Isao Kobayashi, Akira Okada Collide in Highly Anticipated Pancrase 316 Headliner

After a 5-month interval Pancrase is back this month with Pancrase 316, Friday the 24th. Despite the Covid-19 epidemic forcing cancellations, rescheduling and fight card amendments Pancrase 316 has pulled together a fantastic card. An intriguing main event in particular has piqued interest and raised a few eyebrows. In a 3-round non-title bout featherweight King of Pancrase Isao Kobayashi collides with powerhouse Akira Okada, who drops a down a rung to make his featherweight debut.

It has not been smooth sailing for Japanese MMA as the global epidemic and subsequent restrictions have taken their toll. For fighters maintaining a training regimen presents challenges but both main event fighters made the best of the situation. “I’ve not been able to fight, but I’ve put in solid preparation,” mentioned Okada. For Kobayashi the circumstances were much the same, “There was a period when I couldn’t train as normal, so I just did what I could by myself” he remarked. With gyms fully operational and an MMA resurgence this month both fighters will be eager to go to war in the cage on the Japanese national holiday Friday.

Sporting a 18-8-3 record, Okada finds himself on a 3-fight skid for the first time in his career.  Despite this, the durable veteran never flinched at the opportunity to face a dominant champion, “I have to take this challenge” he emphatically declared. Dropping divisions to test the waters at 145lbs “Akira” maintained that the weight cut “wasn’t that hard”, implying that dropping weight was perhaps long overdue, “I’m finally making tough weight cuts like everyone else!”. Featherweight offers a clean slate for the exciting Kugayama Rascal Gym fighter to get back on track, not to mention cause a huge upset in the process!

Physically imposing and thick set, Akira brings frightening power to the table with dynamite in his hands and surging double leg takedowns. Akira leans to his wrestling as a potential key to victory. “For this fight I’ve put a lot of effort into grappling” the intimidating fighter emphasized, “I’ve been training to bring out my strengths.” Should Isao let his guard down, however, “Akira” would be more than happy to unleash one of his ferocious 1 punch KOs, “My boxing is really not that great, but I punch with everything I have!”

A highly experienced fighter, Champion Isao Kobayashi is riding a 4-fight win streak, most recently avenging his last loss, besting challenger Kyle Aguon to retain his title. Acutely aware of his opponents’ size and power Isao has made some physical changes of his own. “I’m stronger than before” stated a confident Isao.  Alternating between his own gym “Never Quit”, the champion has also been brushing up his wrestling at Krazy Bee, Muay Thai at Ant Gym and strength and conditioning instructor at PML gym. Isao has taken his training to the “next level” and maintains he is “fully prepared” for Akira.

Known for his mental fortitude, constant pace, technique and well-rounded skillset, Isao shines when fighting at close distance. With his Judo base and balance, he controls opponents before unloading with heavy hands or executing a takedown and some ground and pound. Noting that Akira “does tend to swing big”, the “Never Quit” fighter sees opportunity to “keep a solid focus on first contact” and “go in with [his] striking”. Against a durable, explosive fighter like Akira, Isao plans to “chip away and wear him down” before seeking the finish. “I’ve improved my finishing techniques on the feet and on the ground” the champion noted.

With spirited intensity, Akira Okada has a reputation for thriving under pressure and rising to challenges. Featherweight king Isao Kobayashi has looked unstoppable of late and is a master at dictating the tempo of the fight. The match up promises fireworks as the bull takes on the matador! Expect Akira to come out firing on all cylinders, “Isao will be very calm and collected, so it’s going to be all about how I can break his pace”, he observed. For Isao, he will likely need to weather the storm and wear Akira down before seeking a finish. “I’m going to keep focused and do everything I can without breaking until the very end”. Can Isao further cement his status as the featherweight king or will Akira put the division on notice with an explosive upset? This not to be missed match at Pancrase 316 has the makings of a classic!

About the Author

Peter Leghorn
Writer and photographer sharing my passion for Martial Arts. instagram: peter_mmajapan

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