*This article was written by Mark Chinnery and used with his permission.
Wow, what a night! Controversy, underdog victories, last ditch heroics – damn, even the draws had something to offer and since when can you say that! An amazing night of action at Professional Shooto 7.15 so let’s not waste any more time & get down to it.
Card is as follows (in chronological order):
★Takeshi Kunito (國頭武) vs. Shohei Nose (野瀬 翔平)
For a pro-debutant, Nose was a million dollars in R1. After an exchange of blows, Nose successfully took Kunito down but he didn’t just “lie there” so to speak. Aggressive from the start, he attempted a series of ankle locks, arm bars & choke holds that left Kunito defending for most of the round. Enter R2, & it was looking like a forlorn conclusion when Nose took his opponent down again & attempted a guillotine choke but Kunito was able to escape out the backdoor. From there, the winds of change took over & Kunito mounted his offensive. With both fighters back on their feet, Kunito executed his own takedown, culminating in an attempted choke from behind & it was Nose left to fend off his opponent through to the end of the round. Nose seemed bitterly disappointed in himself by the draw but, while it wasn’t a win, congratulations to Kunito for averting the dreaded “x” next to his name.
(19-19, 19-19, 19-19)
★ Takanori Takahashi (高橋 孝徳) vs. Daiki Yuki (結城 大樹)
Took a similar course to the previous fight. It was no surprise to see Yuki attempting to bring the fight to the ground but, in fact, after an earlier Yuki attempt had failed, it was Takahashi that initiated it when he caught the leg of Yuki on an attempted kick. In the ensuing struggle, Yuki gained the ascendancy, moving to Takahashi’s back and there the round ended, with Takahashi in defensive mode. R2, & it was more of the same, Yuki attempting to take it to the ground & Takahashi fighting him off valiantly, and ¾ through the round, it appeared Yuki had done enough, having taken R1. But, with a little more than 1min on the clock & both fighters on their feet, it was Takahashi who threw his opponent to the canvas. He then scored points by grafting away as Yuki tired. Yuki tried to scramble to his feet on two occasions in the last 10secs but Takahashi slung him down each time and it may have been this last hurrah that saved Takahashi’s bacon as this fight, too, ground down to a draw (19-19, 19-19, 19-19).
★ Yohei Komaki (小巻洋平) vs.Jo Arai (新井丈)
Top versus bottom in the Infinity League 2018 and that is how it panned out. Straight from the get-go, Komaki pushes Arai up to the fence, takes his back and lands a rear-naked choke from the standing position. Arai tries to slink to the ground to avoid the hold but it is hooked in deep & Arai taps 1min20secs into R1. Komaki totally dominant.
★ Takamasa Kiuchi (木内崇雅) vs. Ryosuke Honda (本田良介)
Kiuchi is like a fish out of water when standing but on the ground, he has all sorts of weapons on which to draw from, which makes it all the more surprising when both fighters trade blows on their feet early in R1. Honda manages a takedown on the back of a Kiuchi slip but the referee breaks them up when no further action prevails. Kiuchi is slow and cumbersome with his looping punches, & Honda starts to find the range with his counter punching, landing some solid blows throughout the round. But with 1½ mins left on the clock, Kiuchi snaffles his opponent & works his magic from underneath, moving from arm bar to triangle choke & back to arm lock before time beats them both. R2 is punctuated with the sharp counter punching of Honda as Kiuchi lumbers in to try & make a fight of it. At one stage, Honda is on top on the ground but it is Kiuchi who tries to stand as he knows he is well down on the scorecards. However, it is business as usual as Honda continues to pick off his opponent. Toward the end of the round, Honda attempts to hip throw Kiuchi while up against the fence and as Kiuchi resists, Honda has one free arm to pound Kiuchi at will. Ditto till the end of the round. Thoroughly deserved victory by Honda who would have to rank as an underdog based on experience alone.
Majority decision (18-20, 19-19, 18-20)
★ Ryoji Kudo (工藤諒司) vs. Satoshi Inaba (稲葉 聡)
R1, and whatever Kudo touched turned to gold. Who is the veteran and who is the fledgling here?! It was all out attack from Kudo. Started out with great timing on a tackle, short elbow, punch & knee to the face as Inaba gets to his feet, one-two, counter right, neck throw and Kudo continues to pressure his foe on the ground. Inaba eventually drags himself back up but eats a right elbow and left high kick for his trouble. Takedown, overhand right & another takedown to end an almost perfect round from the 4-match pro. Kudos (no pun intended) to Inaba, though, nose bleed & cut eyelid but he was still in it. R2, and I don’t know what Inaba’s advice was, but he came out flying off the blocks. Flying knees, short elbows, upper cuts and 1-2 combinations had Kudo holding on for dear life. Even when he attempted to rely on his wrestling background & instigate a takedown, he didn’t have enough gas in the tank to even come close. Inaba’s momentum continued to the final bell & it is a shame for him that there wasn’t a R3. Nevertheless, he brought the fight back from the dead & had the crowd on its feet, even though it finished in a draw. (19-19, 19-19, 19-19)
★ Kenji Kato (加藤ケンジ) vs Kunihisa Sasa (笹 晋久)
Both fighters have a propensity to slug it out so expectations were high, but Sasa obviously had a plan. For three rounds, he backed his opponent up against the fence and peppered his opponent from close range, seemingly out of harm’s way from Kato’s dangerous kicking game while scoring with a series of knees, elbows and short-range punches. On another night, Sasa might have been seen as the aggressor with Kato’s back against the fence for a majority of the fight. Instead, Sasa’s loss could be put down to a number of factors: numerous unsuccessful takedown attempts, frequent breaks from the referee when Sasa was in dominant position but not doing anything with it & the glaring pinpoint maneuvers by Kato in each round leaving a favorable impression on the judges: a well-timed takedown in R1, a flash knockdown with two right hooks in R2 & another huge right in R3. This was seemingly enough to persuade the judges as Kato somewhat controversially wins by majority decision.
