This is an article originally written by Mark Chinnery and used with his permission.
The first Shooto card on UFC Fight Pass for 2018 is now over and what a night of upsets! In the awards ceremony prior to Professional Shooto 1.28, Shoko Sato was presented with the MVP award for 2017 for his outstanding 5-0-1 record, securing the World Bantamweight title in the process while the Most Impressive Player (MIP) award went to Uoi Fullswing for a pair of devastating knockouts and extending his 9-match unbeaten run. Little did the crowd know but both fighters would meet their comeuppance. The Kiss of Death maybe, but before I get into that, let’s get to the summaries of each bout as follows (in chronological order). I was joined in the commentary box by the legendary Enson Inoue & renown UFC interpreter Mizuka Koike.
Card is as follows:
★ Tsubasa Saito (齋藤翼) vs. Yoshiteru Kubomura (久保村ヨシTERU)
2 x 5 min rounds
This fight set the tone for the night. With Saito riding on the crest of a wave with 3 straight wins, he would have been expected to make light work of Kubomura who had lost 3 of his 4 to start off his pro career, however it was not to be. Midway through the 1st round, the gangly Kubomura leapt on Saito’s back, piggyback style and whilst he didn’t do much with it, he never gave up his advantage. And this is where Saito won over the fans. Realizing he had lost the 1st round, he came out swinging in an attempt to garner a 10-8 round, rather than go into his shell and settle for a draw. As soon as he looked like he was about to be tied up, he would wriggle free and bomb away. Unfortunately for Saito, one judge agreed in his favor but he wasn’t able to convince the other two judges. A match belying the result. Majority draw 1-0(19-18/19-19/19-19.
★Junji Sarumaru (猿丸 ジュンジ) vs. Itchaku Murata (村田 一着)
3 x 5 min rounds Title Eliminator
Poor old, Sarumaru, he can’t take a trick! This was his 5th attempt to get his hands on some silverware and once again he fell short in dramatic fashion. Sarumaru landed a right hook that floored Murata but on the precipice of victory, Sarumaru moved in for the kill with Murata looking worse for wear. However, Murata was able to land a right knee to his opponent’s chin that stopped his forward movement. Murata was desperate and started swinging with lefts and rights, more for survival than anything else but he lucked in, as they landed flush on Sarumaru’s jaw and as he fell to the canvas, Murata followed up with more blows before the referee stepped in. Huge come from behind victory by the 45yr old Murata which sets him up for a shot at the title. Where to from here for Sarumaru?
★ Taiki Tsuchiya (土屋大喜) vs. Tatsuya Ando (安藤達也)
3 x 5 min rounds
Despite his injury layoff, Tsuchiya started out brightly enough, attempting to maintain the distance out of harm’s reach of Ando’s power punches while making the brief foray & scoring on right kicks. However, Ando succeeded in a single leg takedown and maintained dominant position to end R1. R2 starts in a similar vein, with Tsuchiya scoring at a distance before Ando secures a takedown and as they trade top position, Ando closes the round pounding at will with Tsuchiya a whisker away from the ref stepping in. R3, and Tsuchiya needs a miracle but it is Ando who presses forward, knocking his opponent to the canvas & after landing some significant blows on the ground, Ando attempts a choke which Tsuchiya barely fights off. A lopsided win for Ando in the end. Unanimous Decision (28-30, 27-30, 27-30).
