Last night saw Deep’s final event of the Heisei period showcase some of the best talent in its roster, with JMMA legend Ryuta Sakurai putting in a brave attempt to roll back the years in a middleweight main event against fellow top veteran Tatsuya Mizuno at Tokyo’s Korakuen Hall.
The 15-year Deep veteran who had his first foray into pro MMA way back in 1996 had some success in the opening round, following up a heavy early exchange with takedown from the clinch where he remained in side and half guard for much of the first five minutes, landing knees to the body whilst Mizuno threatened with an armlock from the bottom. With a few moments remaining, Sakurai stood to land some heavier ground and pound but found himself defending as Mizuno took a leg and was fishing for a submission as the bell chimed.
The second stanza started in similar fashion, with Sakurai putting on the pressure and getting a takedown against the cage, but this time Mizuno used the armlock to greater effect, quickly reversing position and taking the back. From there the Road FC, One Championship and Dream standout worked patiently, ending an intriguing wrist battle to take the rear-naked choke victory at 1:43 of the second round.
In the co-main event were two fighters in Takafumi Otsuka and Seiji Akao that are currently at the peak of their powers. Rebounding from a third round TKO loss to Victor Henry in his last outing, Otsuka relied on superb clinch control and a suffocating positioning game to take every round by unanimous decision against a very game and always competitive Akao, who will see several close scrambles as the moments where he lost the fight against one of the bantamweight division’s top wrestlers.
Before that, Road to UFC’s DJ Taiki and Deep mainstay Koichi Ishizuka played out an exciting three round match where the two took turns to stalk each other down, throwing crisp low kicks and combinations that would have looked even more impressive had they not both once again displayed incredible resilience and refusal to acknowledge each other’s strikes. In the wrestling and grappling exchanges, neither fighter was able to hold an advantage for long, and in the end DJ took the unanimous decision by putting on more consistent pressure and landing the cleaner strikes in a very close fight.
In the evening’s sixth bout, the audience was robbed of what was shaping up to be a classic clash of styles in the lightweight division, as rangy striker Juri Ohara used his length and accuracy against a powerful Tatsunao Nagakura who was able to make his opponent pay regularly as he stepped inside and took advantage of the gaps left by Ohara’s all-action offensive style. Unfortunately, the doctor was forced to step in and stop the fight due to a cut on the forehead of a clearly disappointed Nagakura midway through the first round.
‘Dark’ Rikuto Shirakawa took a unanimous decision from former title contender Toshiaki Kitada in a largely uneventful bantamweight tilt, where Kitada seemed content to control the action against the cage, never quite committing to his various takedown attempts enough to put a major stamp on the fight. In the end, Shirakawa did enough damage in his brief moments of superiority to persuade the judges to score the fight in his favour.
The fourth match on the card had a much more decisive outcome, with Yoichiro Sato ending Korean export Baek Seung Dae’s night just 27 seconds into their lightweight bout. Both fighters came out all guns blazing, and after landing the first clean shot and wobbling his opponent, Sato followed with a clean right hand that sent him to the canvas. The referee was quick to intervene and save Dae from any more punishment.
Yamato Fujita also made short work of his opponent Hidemasa Soga in the flyweight division, reversing an early takedown attempt and taking a cinching in a tight rear-naked choke at 1:50 of the first round.
The night’s only draw was probably a fair result, for Tomohiro Adaniya and Chikara Shimabukuro, in a fight which Adaniya came closest to finishing with a first round rear-naked choke and a guillotine in the closing seconds, but also was on the receiving end of the only knockdown in a pressure-filled back and forth match that took place primarily in the clinch, with some exciting exchanges on the feet interspersed with the cage-work.
In the first fight of the evening, Tsudanuma Dojo’s Naoto Miyazaki softened up Yoshihiko Shinzato with kicks before getting an early takedown and adding ground and pound on the way to a textbook rear-naked choke at 1:29 of the first round.
MW – Tatsuya Mizuno def. Ryota Sakurai by sub. (RNC) 2R 1:43
BW – Takafumi Otsuka def. Seiji Akao by dec. (3-0) 3R 5:00
LW – Juri Ohara def. Tatsunao Nagakura by TKO (cut) 1R
BW – Rikuto Shirakawa def. Toshiaki Kitada by dec. (3-0) 3R 5:00
WW – Yoichiro Sato def. Seung Dae Baek by KO (punch) 1R 0:27
FW – Yamato Fujita def. Hidemasa Soga by sub (RNC) 1R 1:50
BW – Daiki Hata def. Koichi Ishizuka by dec. (3-0) 3R 5:00
FW – Tomohiro Adaniya drew/w Chikara Shimabukuro (1-0) 2R 5:00
LW – Naoto Miyazaki def. Yoshihiko Shinzato by sub. (RNC) 1R 1:29 on