Shooto 2022 Volume1, Sunday 16th, Generations Clash as Seasoned Veterans and Hot Prospects Collide

Kicking off the year in style, Shooto 2022 volume 1 has brought together 12 scintillating matches showcasing a host of their brightest and best. In light of the Pacific Rim Bantamweight title being vacated, battle tested Shooto veterans collide in the main event to crown a new Champion. 2 reality show “Dreamers” look to continue their meteoric rise as they take a step up in competition. The highly anticipated Women’s Atomweight Infinity League gets rolling with 2 crucial bouts. Legends return to competition and hot shot prospects meet seasoned veterans as generations cross swords.

Action kicks off Sunday 18:00 JST from Korakuen Hall, the venue synonymous with fighting sports, with Abema.TV once again providing a live broadcast.


Main Event – 11th Match: Pacific Rim Bantamweight Championship, 5min 3R

Kota Onojima vs Nobuki Fujii

Pacific Rim Bantamweight champion Tatsuya Ando has vacated his belt to firmly focus on the world title. Stepping up to vie for the vacant strap will be top ranked Kota Onojima and Nobuki Fuji, who comes in 2 spots below his opponent at no.3. While they may differ in fight style, both are perennial top contenders known for their tenacity and consistency. 

Physical specimen Onojima enters every fight in fantastic condition, enforcing his game plan from the get-go. While falling short by points in the Infinity League tournament, Onojima went unbeaten with 2 wins and 2 draws. Unlike the 2 x 5 minute rounds of the Infinity League, the Combat Workout Diamonds athlete finds himself with 3 rounds to work with. Given his fantastic durability and ability to drain the energy out of opponents against the cage fence, the grinder grows stronger as the fight progresses. As recently demonstrated by his dominant decision over Seigo “Little Sexyama” Yamamoto. A powerhouse, Onojima will be planning to drive his slick adversary to the cage and overwhelm with positional dominance and ground and pound. With his first shot at a coveted Shooto title, Onojima will not squander the opportunity, expect the top ranker for the Pacific Rim title to be on fire come Sunday. 

The highly skilled Nobuki Fujii has been a thorn in the side of many fighters. Unwavering in his approach, the ultra-aggressive fighter is unrelenting in his attacks. Setting a high pace only he can match, the Alliance all-rounder is superbly conditioned and technically sound. The 3nd ranked Pacific Rim Bantamweight also comes in at number 2 in the World Bantamweight rankings, a testament to his consistency and ability. With a habit of making great fighters look ordinary, Fuii has stopped the ascent of many hot prospects and sealed a reputation as a nightmare match up in the division. Most recently shutting out deadly striker Kenji Kato for a decision win. Squaring off against an opponent who similarly relies on imposing their will and setting a gruelling pace, Fujii has the footwork and speed advantage. Despite being continually top ranked, a title has eluded Fujii. With a high fight IQ, Fujii may elect to play matador to the bullish physical power of Onojima. It is imperative that Fujii utilise angles, movement and a barrage of attacks to wear on his foe as against the cage fence, the clutch and control of Onojima is almost impossible to break. 


Semifinal – 10th Match: Bantamweight, 5min 3R

Yasayuki Nojiri vs Rinya Nakamura

Rinya Nakamura made quite an impact last outing, both in the cage and on the audience as he put his stellar wrestling on display. A product of the massively popular Abema TV reality show “Fighting Dreamers,” Nakamura was touted as champion material. In his 2 professional bouts the wrestler has been head and shoulders above the competition. Recognised for his considerable wrestling accomplishments the LDH Martial Arts gym is surprisingly well schooled in all facets of MMA. Nakamura started wrestling at 5 years old in a gym that also carried MMA classes. The explosive powerhouse ragdolled the durable Akuri Ronda last outing. Tossing him to the ground with ease the wrestler delivered some brutal ground and pound before capping the fight off with a monstrous head kick. Seemingly unstoppable, Nakamura eyes his 3rd consecutive stoppage.   

With 20 amateur fights under his belt. Yasayuki Nojiri stepped up to the pro ranks with considerable potential. Missing out on an Infinity League Bantamweight match, Nojiri was unable to reach the points needed to attain the title. He did, however, more than hold his own in the tournament, pushing current Pacific Rim challenger Onojima to the brink in a fiercely contested split draw. Combining a well rounded technical game with a massive amount of contest experience, the yet to be finished Nojiri is a threat wherever the fight takes place. After having his 7 fight undefeated streak snapped last outing, 9th ranked Nojiri will be determined to steal the thunder of his heavily hyped opponent. 


