Shooto Featherweight Division is a shark pool of talent. For the main event of Shooto 2021 Volume 5, 2 evenly matched warriors who have both risen to the top of the division clashed for the vacant Shooto World Featherweight Title. Pacific Rim Champion “Sasuke” won and defended his title in spectacular fashion with back to back stoppages for a total of 6 consecutive victories. Ryoji Kudo has amassed an impressive resume of his own, with 7 straight wins he enters on the back of 3 stoppages. With almost identical records at 8-1-1 and 10-1-1 both fighters only blemish came to the same fighter, which they both avenged in decisive fashion. Destined to collide “Sasuke” and Kudo’s paths crossed Sunday as they vied for the Featherweight Title.
Main event : Keisuke “Sasuke” Sasu defeated Ryoji Kudo by majority decision (48-47, 48-47, 47-47)
As expected from such high caliber fighters, both engaged in a tentative feeling out process throughout the opening stanza. Low calf kicks and front kicks to the knees allowed Sasuke to pressure while keeping out of punching range. Kudo was finding his timing with right hooks and straights in response to the kicks. An over-extended miss from “Sasuke” had Kudo pounce, only to run into a spinning back fist. With Kudo on rubbery legs straining to recover balance the Pacific Rim Champion gave no respite. A jumping knee and short right hook behind the ear sent Kudo to the canvas, a pivotal moment as the round closed.
Unfazed from the knockdown, Kudo let go in the 2nd round. Kick and punch combinations earned the respect of the Pacific Rim Champion, who cautiously fired his left hook. Sasuke was hunting the explosive one shot strikes while a loose Kudo chipped away with low kicks and punch counters. Slowly there was a sense of the tide turning as Kudo increased the volume to out work the big hitter.
Both fighters continued to trade leg kicks at a distance. Kudo utilized combinations, following up low kicks with punches and vice versa the sharp shooter kept his adversary guessing. Sasuke’s loaded counters were few and far between but his brutal calf kicks found their mark, bruising the legs of Kudo. Straights and uppercuts backed by low kicks were on point for Kudo. With the Tribe Tokyo MMA fighter opening up Sasuke took control in the clinch. A beautifully executed “Kosoto-gake” outside trip is followed up by an equally impressive “Ouchi-gari” inside trip. Kudo’s ingrained wrestling instincts and technical ability enabled him to recover and pop back to his feet each time. “Sasuke” took advantage of an increasingly aggressive opponent, throwing Kudo one more time from a caught leg. While unable to secure position or do damage the takedowns were eye catching.
As the fight entered the championship rounds Kudo started strong with combination work. 1-2s followed by low and high kicks he racked up the points. There was always a feeling of menace with Sasu, that he could change the whole fight with one shot, yet he could not find the mark. With lead hooks and low kicks Kudo found more success as the round neared an end and the action heated up considerably.
There was little to separate the fighters going into the final round with both. Low calf kick hurt Kudo as the round started. Kudo came forward with a kick again and Sasuke took initiative for another takedown. Well schooled in wrestling, Kudo refused to stay down the entire match. A straight from Kudo found its mark again as he upped the volume in the last minute. As they looked to leave an impression in the final seconds, both threw, with Kudo digging in thudding leg kicks that briefly buckled “Sasuke’s” leg.
The stakes were high and a slip up from either fighter could have proven disastrous. Both fighters respected each other tremendously which made for a tense tactical battle where neither wanted to leave an opening. Sasuke held the centre of the cage and stole the most memorable moments of the fight. Kudo worked diligently and methodically to out land the Pacific Rim Champion from the outside. The tight battle of wits and strategy concluded with 2 of the 3 judges leaning toward “Sasuke,” who scraped a majority decision to take the prestigious Shooto World Featherweight belt.
Match 7: Satomi “Sarami” Takano defeated Miku Nakamura by TKO (Referee Stoppage, ground and Pound, 2R 2:48)
Southpaw hard hitter Nakamura looked for the straight left as soon as the opening bell rang. “Sarami” obliged in the stand up until a clinch opportunity presented itself. After tussling with the Mars gym striker and struggling to complete the takedowns the Pancrasism grappler finally hit a hip throw to bring the fight to the canvas. Accomplished on the mat, Nakamura worked guard to get back to her feet. Sarami stuck to her like glue, pressing the striker into the fence and giving no space to strike. For the majority of the round Takano pinned Nakamura to the cage, working for a transition to her comfort zone. Defiant on her feet, with remarkable balance, Nakamura refused to be dragged to the ground. With just 30 seconds left the deadly striker found separation but was having trouble calculating her range.