(30-28, 29-29, 29-28)
★Kiyotaka Shimizu (清水清隆) vs. Nobutaka Naito (内藤頌貴)
With Naito eager to fight in the upper echelons & Shimizu keen to show that his last loss to Yosuke Saruta was just a momentary blip in the juggernaut’s rise, the crowd were licking their lips but both fighters were reluctant to give their opponent even the slightest sniff so, as a result, R1 & R2 were listless to say the least. You could count the scoring shots on one hand – inner low & mid kicks for Naito, right hook & flash takedown for Shimizu. With both fighters being inseparable on the judge’s cards, it came down to R3. The pace picked up marginally with Naito continuing to push forward but never really threatening. Shimizu scored a takedown & was able to land some short arm jabs but Naito regained his feet shortly afterwards. Toward the end of the round, Naito scored a flash takedown of his own but Shimizu bounced back up almost immediately. It was either a Shimizu win or a draw and Shimizu just squeaks by by the barest of margins, though the records will have it as an unanimous decision
(30-29, 30-29, 29-28).
★Yosuke Saruta (猿田 洋祐) vs. Takumi Tamaru (田丸 匠)
The atmosphere was tense, knowing anything could happen & the crowd got behind both fighters. R1, and straight off the bat, Tamaru lands a left high kick which Saruta wades through on the way to tackling his opponent. Tamaru bounces up again & they continue to jockey for position on their feet, Tamaru creating doubt in Saruta’s mind as he constantly changes his stance and moves side to side. But at the 3½ min mark, Tamaru closes the distance, landing a left but Saruta times it perfectly with a counter tackle. Nothing of note scoring until right near the end, with Tamaru getting up off the mat, only to be slung down again.
R2, and Saruta continues to exert pressure, pulling off a tackle almost from the outset but Tamaru up on his feet shortly after. Tamaru maintains the distance, occasionally throwing a left high kick and right hook. Saruta lands some right low kicks of his own before successfully bringing Tamaru to the ground but Saruta doesn’t do much with it on this occasion, the bell signaling the end to the round.
R3, and it is all for Tamaru to do. Saruta continues to pressure Tamaru and when Saruta lands a left hand, followed by a takedown in the middle of the round, there was a feeling that if Saruta could maintain dominant position, the match would be his. However, after absorbing some short arm jabs, Tamaru was able to get up with his back against the fence. Shortly after, Tamaru executes a back spin kick and Saruta catches the lead leg, throwing Tamaru to the canvas & when they get to their feet, it is only then that the crowd realizes that the back spin kick actually hit its mark. Saruta’s right eye swell up to the size of a golf ball, and the doctor was left with no alternative but to stop the fight. An amazing comeback victory for Tamaru and it looks like his career is back on track.
★Shoko Sato (佐藤将光) vs. Tristan Grimsley (トリスタン・グリムズリー)
Sato had the distinct advantage in experience but anything is possible in a title match and after Sato lost lopsidedly to noted grappler Yo Saito last time up, Grimsley must have taken note. But come fight time, Sato was menacing and never looked like losing. Sato backs Grimsley to the fence, executes a leg trip but Grimsley back to his feet. Sato clinches Grimsley again, throwing intermittent heel kicks & knees, before Grimsley is scragged to the ground. Back on his feet soon after, receiving more heel kicks, punches, knees and an elbow as Sato breaks the clinch. Then comes the defining moment. Grimsley offers a lazy front kick which is easily caught by Sato and as both go to the canvas, Sato pounds away with hammerfists & respite is temporary as Grimsley assumes the turtle position. Sato gladly takes Grimsley’s back & pounds away again before both fighters get to their feet. Soon after, Sato rocks Grimsley with a right and knee, and a rush of unanswered punches saw the referee call an early end to the fight.
Amazing night of action!! Be sure to check into UFC Fight Pass on September 23 from Korakuen Hall in downtown Tokyo for the next chapter in Japanese shooto. The card is nothing short of spectacular, with the likes of Uoi Fullswing, Yuta Nezu, Tomoya Hirakawa, Takeshi Lion, Yu Tanaka, Nobumitsu Taison, Keita Ishibashi & TOMA among others.