*Written by Peter Leghorn
Continuing their landmark 30th anniversary series Shooto in partnership with One Championship brought the action to Korakuen Hall with a stacked double header and 2 titles on the line. With a vested interest in Shooto One Championship again delivered with their promotional clout. Banners, merchandise and ring girls greeted fans and the atmosphere felt lively, energetic and fresh. Guests passed through an extremely high quality exhibition by legendary photographer Susumu Nagao who documented Shooto from the very early days. The hall was bustling with an excited audience and not a free seat to be seen.
The main event was a battle of counter striking as the elusive and deadly Shimizu Kiyotaka challenged the dominant title holder Hiromasa Ogikubo for a chance at the 125lb Shooto Flyweight belt.
Shimizu made his game plan clear from the start, he circled the perimeter of the cage and looked to draw Ogikubo in. Known for his counter striking on the back foot Shimizu has turned the tide of many fights to pull out a stoppage win from the jaws of defeat and Ogikubo was understandably cautious. Taking center of cage Ogikubo utilized difficult to read strikes, stance switches, lead leg kicks and some bullying against the fence to mix things up. Shimizu landed some good left counters and followed with heavy leg kicks of his own. About 1 min 30 into the round Ogikubo got a read on the counters and slipped under the blows for a double leg against the fence. Shimizu hammered in elbows and worked to his feet but soon found himself down again clawing his way back up.
On the feet Shimizu stoically went for same attacks, almost exclusively lead jabs/ hooks and rear leg kicks. Ogikubo was more versatile, well rounded and opportunistic. In round 2 this became even more apparent as the champion was proving difficult to get a read on. Mid way through the round and karate style lead leg high kicks/ leg kicks have proven effective for Ogikubo. Shimizu relied heavily on his jab, which started to partially get through, and heavy roundhouse kicks to the legs. With a minute left tension was high, both fighters were inching closer to their targets and strikes with bad intentions were whiffing past each others faces.
When round 3 got underway it was clear Shimizu had made some adjustments and was beginning to hold his ground and initiate more. The smaller but faster challenger was getting in and out with jabs to body and head and getting more creative. About 1 minute left in the round Ogikubo fired a heavy 1-2 combo and followed with a high kick, all of which the slick Shimizu evaded. Shimizu took the middle of the cage and landed a good right straight, Ogikubo countered, going high with lead leg to open a cut on the eye of Shimizu as round ended.
Both fighters came out aggressive for round 4. Ogikubo fought his way into the clinch but the speedy Shimizu cut an angle and slipped out. Steady jabs followed a 1-2 from Shimizu, countered by lead body kicks by Ogikubo. The increasingly confident challenger fired his jab again, this time the champion saw the opening and came over the top with a southpaw lead hook that buckled Shimizu and sent him to the canvas. Ogikubo pounced on him and didn’t let up, finishing with hammerfists for a TKO stoppage at 40 seconds of the 4th round.
Elated, Ogikubo ran into the crowd, celebrated with fans and friends then returned to the cage to pay respect to a worthy challenger and be awarded the Shooto belt once again.
The co-main event saw Dutch fighter, Agy “The Wolverine” Sardari, facing off against the highly respected Saito Yutaka at 145lbs.
An intense Sardari stalked Yutaka early, not much was thrown though until a heavy leg kick was cinched and gave Yutaka a takedown. “The Wolverine” fished for a leg lock that opened an opportunity for him to get back to his feet. From there they dueled back and forth against the cage until Yutaka spun and swept the leg for a takedown. He but could not secure it however and Sardari got back up and hustled against the cage. A brief doctors check for a small cut to Yutaka before action resumed. With about 1 minute left Yutaka swept the feet, then, as Sardari adjusted balance spun and then hit the sweep again, this time resulting in a beautiful throw and securing top position.
Sardari controlled Yutaka against the cage for a lot of the beginning of round 2. Just over a minute in Yutaka transitioned from a barrage of punches to a tight arm in guillotine. The Dutch fighter escaped and worked from the top employing heavy pressure, pinning his foe against the cage. Yutaka managed to stand but Sardari’s clinch fighting was excellent, as were his takedowns, an ankle pick was later followed by a powerful throw. Yutaka was spending more and more time under the bigger fighter as round progressed.
