Main Event – 11th Match: Pacific Rim Bantamweight Championship, 5min 3R
Kota Onojima Defeated Nobuki Fujii (Unanimous Decision, 30-27, 29-28, 29-28)
An intriguing main event featured a tactical battle of fighters possessing endless cardio in contrasting styles. From the opening stanza Fujii played matador, using angles and speed to keep Onojima guessing. Southpaw Onojima switched stances in order to launch low calf kicks and go high with the lead leg. Treading a fine line, Fujii fired jabs and straights while keeping just out of range of the huge over-hand hooks. When they did clash, Onojima planted his feet and swung powerful hooks to keep his savvy adversary at bay. Fujii pieced together technical entries to takedowns but his powerhouse opponent was never out of position. With his physical advantage Onojima drove his opponent into the cage fence for much of the round. Fujii’s defence was on point, under/overhook, neck and head control created the angles needed to thwart any takedowns attempts. Escaping from the fence though, proved far trickier.
In the 2nd round Fujii turned up the activity and altered his strategy, tenaciously shifting weight and direction in attempts to bring the fight to the canvas. Onojima proved night immovable as he sprawled and stifled the attacks, bullying the Alliance fighter against the cage. Fujii implemented correct grips and technique but reversals from the cage came few and far between. Not to mention any separation was met by a barrage of hooks from Onojima. Brawling enough to create openings, the brawny Combat Workout Diamonds grappler clasped his hands around the body and sought double leg takedowns. With both fighters exchanging relatively evenly on the feet, the grinding control time against the cage for the top ranked challenger was racking up. Running out of options, a final surge in the last 10 seconds for a single leg by Fujii was sprawled as the round came to a close.
In the 3rd and final round, the onus was on Fujii to turn the tide and steal the momentum. Surging forward the 3rd ranked Bantamweight relied on hands, sharp jabs and precision crosses. His adversary continued with clubbing hooks in close while relying on kicks at range. Intermittent high kicks kept the more mobile Fujii on his toes as Onojima time and time again resisted clinch and takedown attempts. The pattern repeated throughout the round, both fighters were trading on the feet in attempts to open the door to get the crucial takedown. With endless stamina and conditioning Fujii finally found a glimmer of hope as the end of the round loomed. Slipping a surge of hooks the specialised all-rounder penetrated deep on a single leg and, with lightning quick mastery, rolled to the back. Simultaneously seizing a constricting Rear Naked Choke around Onojima’s muscled neck, Fujii tightened with everything he had. Yet to be submitted throughout his career, Onojima plied Fujii’s hands off, muscling out of the dicey situation as the fight came to a conclusion.
All 3 judges scored the bout 3-0 (29-28 x 2, 30-27) for Onojima, crowning him the 10th Pacific Rim Bantamweight Champion. A highly consistent performer his whole career, Onojima was determined to make the most of the title shot and came through when it counted. For Fujii, the perennial top ranker faltered at the final hurdle, the title slipping through his fingers to an opponent who could implement their game that little bit better.
Semifinal – 10th Match: Bantamweight, 5min 3R
Rinya Nakamura Defeated Yasayuki Nojiri (TKO, Ground and Pound, 1R, 0:25)
An ill fated jumping knee turned out to be the beginning of the end for Nojiri. Rocketing out of his corner the Akasaka Dojo fighter took flight, only to be countered by a dynamite left hook from Nakamura that spelled the beginning of the end. Careering into the cage, Nojiri was hammered mercilessly as he clung to the legs looking for respite. Nakamura continued to unload a barrage of punches as his shaken opponent tried to get back to his feet and into the fight. At just 25 seconds in the referee had seen enough, signalling an end to the bout.
It would seem that the sky’s the limit for LDH Gym fighter Nakamura. A physical specimen, the decorated wrestler has the ability to hoist opponents into the air and slam them to the canvas. Furthermore, all 3 of Nakamura’s wins have come via stoppage due to strikes. Ranked fighter Nojiri’s strategy for the fight will haunt him for some time. A prolific finisher in his own right, Nojiri boasts a 100% finishing rate with all 5 wins coming by way of stoppage. A talented fighter who was in hindsight overconfident in his approach, expect Nojiri to go back to the drawing board, regroup and come back stronger.
Patrick Sho Usami Defeated Kazumasa “Bunta” Sugawara (TKO, Ground and Pound, 4:54)
The highly anticipated match featuring “Fighting Dreamers” standout Usami had fans on the edge of their seats. Both fighters targeted the body with southpaw Sugawara uncorking left hands and 1-2’s while Usami loaded up on the kicks. A check left hook and front kick knocked Sugawara down but little damage was done. A slip from Usami prompted the Masters Japan representative to pounce with a flurry. Both fighters threw caution to the wind against the cage, unleashing combinations with ill intent and little regard for defence. Just as Sugawara appeared to be getting the upper hand he got clipped by a left hook and hit the canvas momentarily. The LDH “Dreamer” did not let up with the offence. A counter right and “Bunta” was on the canvas again, instinctively shooting for a takedown in an attempt to weather the storm. “Bunta” was clearly on shaky legs though, absorbing huge shots that sent him reeling to the canvas. The Ground and Pound came thick and fast from Usami, sprawling and brawling until the referee called the fight with just 6 seconds left in the round.
