best to avoid the onslaught and pick of Kochnev with low kicks and came close with a roll kick that took Kochnev down and is often given a wazari but Kochnev has a his normal late burst of hiza geriís before the round ended and I fully expected an extension however 5-0 was awarded in Kochnevís favour, maybe to make up for the previous fight who knows but I thought this was harsh on the excellent Takahashi.

Ueda (Japan) and Karpenko (Russia) was a scrappy fight considering these were two technically strong fighters, the first round ended 0-0, and the extension continued to be scrappy and almost bad tempered at times and Karpenko was awarded one flag 1-0 but still not enough so into the encho-sen. A final scrappy round nearly had an ippon as Ueda appeared to land a mae-geri in the face of Karpenko but with not enough power and this might have been enough to save him losing the decision as it was again 1-0 for Karpenko and not enough for the Russian. There was no difference on weight and so to tameshiwari with Ueda breaking 22 boards to Karpenkoís 21, a cruel irony for the Russian who holds the record for most ever boards broken in competition and was the only fighter to lose on boards in the whole event.

Belkhodja (France) versus Ekimov (Russia) looked like there could be a knock out at any moment with the Frenchmanís dangerous hiza geri jodans and the Russians jodan mawashi geris and ushiro mawashi geris and both fighters kept their hands very high during the fight to protect their heads. Belkhodjaís extra power told and in the end his low kick was the best weapon as he advanced by decision 3-0. Damyanov (Bulgaria) versus Mori (Japan) was a huge potential slip for the Bulgarian as Mori had the weight advantage but would he have the strength to withstand Damyanovís attacks. Damyanov fought a very intelligent fight and cut the distance between the two very well and landed some strong knees to the body and strong low kicks, he used his extra weight and strength count to bully Mori and earned the decision 3-0.

Mezentsev (Russia) and Sawamura (Japan) saw the Russian take the fight to Sawamura from the start, Mezentesev had the extra power but also the speed as he hit Sawamura with powerful punch and inside and outside low kick combinations, the first round earned just one flag for the Russian 1-0, but in the extension he continued to dominate and took the extension 3-0. Stanislavenko (Russia) could not to get to grips with the lightening fast but explosive Zarinyan (Russia) and the smaller fighter picked his opponent off expertly as Stanislavenko struggled to hit Zarinyan, net result was the flags for Zarinyan 4-0 and a well deserved place in the last eight.

Two of the best fighters met next as Kapanadze (Russia) and Sadvokasov (Russia) squared off. Kapanadze moved well and threw more low kicks as Sadvokasov concentrated on punches, a tight first round saw two judges give the flags to Kapanadze 2-0, but the crowd held their breath as the favourite could go out but the referee awarded a draw in what could have been a harsh decision on Sadvokasov, in the extension Sadvokasov pressed more and appeared fresher as perhaps Kapanadze tired a little and at the end of the round Sadvokasov took the decision 5-0, again a travesty that two of the best fighters in the completion should meet at this stage.

Quarter Finals

Arata (Japan) and Kochnev (Russia) was another scrappy affair, Kochnev continued to use his height and knees well and Arata stuck to using low kicks which were causing damage to the Russianís legs, a draw was given after the first round as 1-0 in Kochnevís favour which was the same result as the second round 1-0 for the Russian and am encho sen. More of the same ensued with both fighters showing good fitness in a frenetic end as they tried to get the decision and another 1-0 in Kochnevís favour. As the fighters headed for the scales most of us were aware Kochnev would advance on weight and the envitable was advanced as the Russian advanced on weight albeit having had taken a fair amount of punishment.

Ueda (Japan) had nothing in the tank after his fight with Karpenko and Belkhodja (France) took full advantage and a low kick downed him for ippon early on to put the Belkhodja in the semi final. Damyanov (Bulgaria) used his intelligence once again against the quicker and younger Mezentsev (Russia) and used his powerful low kicks to slow the Russian down, Mezentsev never back down but was protecting his leg which Damyanov was landing a number of well timed low kicks. Damyanovís extra strength and weight was again key and he took the decision 4-0. Zarinyan (Russia) never backed down against Savokaskov (Russia) his larger opponents extra power, Zarinyan moved well but still at times stood toe to toe and traded blows and a draw was awarded after the first round, Sadvokasov gradually got on top and started to land some strong low kicks as well and took the decision 5-0.

Semi Finals

Belkhodja (France) and his team had witnessed the previous fights of Kochnev (Russia) and Belkhodja fought a clever fight, continually using low kicks but throwing in the odd hiza geri jodan, the net result was Belkhodja controlled the fight as it proved won fight too far for Kochnev and 4-0 was awarded for the Frenchman. Damyanov (Bulgaria) and Sadvokasov (Russia) had the prospect of a mouth watering clash, despite being the lighter of the two by early 10kg Sadvoaskov pressed and pushed forward and concentrated on mainly on punches, Damyanov moved well and used inside low kicks brilliantly to put Sadvokasov off balance and hiza geris to the body inflict damage and came close with hiza geri jodans, then with not even a minute on the clock Damyanov threw a jodan mawashi geri over the top of Sadvokasovís guard that the Russian lost track of and it hit the back of his head as he turned away, Sadvokasov fell on the floor and tried to get up for just a wazari but was stumbling and an ippon was awarded. So with a combined twenty seven out of thirty two fighters being either Russian or Japanese the final would be an all European affair.

Third / Fourth Place fight off

Huge credit to both fighters for really going for it in the third place fight off as Sadvokasov (Russia) and Kochnev clashed, Sadvokasov used low kicks much more against the battle weary Kochnev but Kochnev nearly inflicted a second ippon on Sadvokasov with a hiza geri jodan, Kochnev then received a genten ichi warning which was enough for Sadvokasov to clinch third place.

Final

Former champion and Kyokushin legend Filho stepped up to referee the final with Damyanov (Bulgaria) and Belkhodja (France). Damyanov again used his low kicks well and looked the fresher of the two fighters and came close with a couple of jodan mawashi geris. Belkhodja refused to give up despite being hit with a barrage of low kicks and came close with his trade mark jodan hiza geri, Damyanov however pressed very well and bullied his opponent and drove him back to an almost standstill with his powerful low kicks, absolutely no arguments with the decision as Damyanov took the flags 5-0 to become the become World Champion.

 

My final thoughts on the event is there is absolutely no argument with winner or even finalists for that matter, the right person won and a very deserved victory for the excellent Damyanov. The judging was in general fair as I had hoped however a number of fighters did not get the draw they deserved and the last eight could and should have been different in my view. Sarkhosyan is the reigning Russian Heavyweight Champion plus the All Russian (including IFK Shin, Kan) Openweight champion, third in American Open. Kapanadze was third in the World Tournament four years ago, since then was second in the World Weight Tournament, reached the All Japan final, twice an American Open finalist and won the Russian heavyweight championships twice but somehow these two met in the last 32. The winner had to then take on pre tournament favourite Sadvokasov and so only one of these three extremely strong fighters could be in the top eight, this was a grave error on the draw in my view. The same could be said with the potential match up that never happened of Yeremenko versus Mezentesev to meet in the last 32, again two of the top fighters in the world could have met at an early stage but in the end Yeremenko exited via a poor genten ichi so this never happened. However this did not detract from the overall quality and excitement of what was a great event and I thoroughly look forward to the next one in four years.