★ Shoko Sato (佐藤将光) vs Yo Saito (齊藤 曜)
3 x 5min rounds
Each round was a mirror of the other. Saito obviously worked out a formula to defeat the champ & it worked to a tee. This is the 1st time I have seen Sato left utterly helpless & unable to conjure up a tactic to stem the tide. A frustrating night for the MVP as he was outmaneuvered all night. Saito saw his road to victory lay in backing Sato up against the mesh and taking him down. With his back against the fence, Sato made feeble attempts to stand but Saito had complete control of his legs while continuing to pound away. Saito attempted his trademark guillotine choke but Sato escaped unperturbed. Ditto R2 but this time Saito sinks the choke a little deeper. Sato is gone for all money but he somehow conjures up a way to squirm his way out ala Harry Houdini. It is a minor victory in the bigger battle as Sato is way behind on the score sheets. Expectations were high that the champ would right the sinking ship come R3 but it wasn’t to be. Push the replay button as Sato is sitting up against the fence once again, Saito swarming all over him & finishing up with Sato fighting off a guillotine choke, Alas, no last hurrah for the champion and the crowd left stunned by the ease of victory. Unanimous decision (27-30, 27-30, 27-30)
★ Koshi Matsumoto (松本光史) vs Daisuke Hoshino (星野大介)
3 x 5min rounds
Another bout featuring a champion with everything to lose and nothing to gain. Matsumoto put pay to the momentum from the previous bout as he attacked from the outset. After a largely feeling out round in R1, Matsumoto continued to press forward and was rewarded as two right hooks landed on the mark, opening the door for Matsumoto to takedown his opponent and pound away. Hoshino was able to get back to his feet but it was a brief hurrah as Matsumoto was able to take his opponent’s back again & drag him to the ground. R3 & Matsumoto continues to march forward, once again taking down his foe midway through the round, only for Hoshino to once again gain his feet. But the tone had already been set, Hoshino seemingly waiting for the perfect counter with a fist cocked but seldom thrown. Meanwhile, the champ exerted pressure all night and was justly awarded a unanimous decision, (30-28, 29-28, 30-27).
★ Yosuke Saruta (猿田洋佑) vs Kiyotaka Shimizu (清水清隆)
3 x 5min rounds
Both fighters were like Energizer bunnies all fight – the action non-stop and neither tired. Alas, despite the intensive energy, both fighters tended to cancel each other throughout with Saruta constantly shooting for the takedown while Shimizu showed exceptional lower body strength in largely staving off his persistent opponent or so it was for R1. R2 and Saruta finally secured a takedown but Shimizu’s agility saw them back on their feet and just as Shimizu seemed to be gaining his rhythm with a series of unanswered lefts and a right low kick, Saruta charged forward like a bull in a china shop, tackling Shimizu and holding him down against the fence. R3 and once again, Shimizu showed glimpses with another combination but Saruta continued to lurch forward and attempt tackle after tackle, only to be frustrated by Shimizu’s defense once again. Offensive prowess vs. Defensive resilience – the judges were left with only one choice, despite Shimizu’s obvious disappointment. Unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-28)
★Takumi Tamaru (田丸 匠) vs. Riley Dutro (ライリー・ドゥトロ)
3 x 5min rounds
Ouch! Oh no! Tamaru starts off brightly enough with a pair of kicks, but Dutro grabs the leg, forcing Tamaru down & Tamaru responds with a leg lock. Dutro escapes easily enough & after standing, this time it is Tamaru’s turn to grab the kicking leg & execute a takedown. But it was Dutro who seized the initiative as he grabbed Tamaru’s head & let fly with a flurry of vicious punches, forcing Tamaru to stand again. Out of desperation, Tamaru attempts another takedown but comes up empty & Dutro backs Tamaru up against the fence, unleashing a series of heavy rights to the face of his opponent. Dutro follows Tamaru to the ground & pounds at will. Knowing the kid is tough, the referee let it go on for a little longer than usual these days but there was no let up, & it was all over. Devastating 1st loss for Tamaru & it will be interesting to see how he comes back from that. Where to from here for Dutro? Title shot perhaps?
★Uoi Fullswing (魚井フルスイング) vs. Kazuma Sone (祖根寿麻) 3 x 5 min rounds
Pacific Rim Bantamweight Championship Bout
As his name suggests, Fullswing is renowned for his roundhouse rights but unfortunately for him, they seldom landed on this night and if they did, they barely grazed Sone & with no follow up, Sone was able to account for himself easily. What Fullswing isn’t known for is his strength in the tackle & as Sone tried to execute a takedown in R1, Fullswing was able to withstand the pressure, standing largely on one leg. After a listless R2 which Fullswing may have marginally had the upper hand, it was all or nothing heading into the final round. Fullswing came out swinging but by this stage, Sone had more fear of catching a cold from the draft than worrying about them landing. As the fight wore on, Sone was better able to read Fullswing’s tactics and instead, Sone started to come on strong as he landed a right blow and was able to takedown Fullswing to close out the bout. Sone did just enough to persuade the judges, squeaking by in a majority decision 0-2 (28-29, 30-30, 28-29) to earn himself the Pacific Rim Bantamweight crown.
Well, there it is, another great night of Shooto with upsets aplenty, shaking up the Shooto hierarchy in this, the first card for 2018. What does the rest of 2018 have in store? Be sure to check into UFC Fight Pass on March 25 for the next exciting episode.