Shinjuku Face played host to “SHOOTO GIG TOKYO Vol.31 Supported by ONE Championship,” Saturday, October 2nd. Smaller in scale than typical Shooto events, the “SHOOTO GIG” series offers an excellent opportunity to catch up and coming talent, plus support seasoned veterans and grassroots favourites.
The event also ceremoniously paid tribute to a pioneer of Japanese MMA, Noriaki Kiguchi, who passed away September 30th. Kiguchi was the founder of Combat Wrestling, a system that was vital in the creation of Shooto. The legendary trainer spent his life diligently supporting MMA and was a father figure to many fighters.
Main Event, Bantamweight, 5M x 2R
Tsubasa Saito defeated Tenjo “Guts” Takato, Unanimous Decision (20-18, 20-18, 20-18)
In the main event, Saito entered the cage about 2 months after his last match, determined to notch up win following his last loss. His opponent has also fallen on hard times, winless in his last 3 bouts, Takato was returning to competition after a 2 year hiatus.
From the moment the match kicked off it was clear Takato had a mountain to climb. The first few low calf kicks from Saito echoed around the venue and the damage was instantly visible. True to his name “Guts” did not back down in the exchanges. In the pocket he swung with his heavy handed adversary, having his moments with close range hooks. Saito smiled throughout. In his element, the Tsudanuma Dojo/ Fight Farm powerhouse alternated between straights to body and head and low calf kicks, all thrown with his signature power.
By the 2nd round it was evident that Takato needed a takedown, his legs chewed up by low kicks the warrior pressed forward to clinch. As the Paraesta Ayase member absorbed more low calf kicks his ability to execute takedowns became further compromised. The gap between the fighters extended and, as Saito honed in on a finish his durable opponent dug deep and held on until the end of the match. It was a gutsy performance by Takato, who has still yet to be finished, but the winner was never in doubt as Saito took every round convincingly. Expect another fast turn around for the intimidating Saito.
Co-Main Event, Featherweight, 5M x 2R
Tateo Iida defeated Takeaki Kinoshita, Majority Decision (20-18, 20-18, 19-19)
Iida has competed for an array of orgs and compiled a solid 8-5-2 record on top of an impressive Amateur resume. In contrast, Kinoshita entered the bout at 4-3-1, but with all 4 wins coming by way of T/KO and riding a 2 fight win streak. It was a battle of firepower vs experience as each fighter tried to enforce their styles.
Kinoshita utilized his karate from the get-go, starting the bout with a powerful front kick and straight left. Relying on fundamentals and forward momentum, Iida’s calculated jab and 1-2s kept his heavy hitting opponent backed against the ropes. Ducking under powerful straights, Iida scored takedowns in the opening round. With outstanding head control, the Mars Gym fighter transitioned between “Kesa-Gatame” scarf hold, back, side and knee on stomach, maintaining top position for much of the round.
Showing flash and flair, Kinoshita went high with a lightning fast high kick and, later in the round, an Ushiro-Mawashi-Geri spinning back kick. His tough as nails opponent was able to block and absorb the explosive strikes of the Wajutsu Keishukai Hearts representative and take the fight to the canvas once more. Looking for the Rear Naked Choke the all-rounder settled for ground and pound, exploiting holes in the Karate fighters ground game. At the bouts conclusion 2 of the 3 judges felt Iida had done enough, awarding him a hard earned majority decision victory.
Match 7: Flyweight, 5M x 2R
Nobuhiro Katayama defeated Shun Yamaguchi, Unanimous Decision (20-18, 20-18, 20-18)
After going 0-2 as an Amateur Katayama took 2 years to reflect, develop and grow as a fighter. He returned with a vengeance to win his Professional debut and was eager to get back into the ring. 5-2 as an Amateur, Yamaguchi looked to continue his momentum as he made his Professional debut.
As the first round got underway, Katayama mixed up attacks, low and mid kicks, 1-2s and even a superman punch. Yamaguchi’s strategy appeared to be to slow down the tempo and work to tie up his foe and score takedowns. Time and time again Yamaguchi tackled Katayama only to find each takedown thwarted. The Tribe Tokyo MMA representative not only prevented the takedowns but was also able to muster some offense from the clinches.
In the second round, Katayama achieved a reversal to secure a key takedown. Working the position Katayama took the back of his debuting opponent. Yamaguchi attempted his own reversal only to find Katayama was slick in the scrambles and would not concede top position. Katayama stood and rattled off strikes from top as the Brave Heart Fukushima fighter played defense. Yamaguchi was able to claw his way back to the feet to throw down until the very end. Well-versed in all aspects of MMA, Katayama got the better of his opponent wherever the fight went. Yamaguchi showed heart and determination and can hold his head high despite the loss.
