Shooto 2021, January 31st Double Header, Part 1 Preview

Shooto kicks off 2021 in style with a stacked “double header” coming from Tokyo’s New Pier Hall. Japans longest running org is consistently bolstering their roster with top talent and this Sunday’s event makes no exception as they welcome some big names to the Shooto stage!

Action commences at 12:30 JST, with the opening segment featuring 8 matches. From amateurs stepping into the cage for the first time and professionals making their debuts, all the way up to elite top rankers, Shooto provides a complete platform for fighters of all levels.

Not to be forgotten, the evening portion of the “double header” launches at 17:30 JST with an additional 5 bouts. Expect an additional article covering the evening show. Both segments will be streamed live on Abema TV and promise to deliver the kind of action Shooto fans have become accustomed to.

Main Event, Nobuki Fujii vs Kenji Kato, Featherweight, 3R x 5M

Perennial top ranker Nobuki Fujii is an excellent all-rounder with a multifaceted skill set. Coming in at 8 in the rankings, the 35 fight veteran has a wealth of experience to draw upon and the kind of fight IQ to trouble any fighter in the division. The Alliance team member has faced a “who’s who” of the division, pitting his skills against current /former champions and top contenders. Technical, resilient and relentless, Fujii settles into his rhythm and tempo early and is remarkably consistent. At the very highest levels has a tendency to drop competitive decisions and has never quite cleared that last hurdle to get to the belt. Last outing saw a return to the win column with a decisive victory over Joji Goto. The Featherweight division in Shooto is notoriously unforgiving and another emphatic victory is essential to claw his way into the upper echelon.

Fighting out of the aptly named K. O Shooto Gym, Kenji Kato is a fearless heavy hitter, earning 7 of his 11 wins by way of T/KO. Coming off a starching of decorated Krazy Bee Wrestler Erson Yamamoto at Rizin, Kato moves up a division to test his deadly striking in a Shooto main event showdown. Facing a slick and savvy veteran who utilizes a lot of forward pressure, Kato will create openings, find his mark, and unload with speed and accuracy. Stepping up to a higher division, Kato may have even more starch on his strikes. While well schooled in the clinch and on the mat, striking is Kato’s forte. Sunday he will want to capitalize on the chance to add a big scalp to his resume, and steal his adversaries place in the rankings.

Co-Main Event, Sotaro “Takataro” Yamada vs Gunter “The Beast” Kalunda Ngunza, Middleweight, 3R x 5M

Sotaro Yamada needs little introduction to grappling fans, with phenomenal submission skills, Yamada has been consistently regarded as one of Japan’s best Grapplers. Under Combat Wrestling style rules in Pancrase, the lightweight competitor tore through both the under 80 kg and under 100 kg divisions. Not only was that a first for the tournament, “Takataro” also scored submissions in every bout. 10 years later and the trend continues. Wracking up a string of submission wins in Quintet, including a rare double submission Calf Slicer/ Rear Naked Choke, Yamada makes his return to MMA for the first time since 2017. He has drawn a bigger, stronger striker but will have confidence that his Submission mastery will ensure another impressive finish.

Gunter “The Beast” Kalunda Ngunza made a name for himself in the South African MMA scene with his aggressive, fearsome striking. While a striker at heart, Ngunza is no stranger to the ground game and grappling. Fighting out of Tri H Studio Japan, “The Beast” locked horns with Hiroyuki “Last Samurai” Tetsuka last outing. The explosive warriors exchanged firepower on the feet, with Tetsuka coming up trumps, flattening “The Beast” with a left hook in the first round. Facing a very different challenge this Sunday, “The Beast’s”  wild, chaotic exchanges and raw power will serve him well against the technical grappling prowess his adversary.

Bout 6, Yamato Nishikawa vs Mark “Max the Body” Moleke, Welterweight, 3R x 5M

At just 18 years old Nishikawa is not short on experience, with has a staggering 20 fights already under his belt. Trained by his father from an early age, Nishikawa is a consummate Martial Artist, competing in Thai Boxing and Shootboxing in addition to MMA. On 7 fight win streak the talented youngster is full of surprises, capable of submitting grappling specialists and trading with strikers, Nishikawa shows a fighting maturity beyond his years. Fighting in multiple weight classes the Power of Dream Sapporo warrior frequently weighs in lighter than weight limit. At Welterweight Nishikawa will relish the huge challenge ahead of him, and with a history of defying the odds, can never be counted out.

