Shoko Sato last night retained his Shooto bantamweight belt in a thrilling back and forth defence against challenger Yo Saito at Korakuen Hall, Tokyo. In the pre-match video, submission ace Saito declared his intention to take Sato’s ‘neck and belt’ but left with neither as the champion finished him with brutal ground and pound from the back in the fourth round.
The fight started with Saito catching a spin kick and taking the fight to the ground, sticking to the champion like a leech and briefly threatening with his patented guillotine choke, but Sato ended the round comfortably enough despite a positional disadvantage throughout the majority of a grappling heavy opening.
Round two continued in a similar vein, Saito pressuring with standing back and single leg attempts against the cage, eventually dropping into a leglock that Sato defended, ending up in a guard position from which both fighters threatened with subs but had no problem nullifying each other’s attempts.
In round 3 Saito was again the aggressor to begin the round but around the halfway mark Sato found a body-lock takedown that began to sway the fight in his favour, eventually taking mount and then back position and closing out the round by fishing unsuccessfully for the rear-naked choke. He then started the championship rounds by peppering Saito with crisp punches against the cage and once he took the fight to the ground there was an air of inevitability about the finish, as he switched between mount and back position before flattening the challenger out and delivering the decisive ground and pound to end the fight at 3:26.
In the co-main event, Ryo Okada overcame a dogged Nobuki Fujii in a pulsating bantamweight tilt which showcased the best of attacking grappling from both fighters. Round one began with Okada using crisp kicks to offset Fujii’s stalking style, also reversing his attempts to control the fight against the fence and even ending the round in mount position after a late takedown. Rounds two and three consisted of back and forth scrambles and grappling exchanges with each fighter threatening a number of submissions, most notably at the end of round two where it could be argued that Okada would have finished the rear-naked choke given a few more seconds to work. In the end, Okada had more, and better chances and spent more of the fight in control, attributing the unanimous win to his greater ‘love of Shooto’ in his victory speech.
Before that, UFC veteran Naoyuki Kotani treated the audience to a flawless second round, taking down Shutaro ‘Captain Africa’ Debana to the floor and delivering heavy ground and pound before cinching in the fight ending rear-naked choke 51 seconds into the round. The opening stanza had been a different story, with both fighters having their moments in a superb five minutes of action, Kotani threatening with leglocks whilst Captain Africa used his incredible wrestling to match him in the scramble, finishing the round by throwing punishing strikes into Kotani’s open guard.
Go Minamide had no answer to a confident Tatsuya Ando who followed up stiff jabs with beautifully timed one-two combinations and elbows before taking the fight to the ground where he unloaded punches on a turtled Minamide, finally sinking in a tight rear-naked choke for the finish at 4:15 of round one.
In the evening’s two Infinity League Strawweight matchups, Takamasa Kiuchi made short work of 17 year-old prospect Shuto Aki, taking advantage of an ill-advised guillotine choke to pass guard and take his own, decisive guillotine to end the fight at 2:29 of round one, and Junji ‘Sarumaru’ Ito won a clear unanimous technical decision after an accidental but brutal groin kick from his opponent Ryusuke Honda ended the fight 17 seconds into round two. Sarumaru had controlled round one with a suffocating wrestling game.
Earlier, Natural 9 veteran Yoichi Fukumoto beat Yuto ‘Edmond’ Kaneko by split decision in a grueling bout that was occasionally frantic but mostly ground out, with both fighters having plenty of moments across the three rounds. As close as it was, it’s likely that time spent in controlling positions was what swayed the two judges in his favour.
In the second match, surging Korean Won Bin Ki added another solid win to his growing resume, stunning veteran Daisuke Hoshino with a heavy combination before taking him to the mat and working his way to a slick armbar finish at 2:50 of round one, whilst in the opening match Kazuma Kuramoto interspersed heavy ground and pound with no less than four suplexes before the referee called a stop to his bout with Kei Iwaki at 1:44 of the first.
Main event – BW title match – Shoko Sato beat Yo Saito by KO (ground punch) 4R 3:26
Co-main – BW – Ryo Okada beat Nobuki Fujii by UD
Fight 7 – LW – Naoyuki Kotani beat Shutaro Debana by Sub (RNC) 2R 0:51
Fight 6 – BW – Tatsuya Ando beat Go Minamide by Sub (RNC) 1R 4:15
Fight 5 – SW Infinity League – Junji Ito beat Ryusuke Honda by TD (3-0) 2R 0:17
Fight 4 – SW Infinity League – Masataka Kiuchi beat Syuto Aki by Sub (guillotine) 1R 2:29
Fight 3 – LW – Yoichi Fukumoto beat Yuta Kaneko by SD
Fight 2 – LW – Won Bin Ki beat Daisuke Hoshino by Sub (armbar) R1 2:50
Fight 1 – BW – Kazuma Kuramoto beat Kei Iwaki by KO (ground punch) 1R 1:44