9th match: Light Weight, 5min 3R

Kazumasa Sugawara vs Patrick Sho Usami 

Patrick Sho Usami put on a striking clinic last outing, mixing up his strikes, his knees proved particularly destructive, dropping durable Karateka Shunta Nomura to the canvas. Usami unleashed everything he had, falling short of a stoppage but collecting a dominant win. With a left body shot stoppage in his debut, keep an eye out for “Fierce Fists’s” crushing body attacks. The “Fighting Dreamers” hot prospect looks to continue a wave of momentum with another eye-catching performance when the cage door closes. 

Stepping in on short notice to face Lightweight Champion Yamato Nishikawa at VTJ 2021, Kazumasa “Bunta” Sugiwara showed no fear in stalking the fighting prodigy Nishikawa. With exceptional takedown defense “Bunta” ushered down some heavy ground and pound. Crisp strikes left an impression on the fans in attendance and the Champion, busting up his right eye. With the swelling expanding rapidly the fight savvy champ inched his way up Sugiwara’s back, securing a standing Rear Naked Choke for the victory. With all 6 of “Bunta’s” wins coming by way of stoppage, the striker follows the “kill or be killed” philosophy. With a weakness to grappling specialists Sugiwara matches up well against fellow striker Usami. Neither warrior will shy away from throwing down in a fight that has the hallmarks of a classic. 


8th match: Strawweight, 5min 3R

Jo Arai vs Takamasa “Skinny Zombie” Kiuchi 

Jo Arai has had a turbulent career as a pro. Enduring a rocky patch, the unwavering warrior was resolute in staging a comeback and is now stronger than ever. Hard work paid off for Arai,who, as number 1 contender sits on the cusp of a title shot. Riding a 4 fight win streak for the first time in his career the Kingdom Tachikawa heavy hitter will fight tooth and nail to maintain his status and ranking. Confident following a first round blitzing of 3rd ranked Tateo Iino, Arai will be searching for another finish, stamping his authority on the division. 

Fan favorite Takamasu “Skinny Zombie” Kiuchi lives up to his name. A prolific finisher who is more than happy to take a shot to return fire, “Skinny Zombie” is prepared to get the stoppage or go out on his shield. His style has resulted in an alternation of wins and losses, however, his competition has been top tier and his victories spectacular. After a frustrating decision loss last time out to Ken Asahina, 7th ranked Kiuchi will be hungrier than ever for a finish. The Wajutsu Keishukai Gods representative has the perfect opponent to throwdown with. Expect both firing on all cylinders in an electrifying match up that could steal the show. 


7th match: Flyweight, 5min 3R

Yuto Sekiguchi vs Takeru Uchida

Paraestra’s Takeru Uchida is a promising young fighter on the right track. At just 19 the youngster is 4-1 and riding a 3 fight win streak. Another fighter that cut their teeth in the All Japan Shooto amateur circuit, Uchida went 6-1 as an amateur before turning pro at just 16 years old. With all of his victories coming by way of stoppage, Uchida is adept at finishing on the ground. While he most recently choked-out Yo Otake in the 1st round, the youngster has also tapped current Strawweight top contender, Jo Arai. Bulked up as a Flyweight, Uchida faces a stiff test, a tricky opponent the savvy submission ace must defeat to climb the rankings and keep his dream alive.

In comparison to his adversary, Yuto Sekiguchi’s biggest threat comes from his hands. With excellent footwork Sekiguchi keeps his opponents on their toes as he sets traps. Using his guile to create openings the Shooto Gym Tokyo fighter does not force the finish, instead reading the situation and displaying great fight awareness. The cerebral fighter takes command of the cage and rounds and is prepared to go the distance if required. A good case in point would be Sekiguchi’s last bout where he stayed ahead of Daichi Nishimura for the unanimous decision. With his 4th ranking on the line the stakes are high for Sekiguchi who may conclude leaning on experience and playing it safe is the best strategy when matched with a young gun submission artist.