Nakamura came out for the 2nd stanza tightly wound, ready to unload her dynamite strikes. In comparison “Sarami” was loose and relaxed and fearlessly closed distance. Giving no space to breathe, Takano wretched the match to the ground very early in the round. Working between mount and back mount, “Sarami” used ground and pound to set up head and arm chokes and rear naked chokes as her gutsy opponent persevered. Flattening Nakamura out, the slick grappler flurried with a barrage of clubbing blows to the side of the head until the referee waved the match off midway through the 2nd round.
Match 6: Rinya Nakamura defeated Akuri Ronda by T/KO (Head kick and Punch, 2R 0:20)
Wrestling elite Nakamura muscled Ronda to the ground and rode back position from the get-go. Ronda did everything right, moving for the legs, getting to the feet, escaping the back, but the world class wrestler was always a step ahead. From mount he rained down blistering shots forcing the ShingiKan all rounder to turtle and cover. The U-23 Wrestling World Champion unloaded with punishing strikes, almost sealed a Rear Naked Choke and completely dictated the round. Warhorse Ronda exhibited some tight defence and survival instincts but struggled to match the pace and physicality of his adversary.
Changing tactics Ronda opened the 2nd with strikes, doubling up on the right hands. It seemed he was getting the upper hand in the striking until Nakamura connected with a monstrous, picture perfect left high kick, timed just as his opponent was unloading. Shin connected to the head and Ronda crashed to the canvas 20 seconds into the round. A follow up right hand and Nakamura walked off, seeing his adversary was out. It was a ferocious debut by Nakamura, who lived up to expectations and then some. It certainly appears that the sky’s the limit for “the Dreamer,” who will likely have his sights already set on the top rankers.
Match 5: Kota Okazawa defeated Yuta “Edmond” Kaneko (Unanimous decision 20-18, 20-18, 20-18)
Former Sumo Wrestler “Edmond” and flamboyant veteran Okazawa faced off in an entertaining affair. “Edmond” found his range and rhythm quickly, getting a read on Okazawa’s bobbing and weaving. Putting his hands and feet to work, Kaneko fired bombs to drop his adversary. Gesturing the Sayama gym grappler to get back to his feet, Edmond called his foe on. Left hooks and lead left kicks were damaging Okazawa who changed gears and focus. Failing to land counters on the feet, Okazawa leant on his Judo backbone to take the fight to the ground. A Jujitsu black belt, Okazawa swiftly claimed mount, entrapped the arm and deftly rotated, breaking the grip he extended the arm. The ex-Sumo rolled but Okazawa adjusted leg position to get the right torque. Just as it seemed a done deal the Brave gym member dug deep, fought through the pain and somehow slipped out.
An invigorated Kaneko stuck with the highly effective combinations of lead kicks and punches. Okazawa was visibly tired and hurt but kept seeking the clinch. Fending off a takedown, Kaneko stood above his opponent firing kicks on his grounded foe. In a moment of brilliance, the wily grappler swept a foot to turn “Edmond” enough to expose his back. Seizing the moment Okazawa scrambled off his back and leapt on his opponents back, ploughing him to the canvas. With little resistance the BJJ Black Belt glided to top position, then to back mount before settling for mount. Okazawa turned up the heat on top, prioritising control while picking his strikes and waiting for a submission opportunity to present itself. Kaneko made it to the final bell but was visibly disappointed by his performance. Okazawa suffered a few scares but enforced his style to cruise to victory.
Match 4: Takashi Nakayama and Daiki Yuki fought to a majority draw (20-18, 19-19, 19-19)
In the 2nd of the Tsudanuma Dojo vs Masters Japan bouts. Daiki Yuki threw a quick punch and charged his way to the bodly lock before transitioning to the back mount. The body triangle secured from the back the grappling technician continued to follow the Masters Japan style to the letter. With the lock in place even an esteemed grappler on the level of Nakayama was struggling to fend off the chokes. With 10 seconds left Yuki sought the armlock but was unable to break the grip as a one sided round came to an end.
