Once again, the UFC has made its presence known in the land of the rising sun. September 23rd, 2017 brought us UFC Fight Night Japan and they delivered an excellent show. When the UFC is in town there is a special kind of buzz in the air amongst MMA fans in Japan. In Japan, the UFC is looked at like it is the Mecca of Mixed Martial Arts. Many fighters start their careers with the UFC in mind as their measurement of success.
It’s interesting because back in the early 2000s it was the UFC that purchased the Pride promotion and absorbed all their top fighters. Japan was on top of the world in MMA until that point but then was forced off the international stage for a few years as the UFC grew exponentially. There were still other promotions in Japan that were going strong, but there was no easy way for non-Japanese speakers to get information on the fighters or to watch the local Japanese events. There was information online, but you never really knew how accurate it was. It was the dark times.
This all changed back in 2015 when the UFC decided to revamp their UFC FIght Pass Service. Before that time, you had to pay for every individual fight that you wanted to watch on UFC Fight Pass. They decided to go to the format they have today and started to acquire fight libraries from past events from other promotions in addition to all their Pride tapes that they received when they bought the promotion. The UFC set out to create the biggest fight library on earth in addition to a streaming service that would allow any fight fan to watch fights from anywhere in the world. It would change the face of fandom and ensure that no fan would be left out.
If you were here in Japan on Sept 23rd and you are an MMA fan there was no doubt you knew the UFC was in town for an event. The UFC packed the card with UFC stars from America as well as giving local promotions like Pancrase, Deep, Shooto, and Glory Kickboxing the chance to display their top stars as well. The Japanese fans love this mixed promotion idea. They eat it up like candy. The old days of the subdued Japanese crowds quietly sitting there and golf clapping are over. The fans these days are well versed in the MMA game and they have their local favorites to root for.
The first fight of the evening was Welterweight: Daichi Abe vs. Hyun Gyu Lim. Both fighters came into the fight looking strong. You have to remember they did the official weigh-ins 2 days before the actual fight. Both fighters had 2 days to rehydrate and fill back out. Hyun Gyu Lim MMA Record: 13-7-1 (Win-Loss-Draw), was very clearly the bigger of the 2 warriors. He clearly took advantage of the 2 days to get back to normal. He came into the fight having a 2 fight losing streak.
Daiichi Abe was his opponent and was making his UFC debut. Abe has a huge fan following here in Japan. He is was the Japanese fans consider Judo Elite. He has many medals from competition in Judo all over the world. His MMA Record is also very impressive. He had not yet tasted the bitterness of defeat in the cage with an MMA Record: 5-0-0 (Win-Loss-Draw). This time around would not be any different. Abe moved his winning streak to 6 fights.
This fight came down to the last 25 seconds of round 3. The first two rounds was a barrage of back and forth and some significant overhands from Lim. You could see some damage on Abe’s face going into the final round. One the thing that no one saw coming unless they have followed Abe’s career in MMA and in Judo was this guy has no quit in him. He went into the final round strong and in the last 25 seconds, he lands a takedown on Lim and then seconds later a devastating right hook that shattered Lim’s nose. This was enough for the judges. Abe walks out of the cage with the win moving his winning streak to 6 fights.
Another Pancrase fighter also made her UFC debut on this card. We are talking about Syuri Kondo MMA Record: 5-0-0 (Win-Loss-Draw). She is fighting out of Vos Gym in Minato-Ku, Tokyo. She is no stranger to the cage or the ring. Syuri has had an amazing career in fighting sports and has many followers and fans in Japan. She started out as a model and singer early in her career. She released some albums and some singles in Japanese pop. Later on, she went on to become a famous Professional Wrestler under the name KG (Karate Girl). This was due to her background in Karate training. That was not all she also went on to become the Krush Women’s Kickboxing champion and Pancrase Straw Weight Division Queen of Pancrase. In addition to these feats of athletic prowess she also has competed in Shoot Boxing.
In Syuri Kondo’s debut fight in the UFC, she was taking on South Korean Warrior, Chan-Mi Jeon. Chan-Mi Jeon has an MMA Record: 5-1-0 (Win-Loss-Draw). She has a Muay Thai background and fights out of Kukje Gym/Ryeong Promotions, in Seoul, South Korea. This was Jeon’s second time in the UFC Octagon. Her first time was when she fought against American, J.J.Aldrich, losing to a Unanimous decision after 3 rounds in UFC FIght Night 110: Lewis Vs Hunt. It goes without saying that she went into this fight hungry for a win. Unfortunately for her, her hairstyle may have played a part in her defeat, much like it did for Kimo in Kimo vs Royce Gracie in UFC 3.
This fight went by the book. Syuri kept pushing the pace and moving forward. Syuri has that strong kickboxer karate style front kick that she uses to set up her Left jab to overhand right combo that has served her very well. This was the same weapon that she used to dismantle Jeon during this match. Jeon was fighting back and landing shots in the meantime, but she was moving backward when she should have been cutting the cage left or right and countering.