6th match: Women’s Super Atomweight: 5min 2R

Mina Kurobe vs Momoka Hoshuyama

While Kurobe relinquished her Atomweight title to “Sarami” last outing, she put on a sensational performance, taking the fight to the challenger at every opportunity. With her grit and determination Kurobe has an unbreakable fighting spirit and the skills to back it up. Starting afresh, Kurobe will be all business in the cage, looking to make a statement with a quick finish and get back on track to reclaim her title.  

At just 1-1 as a pro Hoshuyama unquestionably has the cards stacked against her. What she lacks in experience, the Akasaki A-Spirit fighter compensates with heart and determination. Early in her professional career, the opportunity to test herself against someone with the stature and ability of Kurobe will prove valuable, win, lose or draw. With the pressure and expectations firmly on her opponent’s shoulders, Hoshuyama has little to lose in letting go with everything she has. With her first professional win under her belt, a shutout decision over the heavy hitting Chisato Wada, expect the ever improving Hoshuyama to be well prepared as she attempts to pull a rabbit out of a hat and score a massive upset. 


Women’s Atomweight Infinity League 2022 Matches

Implementing a round-robin format ensuring that all 5 lighters face each other, the well received Infinity League Tournaments have become a staple for Shooto. The contests are typically completed within a year with the overall victor’s reign undeniable. With 3 points for a finish, 2 for a decision win and 1 for a draw the action is fast paced as competitors give everything they have and leave it all in the cage. Shooto 2022 Opening Round sees 2 intriguing striker vs grappler match ups as youthful exuberance encounters veteran maturity. 


5th match: Women’s Atomweight Infinity League 2022, 5min 2R

Hisae (Hisato) “Zero” Watanabe vs Haruna Kato

Iconic legend and pioneer of women’s MMA in Japan, KO queen Hisae Watanabe’s announcement as the final entrant to the Infinity League tournament came out of the blue. First retiring in 2007, the 41 year old flirted with a comeback with 2 matches in 2016 before seemingly hanging up the gloves for good. Asserting that the time is right for a comeback, Watanabe chose the alias “Zero,” as a symbol of a new beginning. Allegedly hitting harder than ever, the ferocious striker will test her firepower against a new generation of fighters. 

Haruna Kato takes on the unenviable task of facing off against the striking veteran. The youngest competitor in the tournament, at just 18, the high school student has shown an affinity for MMA. Competing in the All Japan Amateur Championships at just 16, the gifted youngster will be making her pro debut. Fighting out of the prestigious Nascer Do Sol, Kato will be well prepared to step into the cage against an intimidating opponent. Confident in her skill-set and preparation, Kato will be out to prove that MMA has evolved and the future belongs to her generation.


4th match: Women’s Atomweight Infinity League 2022, 5min 2R

Miku Nakamura vs Yuki Ono

“Northern Striker” Miku Nakamura dropped weight to try her hand in the Atomweight Infinity League Tournament, taking on stand out wrestler Chihiro Sawada last outing. Both considered league favorites, the contrast of styles favored decorated wrestler Sawada, who repeatedly hit textbook takedowns to take the win on 2 of the 3 scorecards. Nakamura could not achieve victory but she was far from dominated or broken. At a more competitive weight, the deadly striker was not easy to hold down, even by the tournament’s elite wrestler. In her 2nd Infinity League outing, Nakamura meets a very different kind of grappler and a new riddle to solve. The ball will be in Nakamura’s court, if she can maintain range and unload her arsonal of precision strikes, the “Northern Striker” will be en route to another TKO stoppage. 

Okinawa’s first professional female Shooter, Yuki Ono medaled in the 2019 All Japan Amateur Championships to earn her pro licence. Sharing the same last opponent as her opponent, Ono welcomend Chihiro Sawada to the professional leagues last outing. Known for her grappling and submission acumen, Ono was able to maintain an active guard, survive some ferocious ground and pound, and lock up tight submissions. The tight submissions and effort to finish proved crucial when it came to the judging, with 2 of the 3 judges awarding her the 2nd round, the Grand Slam Okinawa A.P.P submission specialist earned a hard fought majority draw. The Okinawan wants the fight to go to the ground at all costs as, even from the bottom, the grappler possesses a constant threat.


