Kaew Weerasaklek put his K-1 super lightweight belt on the line at the Ryogoku Kokugikan on Sunday. The bout with Rukiya Anpo could not have been closer with the Japanese challenger ultimately winning by decision after an extra round.

Kaew needs no introduction after well over a hundred fights in his career and a multitude of titles ranging from Lumpinee and Thailand belts to WBC and WPMF titles. In November he won the K-1 <65kgs tournament and that title was on the line in Tokyo.

Rukiya was something of a child prodigy and competed in Kyokushin Karate, before switching over to kickboxing. He is seen as a future star of the Japanese fight scene  and this was his second fight against a Thai opponent after Kaew’s stablemate Gonnapar beat him by second round KO.

Height advantage

It was apparent from the off that Kaew’s biggest difficulty in the fight would be dealing with the 10cm height advantage of Rukiya and the young Japanese fighter looked to utilize his range and movement from the off. He used the ring effectively to avoid the oncoming Thai fighter while firing in fast kicks.

Rukiya looked a little tentative at first, but kept firing in snappy body kicks and went close to catching Kaew with a couple of heavy looking overhand lefts. The champion kept moving forwards throughout, but was economical with his attacks in the opening round, aside from a few solid kicks.

With a minute left in the round Rukiya started to switch in and out of southpaw and orthodox, but this saw Kaew get his first hard shots off, knocking Rukiya off balance with a hard straight left and then following in with a fast high kick.

The Thai landed with another heavy left near then end of the round while Rukiya went close with a high knee. In the second stanza the challenger made a strong start firing in fast, snappy body kicks until Kaew started to find his range again with some heavy looking punches.

Resounding crack

Rukiya went close with a sharp spinning back kick, before landing with a hard straight left and solid follow in kick. With 45 seconds left Rukiya landed with the shot of the round, a fast high kick that landed with a resounding crack, there can’t have been too much power behind it though as Kaew looked unfazed. The referee had to warn both about too much clinching just before the bell.

In the third round Kaew started well, sending Rukiya stumbling back into a corner after a fast left and then dramatically launching through the air and catching Rukiya with a knee to the face, but like the Japanese fighter’s high kick in the previous round it didn’t seem to have much effect.

Rukiya started to up the pace in the second half of the round, planting his feet and attacking Kaew with heavy punches, while Kaew countered back throughout with hard knees. The Thai took a warning near the end for holding the neck of Rukiya too much and at the end of the three rounds the fight went to the scorecards.

Kaew was warned near the end for holding the neck of Rukiya too much and the fight went to the scorecards. The ringside judges couldn’t separate the two so an extra round was required to determine whether the title changed hands.

Unsatisfactory ending

The fourth followed a similar pattern to the earlier rounds with nether fighter opening up too much. The decisive moment of the fight though came when Kaew had a point deducted for holding and kneeing.

This effectively put the fight out of his reach and Rukiya was awarded a decision win at the end. At a press conference afterwards the newly crowned champion requested a rematch, and an opportunity to beat Kaew in more emphatic style.

The event also featured a super bantamweight tournament which was won by Yoshiki Takei who finished all four of his opponents to claim the title.

K-1 World Grand Prix, Tokyo, June 30th
Yoshiki Takei def. Masashi Kumura via KO in Round 2 (Wins Super Bantamweight Tournament)
Rukiya Anpo def. Kaew Weerasakreck via Decision (Unanimous) (Wins Super Lightweight Title)
Yuta Murakoshi def. Huo Xiaolong via Decision (Unanimous)
Kimura Minoru def. Cruz Briggs via KO in Round 1
Daizo Sasaki def. Fukashi via TKO in Round 3
Haruma Saikyo def. Jorge Varela via KO in Round 3 (Super Bantamweight Tournament 1/2 Final)
Yoshiki Takei def. Shuhei Kumura via KO in Round 1 (Super Bantamweight Tournament 1/2 Final)
Masashi Kumura def. Samvel Babayan via Decision (Unanimous)
Tatsuya Oiwa def. Ryusei Ashizawa via Decision (Unanimous)
Pettas Leona def. Kosuke Komiyama via KO in Round 2
Fumiya Osawa def. Yuzuki Satomi via Decision (Unanimous)
Kaito Ozawa def. Takahiro via Decision (Unanimous) (Super Bantamweight Tournament 1/4 Final)
Shuhei Kumura def. Sadegh Hashemi via KO in Round 3 (Super Bantamweight Tournament 1/4 Final)
Yoshiki Takei def. Alex Rivas via KO in Round 1 (Super Bantamweight Tournament 1/4 Final)
Samvel Babayan def. Akira Takashi via Decision (Majority) (Super Bantamweight Tournament 1/4 Final)
Masashi Kumura def. Phetphangan Mor.Rattanabandit via KO in Round 1 (Super Bantamweight Tournament Reserve Fight)
Yuta Hayashi def. Takaya Ogura via KO in Round 1
Hikaru Terashima def. Jinya via KO in Round 1
Kazuma Takuda def. Kazuki Fujita via Decision (Unanimous)