During the fight, you could see that the ponytail that Jeon was sporting was either getting grabbed by Kondo or getting stuck on her glove. Regardless, it looked like it was causing her to have a disadvantage. It is something she may want re-think in the future. In the end, the Judges had to make a decision on who would be the winner and it went to Syuri Kondo. This marked a successful debut for the much-accomplished fighter. Welcome to one of the toughest Straw Weight Divisions in the world, Syuri. This division has Joanna Jędrzejczyk, Rose Namajunas, and Jéssica Andrade just to mention a few. There will be some excellent future fights in this division for sure.
Still in the undercard and the fights that we had seen up to this point were very decisive. It was turning out to be a very good card for Japan fans that came out to the event. The next fight that we want to highlight is the Jussier Formiga vs. Ulka Sasaki. Both of these fighters have long MMA records. Physically the two could not be much more different. Of course in the weight catagory, they were in the Fly Weight division. Heightwise Sasaki came in with a 5-inch height difference over Formiga. This did nothing to slow down Formiga, though. During round one he took a couple of hard body kicks before shooting in and taking the back of Sasaki. Sakaki in his won right is an accomplished grappler. He as many RNC submissions under his belt. But this did not save him from Formiga. Formiga strapped on a body triangle and secured an RNC on Sasaki that was very tight forcing Sasaki to tap and giving the win to Formiga.
The Co-Main event of the evening was, in our opinion, the best fight on the card. It was the most exciting fight and the bloodiest fight to say the least. You have two warriors that were in beast mode throughout the entire match. No one was giving an inch in the octagon. This fight was the all-out war between Cláudia Gadelha vs. Jéssica Andrade.
The rivalry between these two started out long before they stepped into the cage. Jéssica Andrade made some statements, that we will paraphrase here, to indicate that Cláudia Gadelha was no longer considered a Brazilian in her home country. This is because they say she abandoned Brazil to go train in the United States. For a prideful, Brazilian this kind of criticism is very painful and is not taken lightly! Jéssica Andrade was determined to beat the breaks off of Cláudia Gadelha. In addition to this war of words, both of these fighters fell prey to one of the toughest female Straw Weight fighters and possibly the Pound for Pound best female fighter in the world, Joanna Jędrzejczyk just 2 months apart from each other. For either of them to even be considered for a rematch they would have to beat the other.
The Cláudia Gadelha vs. Jéssica Andrade match was the best fight of the evening. Both fighters were in there to win a decisive decision. During the fight, they showed extensive boxing skills and ring control. In round one, Cláudia Gadelha came out and looked very strong. She was landing significant punches and seemed to be controlling the pace of the fight. After round one her lack of a gas tank seemed to kick in and she started to take one serious damage. Jéssica Andrade saw this crack in the armor and started to take advantage. She delivered body slams and followed up those with punches to the body and head. This caused severe bleeding from the head and face of Cláudia Gadelha, but she did not give up. In fact, she tried to sink in a few guillotine chokes but all that blood and sweat made it easy for Andrade to pop out. In the end that was enough for the judges to give Jéssica Andrade the win for such a spectacular performance.
Finally, the main event of the evening was upon us. This was originally A light heavyweight rematch between former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Maurício “Shogun” Rua and Ovince Saint Preux (OSP) but was changed at the last minute due to Shogun getting injured in training. Fortunately for us, Yushin Okami stepped up and accepted the fight with OSP oin extremely short notice.
Yushin Okami was a UFC fighter 4 years ago, but was released and had returned to Japan. This was his chance to save the day, step into the main event and get the UFC to reconsider him for more fights. However it was not to come to pass. In the first round, Okami shot in and tried to do a takedown on OSP immediately without really setting it up. OSP saw it coming stuffed the takedown and took top position on the ground. OSP feined like he was going to pass Okami’s guard and the moment Okami got an overhook on OSP’s head, OSP sank in a Von Flue shoulder choke. Okami was rendered unconcious and the win went to OSP. In the history of the UFC there are only 4 wins by Von Flue Choke. OSP has 3 of them.
As always MMA Japan is committed to bringing you the finest in JMMA reporting in English. Follow @mmajpn1 on Twitter to follow live tweets from the events in Japan as they happen. You can also see behind the scenes videos and photos from the events.
We would like to thank Tadashi Wellington for providing most of the photos used in this story.
Ovince Saint Preux Beats Yushin Okami via submission (Von Flue choke) (R1, 1:50)
Jessica Andrade Beats Claudia Gadelha (30-25, 30-26, 30-27)
Dong Hyun Kim Beats Takanori Gomi via first-round TKO (1:30)
Gokhan Saki Beats Henrique da Silva via first-round KO (4:45)
Teruto Ishihara Beats Rolando Dy via unanimous decision (28-27 x2, 29-27)
Jussier Formiga Beats Ulka Sasaki via submission (rear-naked choke) at 4:30 of R1
Keita Nakamura Beats Alex Morono via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
Syuri Kondo Beats Chan-Mi Jeon via split decision (28-29, 30-27, 30-27)
Shinsho Anzai Beats Luke Jumeau via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)
Daichi Abe Beats Hyun Gyu Lim via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)