Yutaka was looking for big strikes in the 3rd while Sardari evaded and continued his grappling heavy approach, putting the Japanese fighter on his back repeatedly. Fending off the guillotine attacks Sardari stuck like glue, secured legs, kept his base and stayed on top. Yutaka was not without success and fired the bigger strikes and submission attempts but control time certainly belonged to “The Wolverine”.
In the end one judge scored the fight a draw while 2 sided with Sardari 29-28.
Legendary Shooto veteran Kaoru “Shoten” Uno was next up against prolific submission artist from the Netherlands, Brazilian JiuJitsu black Belt Duane “Bambino” van Helvoirt.
From the opening bell the size and power difference was apparent as Van Helvoirt effortlessly threw Uno to the ground and took his back. Uno stayed calm, isolated an arm, sat up and turned into his opponent to take top position. From guard “Bambino” attacked with submission attempts and strikes as Uno landed punches and hammerfists and looked to pass. Van Helvoirt frequently threw legs up looking for a triangle or to secure an arm for omoplata attempts, Uno, however, had success keeping a good base and posture, clearing the legs and raining down strikes. Every time Uno passed the Brazilian JiuJitsu black belt would work his way back to guard, with 30 seconds left Van Helvoirt scored a huge reversal to mount and delivered some very effective ground and pound. Helvoirt frequently threw legs up looking for a triangle or to secure an arm for omoplata attempts, Uno, however had success keeping a good base and posture, clearing the legs and raining down strikes while passing. Every time Uno passed though the Brazilian JiuJitsu black belt would work his way back to guard, with 30 seconds left Van Helvoirt scored a huge reversal to mount and delivered some very effective ground and pound.
Van Helvoirt retained momentum heading into the 2nd round, a strong clinch and knees seemed to hurt Uno who dropped to his knees. “Bambino” capitalized, taking top position and “floating” between side, back and mount. “Shoten” used his wits and experience to survive but found himself stuck in back mount for most of the round, defending choke attempts and taking damage from continuous strikes.
Doctors stepped in between round to look at the damage over the eye of the Shooto veteran but thankfully it was not enough to stop the fight. Round 3 commenced and Van Helvoirt wasted no time shooting in to take the back, hurled Uno to the canvas and got right back to work where he left off. The crafty Uno threatened with a key lock, a Kimura, a darce and a guillotine but each time Van Helvoirt was wise to it. “Bambino” played a high percentage game with solid positioning and back takes with transitions to mount if opportunity presented itself. Uno consistently reversed and worked to pass or score a submission but lost position and got himself into trouble more often than not. An illegal upkick by Van Helfoirt in the final minute caused a stop in the action but little damage was done and no points were deducted. A final guillotine attempt by Uno and he was on his back again, Van Helvoirt passed to mount and administered some punishing ground and pound as round ended.
Van Helvoirt took a well deserved decision with 2x 30-27 and 30-26 scores in a fight that was perhaps closer than scores suggested.
In the 3rd match of the evening battle tested veterans Kazuma Sone and Yuta Nezu displayed a contrast of striking styles in a brutal beat down.
As the match commenced Nezu took center and fired a nice combination ending with a heavy right low kick which set the tone for the bout. With a wide stance that is heavy on the lead leg Sone was susceptible to kicks and Nezu landed at will, doubling and even tripling up on them. Sone tried to counter with forward pressure and hooks but Nezu was adept kicking moving backward or forward. The last 10 seconds saw Sone try a spinning back fist that grazed the chin but was taken mostly on Nezu’s shoulder, something he made sure to point out.
Round 2 was a case of “if it is not broken don’t fix it” as Nezu racked up the lowkicks and Sone`s leg turned a very unhealthy purplish red. Movement limited Sone kept trying, worked a solid jab but couldn’t put anything together that could sway Nezu from attacking. Nezu upped the volume and variety late and kept Sone guessing. As time went on it became a case of “pick your poison”, worried about leg kicks Sone was now getting lit up with crisp accurate punches. A right hand on the chin floored Sone with 10 seconds left in the round putting him into survival mode until time expired.