True to his nickname, Cameroon’s “Max the Body” is an intimidating physical specimen, a complete contrast to his adversary. Training out of Brave Gym under the tutelage of outstanding Wrestler Kazuyuki “Little Hercules” Miyata, Moleke has the wrestling acumen to complement his outrageous power. With ever improving striking, the wrestler opted for a blow for blow exchange with formidable striker Nobomitsu “Tyson” Osawa in his last appearance. “Tyson” landed a blistering overhand right, handing “Max the Body” the first T/KO loss of his career. A back to basics approach may be on the cards for the Brave Gym wrestler, solid take downs, stifling top pressure and vicious ground and pound.

Infinity League 2020 Bantamweight tournament format

Shooto’s Infinity League Bantamweight Tournament implements an unique “round robin” style set up, where all 5 competitors will have the opportunity to face each other. Scores will be given for finishes, wins and draws, the fighter with the highest score after their 4 fights will be declared the winner and take a huge step up in the division.

Bout 5, Yoshizumi Kobayashi vs Hayato Ishii, Infinity League 2020 Bantamweight tournament, 2R x 5M

Hagane Gym’s Yoshizumi Kobayashi steps into the Shooto cage following a disappointing draw last outing, the 6th of his career. Kobayashi possesses the tools needed to pull out the wins but has problems with stealing key moments, letting rounds slip away. Squaring off against the highly experienced and dangerous Hayato Ishii, Yoshizumi would appear to have the cards stacked against him.

Tribe Tokyo Gym’s Ishii has an impressive record, sporting a well rounded range of skills he has bested some of the divisions elite. Coming off a draw last bout, Ishii will look to make short work of his opponent. A tactic that may just bring out the best in Kobayashi, who has yet to reach his full potential.

Bout 4, Kota Onojima vs Yasuyuki Nojiri, Infinity League 2020 Bantamweight tournament, 2R x 5M

Resilient workhorse Kota Onojima is a strong contender for taking the tournament. Having only tasted defeat to the divisions best, the Combat Workout Diamonds fighter is very effective at shutting down, and shutting out opponents. In his last match he fought tournament rival Hayato Ishii to a highly competitive draw and will be keen to rack up some victory points this outing

With just 4 professional bouts under his belt, Yasuyuki Nojiri may seem to lack experience, however, with 20 amateur fights he is a seasoned competitor. Fighting out of A-Spirit, Nojiri maintains a perfect professional record, with all 4 contests ending in brutal stoppages. Last outing Nojiri hoisted and slammed Hiraoka Hayashi to the canvas before pounding him out. Nojiri has a tough draw for his first tournament bout but will not be deterred as he focuses on riding the momentum with another highlight reel finish

Bout 3. Takeshi Kinoshita vs Kohei Osera, Lightweight, 2R x 5M

Wajutsu Keishukai HEARTS Takeshi Kinoshita is a prolific finisher on his feet, hunting the KO at every opportunity, he has blitzed opponents and put them down in every one of his victories, all in the first round. His opponent, Kohei Osera, has been thrown in at the deep end for his debut. Fighting out of Reversal Gym Yokohama Groundslam Osera will be confident and ready. Expect a fast and furious contest!

Bout 2. Yoshitomo “Yoshi” Inoue vs Taira Uehara, Welterweight, 2R x 5M

Yoshitomo Inoue and Taira Uehara both enter the cage for their 5th professional fight, both coming off losses. Reversal Gym Yokohama Groundslam gyms Uehara has the better record but his Paraestra Kasai counterpart has faced the better competition. Perfect recipe for an evenly matched competitive bout!

Bout 1. Yoshiki Hitosugi vs Matsutaro Osorezan, Bantamweight, 2R x 5M

With 1 win in 12 outings as an amateur, Suntou Shutout Club’s Yoshiki Hitosugi has his back firmly against the wall going into his first pro match. A 4 year absence from competition should have helped him re-group, and we may see a totally different Hitosugi step into the cage. Fighting out of Paraestra Matsudo, 4 fight professional Mutsutaro Osorezan looks to bounce back from his first loss and prove he on a different level to his opponent.

Amateur Bout, Makoto Hagiuda vs Kota Abe, Welterweight, 2R x 3M

Fighting out of Trident Gym, Hagiuda makes his debut against PANCRASEism Yokohama’s Kota Abe. Following a successful debut in the Amateur circuit Abe will be confident, Hagiuda presents an unknown challenge though and could have a few tricks up his sleeve!

About the Author

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

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