*This article was written by Peter Leghorn (firstname.lastname@example.org) and used with his permission. Photography by J. Deschner.
DEEP brought out their top talent on Saturday night for 88th Impact at Korakuen Hall with a stacked card and 3 belts on the line.
The main event of the evening promised excitement as challenger Victor Henry met Yuki Motoya for the DEEP Bantamweight belt and the match definitely lived up to expectations. Henry secured his shot with an impressive 3rd round front kick stoppage of Takefumi Otsuka at DEEP 85 impact and Motoya, fresh of his modified leg scissor “teepee” choke at Rizin 14, has been dominant since going the distance with Kyoji Horiguchi almost 2 years ago. It was one for the history books.
Round 1 saw Motoya, typically a slow starter, play defense as he tried to get a read on Henry’s mix of kicks and punches as the challenger took advantage of Motoya’s high guard to target the body. While most of Henry`s combination attacks were blocked the variation paid off as he started to break through. Motoya was not without success of his own, trading low kicks and looking to find an opening for a counter. A smart change of pace from Henry saw him clinch with underhooks against the fence and take Motoya down with 10 seconds left in the round.
Round 2 saw a vicious soccer kick from Henry floor Motoya as he was getting up, and sensing a finish Henry turned up the intensity, landing blows to the unprotected head of Motoya as he desperately worked for a leg. With the referee poised to step in Motoya managed to weather the storm and shut Henry down long enough to recover. With his senses recovered Motoya made it back to his feet and back in the fight, some dynamic grappling exchanges ensued with both exchanging submission attempts, take downs and reversals. On the feet Motoya was getting through, hurting Henry with his lead hook and later with combinations that staggered the American in the last 10 seconds of a fantastic round
Going into round 3 it was Motoya who looked fresher, first landing left hands then taking it to the ground in Henry`s butterfly guard where he landed hammerfists and some big elbows from top. Transitioning from back to side to mount and repeating against an active Henry, Motoya dominated position and forcing Henry to cover and roll. It was now Henry’s turn to survive. With Motoya landing heavy blows from mount in the final 30 seconds Henry did enough to keep the referee from stepping in and the fight went to the scorecards
In the end the result was a razor thin split decision win for Henry with 3 of the 5 judges scoring in his favor.
The co main event saw champion Haruo Ochi looking to defend his Strawweight title against Namiki Kawahara. From the start of the first round Ochi looked to use his experience to enforce his pressure game closing distance well and having great success in close against the taller Kawahara. Body kicks and knees proved effective for Kawahara but he was spending a lot of time playing defense, pinned against cage defending arm in guillotine chokes or with Ochi glued to his back. Ochi was not giving Kawahara the distance he needed and was wearing him down.
Things changed dramatically in the 3rd round as Kawahara found his timing and landed a thunderous punch that sent Ochi crashing down to the canvas. Kawahara followed up with a barrage of strikes but Ochi, showing the heart and resolve of a champion, held on and secured a crucial take down, dumping Kawahara to the canvas. From there Ochi would transition from back to mount and attempt to close out the fight with a RnC. Kawahara survived and there was little doubt as to the winner. Ochi secured a unanimous decision from all judges to retain the title despite the scare.
Fan favorite Roque Martinez used constant forward pressure and crisp boxing to bring the fight to Ryo Sakai in the evening’s other title match. Roque landed heavy shots on Sakai who spent a lot of his time circling the perimeter of the fence looking for his own big counters. Sakai found some success late in the round when he appeared to hurt Roque, who just smiled even more than usual and called him forward. After some entertaining exchanges a late takedown and some heavy ground and pound from Roque sealed the deal resulting in a referee stoppage at the very end of the first round, Roque retaining his Megaton weight title by TKO.
Koichi Ishizuka out grappled Shoji Maruyama for majority of the 1st round, transitioning through positions to eventually secure mount where he applied constant ground and pound and head and arm choke attempts. Maruyama rebounded in the 2nd, sprawling on the takedown attempts and landing the short, strong strikes he is known for. Just as everything was appearing to go Maruyama`s way out of nowhere Ishizuka launched a devastating right cross for a knock down the durable Shoji could not recover from, a few follow up strikes and referee jumped in with just 1 second left in the round.
Yoshitomo Watanabe was looking for revenge in his rematch against Yuta but it wasn’t meant to be. Yuta established control early putting Yoshitomo back against the cage, an accurate jab getting through and aggression from Yoshitomo being met with takedowns. Yoshitomo was game, escaping and reversing and by the 2nd round was hurting Yuta with strikes but Yuta controlled the majority of the fight and it was enough for 2 of the judges to award him the victory with 1 scoring it a draw.
Yoichiro Sato used technical, accurate striking to best Nao Yoneda`s powerful “swing for the fences” style. Yoneda found success in the 1st with powerful double leg takedowns and heavy shots whilst Sato answered with knees in the clinch and sneaky in pinpoint punches. By the 2nd round a bloodied Yoneda had slowed and Sato largely took over. Sato took the win 20-18, 20-18, 19-19
Makoto Takahashi used strong wrestling and top control to take a unanimous decision win over Chikara Shimabukuri
Clinch control and takedowns from Juri Ohara would wear down a game Ken Hamamura leading to a late finish at 4.55 of round 2. Hamamura gave up back position while trying to escape from mount and Ohara punished him with strikes for the stoppage.
Naoto Ayuta won a clinch war with Yamato Fujita for unanimous decision win, 20-18 from all of the judges.
Kyosuke Yokoyama found victory in take downs, positional dominance and pressure to shut down Taito Kobuta for three 20-18 scores.
Shernand Rachid was under fire standing but took Yuki Ohara down, took his back and scored a knock down from a left hand to leave no doubt in judges mind for a unanimous decision win.
The first match of the evening saw the end come by an unfortunate arm injury to Hiroto Yamaguchi, giving Koya Kanda the TKO win.
Victor Henry def. Yuki Motoya via Split Decision (Bantamweight Title)
Roque Martinez def. Ryo Sakai via TKO (Punches & Elbows) in Round 1 (Megaton Title)
Haruo Ochi def. Namiki Kawahara via Unanimous Decision (Strawweight Title)
Koichi Ishizuka def. Shoji Maruyama via KO (Punch) in Round 2
Yuta Watanabe def. Yoshitomo Watanabe via Split Decision
Yoichiro Sato def. Nao Yoneda via Split Decision
Makoto Takahashi def. Chikara Shimabukuro via Unanimous Decision
Juri Ohara def. Ken Hamamura via TKO (Punches) in Round 2
Naoto Ayuta def. Yamato Fujita via Unanimous Decision
Kyosuke Yokoyama def. Taito Kubota via Unanimous Decision
Yuki Ohara def. Shernand Ladd via Unanimous Decision
Koya Kanda def. Hiroto Yamaguchi via TKO (Arm Injury) in Round 2
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