By the 3rd round Sone was beaten and bruised but still showing tremendous heart and fighting spirit, he was determined to go out fighting. Sone attempted to mix up jabs, high kicks and ferocious hooks but with limited mobility he just couldn’t find the target. Nezu was firing at will with leg kicks then, perhaps realizing Sone was not going to go down easily Nezu shot a double leg, turning the corner to plant Sone on the canvas. From there he unloaded as Sone stood, a painful kick to the body followed by a barrage of unanswered punches until the referee mercifully stepped in. Sone finished the fight still standing but this was not his night. It was a dominating performance for Yuta Nezu who scored the TKO at 2:51 of the 3rd round.
Masatoshi Abe returned to shooto after a 7 year absence to take on Max Halloway friend and student Michael “Smashboy” Nakagawa in a bout that would answer a lot of the questions.
Nakagawa took control of cage at start of round, pressuring Abe to the fence. A few straight lefts from Abe were avoided, kick from Abe but he took a blistering right straight counter and slumped against the cage. “Smashboy” started celebrating as Abe somehow recovered, popped up and latched a single leg. Also and excellent wrestler, Nakagawa managed to shut down the attack and opened up with some right kicks to head and body. Abe must have been hurt from the big knockdown but was steadfast and would not back down. He could not get his game going though and while he did land and hurt Nakagawa at one point he absorbed far more damage in return. High kicks from Nakagawa partially land wobbling Abe. Near the end of the round Abe went for the lead right hook but the younger faster Nakagawa beat it with a straight that almost seemed to go right through Abe’s chin. There was no getting up this time as Nakagawa notched another stoppage win at 4:12 of the opening round.
At 42 years old Abe’s best days are likely behind him. He never bounced back from 2 knee surgeries and all but retired 7 years ago. With his chin, power and wrestling he can still be a problem for many fighters but seems he will not be returning to a top contender. Nakagawa looked fantastic at 115lbs, he now has a finish in every single win and could be a top ranker for the division.
The opening bout of the evening saw durable all rounder Kenji Kato take on fan favorite Mamoru “Fullswing” Aoi.
From the opening bell Kato used circular movement and right leg kicks to keep his dangerous southpaw foe away. Combined with stance switches, feints and footwork he bounced around evading the few and far between strikes coming back. At around 1/2 way of the round Kato appeared to grow in confidence and started to up the volume and reduce the movement. It turned out to be a big mistake.
Aoi “Fullswing”, true to his name, approaches every fight same way, with big clubbing overhand hooks. He is predictable but very effective at finding that opening and has the kind of power that can change a fight instantly. With 15 seconds left a “full swing” left found its mark and Kenji briefly touched the ground, Aoi then showed some power in picking up and slamming Kato. An upkick from the game Kato landed as an exciting round finished.
It would be a short lived respite for Kato though, with his timing now found it took just 16 seconds into round 2 for Aoi to land the exact same shot and this time the depth was right. Kato took the full force on his chin and crumpled. Aoi showed class and sportsmanship by not following up on his unconscious opponent, Kato was out cold.
In earlier bouts from the stacked anniversary double header;
Koshi Matsumoto maintained his Shooto Lightweight Championship belt, stopping Naoyuki Kotani with strikes 0:57 of round 4
Ryo Okada scored an unanimous decision over Jean Claude Saclag
Koha Minowa defeated Jared Almazan by rear naked choke at 2:22 Round 3
A Ryohei Kurosawa right hook ended Jerome Wanawan’s night at 2:17 of round 1
Nobuki Fujii leveled Keita Ishibashi with a right hook at 4:45 of the 3rd
Tsubasa Saito landed a right hook to finish Jung Min Lim 3:04 into their match.
Won Bin Ki also utilized the right hook to beat Jonathan Valles 3:53 of round 1
Eun Ji Choi edged out Sarah Jane McCann 2 judges to 1 for a narrow victory
Kyu Kitano opened with a decisive victory over newcomer Satomi Hirose at the final bell.
Hiromasa Ogikubo def. Kiyotaka Shimizu via TKO (Punches) in Round 4
Yuta Nezu def. Kazuma Stone via TKO (Strikes) in Round 3
Yutaka Saito def. Agy Sardari via Majority Decision (29-28 x2, 29-29)
Duane van Helvoirt def. Caol Uno via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x2, 30-26)
Mamaro Uoi def. Kenji Kato via KO (Punch) in Round 2
Michael Nakagawa def. Masatoshi Abe via KO (Punch) in Round 1