In the final round Nakayama came out like a fighter who was behind, throwing sequences of low kicks before going high looking for the knockout. A tackle from Yuki was this time fended off, the follow up, however, planted Nakayama on the canvas once again. Nakayama’s guard competed with Yuki’s guard passing with the Tsudanuma dojo representative coming out on top with a sweep and getting to his feet. Unable to get a takedown of his own Nakayama returned to his feet and continued to strike but could do little damage as the time expired.
Judges were split, with 2 determining that Nakayama’s resilience and striking advantage in the final round were enough for the draw. The dissenting judge felt that Yuki’s positional control earned him both rounds. Masters Japan proved once again that, when fighting their fight, they are extremely effective.
Match 3: Shohei Nose defeated Tsubasa Saito by unanimous decision (20-18, 20-17, 20-17)
Southpaw Nose exchanged kicks before getting to his Judo roots and tripping the burly Saito to the ground. With exceptional control of the legs from the body triangle from back Nose adeptly controlled the round. Every attempt made by Saito to strike or power out was locked down. The Masters Japan representative threatened on multiple occasions with Rear Naked Chokes and neck cranks as Saito endured and held on.
The 2nd round started with a high kick and low calf kicks from Saito and his thunderous power was clear. Evading the clinch, Saito literally slipped up, throwing a flying knee the Tsudanuma Dojo striker fell to his back. Nose went right back to the body lock control. Working the rear naked choke Nose removed hooks for a better angle but Saito hung tough. From side position the Judoka worked on a head and arm choke on his durable opponent. Moving for an armlock with just 30 seconds left, Nose gave up position and Saito finally got on top. Eager to show the kind of firepower he brings to the fight, Saito hammered down vicious lefts, rights and elbows but it was ultimately too little too late.
All 3 judges sided with Nose, 2 rewarding him 10-8 scores for a dominant 1st round. A quintessential Masters Japan practitioner, Nose matched well against the Tsudanuma Dojo brawler. Saito proved once again that he will fight tooth and nail to stay in the fight and is almost impossible to put away.
Match2: Wataru Yamauchi defeated Arata “Reiwa” Ueki by submission (Triangle Choke, 2R 4:35)
As the fight kicked off, Karateka Yamauchi worked the leg kicks right off the bat before hand combinations made way for a takedown. “Reiwa” was game as he worked his way back to his feet. Despite carrying significant firepower Yamauchi continuously pursued the ground. Ueki’s defence was generally on point and when in danger he was able to reverse the Fight Farm striker and deliver some ground and pound. Ueki attacked with a guillotine which was countered by a head and arm choke by Yamauchi as the round ended.
Yamauchi punched his way into a body clutch takedown to get the 2nd round underway. Ueki showed his ground proficiency, reversing with 3 minutes left. Yamauchi refused to stay on his back and turned the tables again in a back and forth battle. From mount Yamauchi blasted the Shooting Uruno Dojo representative and it seemed the end may be near. “Reiwa” used the cage to muster a reversal, escaping a back choke to claim top position. Yamauchi threatened with and armbar, leglock and then as Ueki fought through, cinched a triangle to finally seal the deal at 4:35 of the last round
Opening match. Daisuke Nakamura defeated Soo Sung Cho by unanimous decision (20-18, 20-17, 20-17)
Soo Sung Cho blasted 2 hard kicks which Daisuke Nakamura capitalised on to maneuver in to the clinch. Putting his grappling prowess on display Nakamura brought his Taekwondo specialis down. The Masters Japan submission expert honed in on an armbar from mount. Nakamura isolated the arm, rolled with his foe, rotated and extended. The submission was locked tight but somehow SooSong found an angle, throwing his legs up his opponents body. With the finishing angle and leverage eased SooSong made it back to his feet as the round concluded.
Soo Sung started the final 3 minute round probing with kicks until got his foot caught and found himself warding off a takedown. Pressed against the fence the Krazy Bee fighter defended as Nakamura worked to seize back position but settled for top control. Song scored a reversal with 30 seconds left but ended resisting a triangle choke as time expired.