3rd match: 5min 2R

Megumi Sugimoto vs Salt 

Megumi Sugimoto has tasted what it is like to face the very best and, while she has fallen short, the experience has paid off dividends as she climbs back up the ladder. In her bid to become Champion Sugimoto pushed Mina Kurobe to her limit, falling short on the scorecards in a show stealing bout. Following loss to the current champion Satomi “Sarami” Takano, Sugimoto was able to regroup and rebound with a quick submission over Mikiko Hiyama. While Sugimoto is a complete fighter, her strength lies in her grappling. Executing a strong game plan, the skilled wrestler muscles the fight to the canvas where she rains down heavy ground and pound before capitalizing on a Rear  Naked Choke finish. For her next step on her journey to title contention and vengeance, the AACC grappling standout faces a relatively unknown, but potentially dangerous opponent. 

Salt earned her pro license after her success at the Amateur Shooto EX Tournament. Adept at putting her long limbs to work, the rangy fighter has great striking accuracy. “Salt” will definitely have her work cut out for her against top-ranker Sugimoto. The Mars gym striker has little to lose in going for broke and letting her fists and feet fly. Conversely, the pressure will be on Sugimoto as she pursues her finely tuned wrestling and submission game. 


2nd match: Featherweight, 5min 2R

Takeaki Kinoshita vs Keiichiro Kudo

Takeaki Kinoshita has a reputation for always being on the hunt for a KO. The Karate stylist is fast and accurate with his attacks and is not afraid to take risks, going high and spinning effortlessly with kicks. In his last bout, the Wajutsu Keishukai Hearts striking specialist gave away too many opportunities in his quest for a highlight reel KO, dropping a close decision to the experienced top ranker Tateo Iida. For his next battle, Kinoshita will get the kind of fighter that will bring out the best in him in a match up that should be fireworks.

Fighting out of Grand Slam Okinawa A.P.P, Keiichiro Kudo also hails from a karate background. Earning his pro license after winning the Amateur Shooto EX Tournament in 2020 Kudo debuted against rugged 15 year veteran Yoshihiro Koyama. A fighter who has fought at the highest levels, Koyama proved too much for Kudo, notching up a decision win. Kudo fared well despite the loss. For his sophomore appearance he draws a much better stylistic match up in a bout unlikely to go the distance..


1st match: Strawweight, 5min 2R

Masatoshi Abe vs Atsushi Makigaya

Once considered a top contender of the division at 8-1-1, Masatoshi Abe’s career has been plagued by injuries and surgeries, forcing him out of the sport. Competing intermittently, the AACC warrior competed just 4 times from 2007 to 2012 before an ill fated return in 2019 to high level prospect Michael Nakagawa. Masatoshi, the younger brother of AACC head honcho Hiroyuki Abe, possesses a solid wrestling base bolstered by heavy hands and iron chin. His unbreakable heart and fighting spirit remain and his desire to step into the cage again admirable. For his next outing the tough 45 year old receives a better match up.

Standing across from Abe will be 42 year old 36 fight veteran Atsushi Makigaya. Fighters from the same generation, both got off to fast starts, racking up wins before facing major setbacks. While Abe faced injury Makigaya could never quite find the form needed to become a contender. Owner of a deceiving record, the Wajutsu Keishukai Gunma representative has fought a litany of top contenders in the division. In his last outing he may have lost, but he took no.1 contender Jo Arai to a decision. Expect an evenly matched bout where the outcome may come down to the condition of the fighter. 


Opening Fight: Flyweight, 5min 2R

Hayato “Shun” Sasaki vs Koki Morita

Hayato “Shun” Sasaki’s pro debut turned into a highly entertaining shootout with Naoto Terashima where neither backed down. The T-Grip representative carried the extra power and accuracy to emerge victorious, scoring a KO with a stunning right straight late in the 2nd (final) round. A product of the Shooto Amateur circuit, “Shun” has poise, experience and heart to go along with ever improving technical prowess.

Koki Morita has had a sporadic career in MMA, making his debut in 2015 he compiled 4 amateur fights over 4 years before making his pro debut in Korea, dropping a respectable decision to Jun Min Lim. Taking a 2 year hiatus, Morita has honed his skills at Paraestra Matsudo. Picking up a win in a return to Amateur competition last year reaffirmed Morita’s position to continue as a professional. While he may not have the amateur pedigree of his opponent, Morita has no doubt improved in his time away from competition. 


About the Author

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

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