Match 6: Bantamweight, 5M x 2R
Shoji Saito defeated Shoto Tani, Unanimous Decision (20-18, 20-18, 20-18)
Another participant from the reality TV program, “Fighting Dreamers,” Saito stepped into the ring with high level kickboxing experience to bolster his MMA game. Standing across from the striking specialist, Tani may have been fighting in his professional debut, but was the 2018 and 2020 Amateur Shooto Kanto Champion.
Early in the first round, a shocking left hook from Tani sent Saito down. With remarkable recovery skills, Saito quickly bounced back to his feet and delivered some payback. With a barrage of straight hands the Tsudanuma Doji/ Fight Farm power puncher was especially effective when digging to the body. Tani landed knees from the clinch and some on target punches but the tide had turned by the round’s end. Saito was getting progressively more accurate with each and every shot.
In the second round, Tani surged forward, punching his way into the glitch and reaching for the single leg. Saito shut the takedown attempts down and was pinpoint with his accuracy, nailing Tani at the end of his strikes. The Rodeostyle/ Daido Juku Karate practitioner showed fighting spirit, charging forward with strikes in an effort to rattle his opponent and create openings. It was to no avail as Saito kept his guard up and continued his precision striking until the end of the match.
Match 5: Flyweight, 5M x 2R
Shinji Aoi defeated Urata Ueki, KO (Spinning Back Elbow, 0:26, R1)
19-year-old Aoi looked to right the ship after a disappointing KO loss in his debut. At 8-8-1 Ueki has had a rocky career of highs and lows and needed to rebound from a 2 fight skid.
Ueki and Aoi initiated a feeling out process, testing the waters with jabs while maintaining the distance. Out of nowhere, as Ueki launched a left hook he was greeted by a blistering spinning elbow flush on the jaw. Out cold, body stiff as he fell, Ueki hit the canvas hard. After some time the Shingikan fighter was able to regain consciousness from the brutal knockout and get to his feet. The crushing KO happened just 26 seconds into the round, placing the youngster, Aoi in the spotlight as a fighter to keep an eye on.
Match 4: Lightweight, 5M X 2R
Tomoyuki Muraoka defeated Teshin Isobe, Unanimous Decision (20-18, 20-18, 20-18)
Muraoka piled on the pressure as he attempted to bully Isobe in the clinch, against the ropes, and on the ground. On the retreat throughout the round, Isobe fired back as his opponent pressed forward. Driven to the ropes Isobe was caught by a straight right, creating an opening for a takedown. Muraoka rained down ground and pound as Isobe held on until the round concluded.
In the second round, Muraoka continued to plough forward. Cinching a single leg after a punch set up the Trident Gym grinder sought the canvas one more time. Trap set, Isobe had other plans as he locked up a tight guillotine. … defense was iron tight as he methodically worked his head free. Isobe kicked his opponent off and tried to rally in the last minute, trading recklessly with the stronger fighter. Unable to land any significant strikes the writing was on the wall for Isobe as Muraoka picked up the unanimous decision.
Match 3: Bantamweight, 5M X 2R
Yusuke Matsushita defeated Takumi Arai, Submission (North South Ezekiel choke, 3:47, R2)
A product of Abema TV’s reality MMA program “Fighting Dreamers,” Arai showed a lot of promise despite falling short in the competitions finals. Following 3 consecutive defeats in Shooto, Matsushita fought his way back into the org, and was fired up to prove he belongs.
Arai was relentless with double leg takedown attempts throughout the opening stanza. His opponent shut down the attempts systematically as both fighters exchanged blow for blow on the feet. As the opening round came to a close the tenacious Arai finally worked a double leg, putting Matsushita on his back.
Arai found his rhythm in the 2nd round, hustling with strikes and scoring double legs with frequency. Fighting out of Paraestra Kasai, Matsushita would not be outshone in the grappling, turning the tables with a tight guillotine choke that prompted Arai to take bottom position to survive. From there the skilled submission expert took North South position where he inched in a Sode-Guruma-Jime/ Ezekiel choke. Matsushita pulled off the unique technique, the tap coming at 3:47 of the final round.
Match 2: Amateur Try Out Rule, Lightweight, 3M x 2R
Keisei Takehara defeated Syuko Tsujimura, Majority Decision (20-18, 20-18, 19-19)
In the 2nd Amateur rules bout, 2 more fighters made their Shooto debuts looking to leave a lasting impression. Takehara stole the spotlight early with some beautiful throws and a high altitude slam. Tribe Tokyo MMA’s Tsujimura held his own with reversals and strikes from the top. It was the Paraestra Matsuda fighter that finished strong however, with ground and pound from the mount to take the decision in another evenly matched fight.
Match 1: Amateur Try Out Rule, Bantamweight, 3M x 2R
Koki Morita defeated Noboru Takeshita, Majority Decision (20-18, 20-18, 19-19)
Aggressive from the opening bell, Morita fended off the tackes of the Akatsuki Dojo grappler and punished with accurate boxing. Takeshita scored a single leg on the Paraestra striker and was persistent in the clinch but it was not enough to convince the judges. Morita walked away with a majority decision