With the stoppage “Patrick” earned himself the MVP award of the night. Proving himself a viable top contender, the Abema reality TV star advanced to a perfect 4-0. For Sugawara the loss was a tough pill to swallow, notoriously durable, the fighter now finds himself on a 3 fight losing skid.
Jo Arai Defeated Takamasa “Skinny Zombie” Kiuchi (TKO, Ground and Pound, 4:46)
From the get-go it was clear that 7th ranked Takamasa “Skinny Zombie” Kiuchi wanted nothing to do with the firepower of top contender Jo Arai. Using his reach Kiuchi tagged Arai to the body and head on the outside. Once Arai worked his way in the heavy hitter dropped “Skinny Zombie” with a loaded jab. An adept grappler, Kiuchi zoned in on the legs, fishing for a footlock. Shrugging the submission off Arai stood and beckoned his adversary up. The moment proved to be a crucial point of the fight, as “Skinny Zombie” dropped to the ground with virtually every strike from the heavy handed Wajutsu Keishukai HEARTS fighter. As the bombs landed “Skinny Zombie” was on shakier and shakier ground. Dropping to his back hoping to draw Arai into a ground battle, Kiuchi additionally used the tactic to aid recovery. The shellacking on the feet continued however until a right uppercut, left hook, right hook combination put the “Zombie” down for good. The spectacular KO came with just 4 seconds left in the round.
With the victory Arai cemented his status as no.1 contender, highlighting the gap between 1st and 7th place. Kiuchi’s grit, determination and gameness kept him in the fight longer than expected given the renowned punching power of his opponent.
Mina Kurobe Defeated Momoka Hoshuyama (Unanimous Decision, 20-19, 20-19, 20-19)
As the fighters faced off in the center of the cage, Kurobe immediately pressed forward, taking the fight to the longer, faster striker. Hoshuyama countered Kurobe’s left jab, coming over the top with on point right crosses. From a distance Hoshuyama sniped at Kurobe, who feigned her way to a body lock, driving her opponent into the cage fence. Briefly hitting the mat, Hoshuyama inched her way back up to her feet. Keeping body to body Kurobe employed the dirty boxing she is known for, ending the round with well placed short hooks and uppercuts.
The final round commenced with Kurobe steadfastly sticking to her strategy. With repetitive jabs and 1-2s, the Masters Japan veteran marched forward. Creating angles and relying on reach, Hoshuyama peppered Kurobe with lead hand straights and hooks. Unwavering, Kurobe ducked, dived and drove her way to grappling range. Alternating from single to double to single the grappling expert finally dragged her defiant adversary to the canvas. Clutching the wrists and locking up the legs, Kurobe finally succeeded in holding her opponent down. Remaining calm and composed, Hoshuyama adeptly resisted a Kimura attempt, taking advantage to return to her feet. Kurobe was unrelenting in her clinch attacks against the cage, utilizing short, clipping left and right hooks, uppercuts and knees. Hoshuyama again hits the canvas as the horn sounds to end the match, giving Kurobe the round, and match.
Hoshuyama showcases significant improvement fight after fight. Able to keep hips heavy and defend takedowns has paid off dividends for the Akasaki Dojo member, allowing her to rattle off crisp, accurate strikes. Kurobe relied on her experience and willpower, working her way into the match she stuck to her guns, took control and did what was needed to pull out the win.
Women’s Atomweight Infinity League 2022 Match
Hisae (Hisato) “Zero” Watanabe Defeated Haruna Kato (Armbar, 1R, 1:55)
18 year old Kato was completely unintimidated by the striking reputation of tournament favourite Watanabe. The match kicked off at a blistering pace as Kato fought fire with fire on the feet. The more refined and polished striker, “Zero” weaved potent left and right straights between her foes’ looping strikes. Unfazed, the “High School Shooter” demonstrated exceptional timing, landing her own loaded blows. Not letting her ego take over, Watanabe followed the surest path to victory, pulling guard and cinching a triangle choke. The legendary veteran read the situation perfectly, converting to a straight armbar for the tap in the opening round.
Kato lost her professional debut but won over a lot of fans with her performance. Fearlessly trading with a renowned KO artist, the young Nascer Do Sol fighter’s courage and aptitude for MMA make her a prospect to keep an eye on. For “Zero,” it is perhaps fitting that her new beginning comes with a submission rather than KO. Watanabe acknowledged her opponents’ heavy strikes. Fighting for her daughter and prioritising a finish the fighting mother turned to her full skillset to pick up the victory.
Women’s Atomweight Infinity League 2022 Match
Miku Nakamura Defeated Yuki Ono (Unanimous Decision, 20-18, 20-18, 20-18)
The first Infinity League bout featured a classic striker vs grappler match up. Southpaw Nakamura struck early. Her feared straight left stunned Ono who ventured to get the fight down to the ground at all costs. Dragging Nakamura to the mat, the Groundslam A.P.P grappler sacrificed top position for the opportunity to fight in her comfort zone. Using her legs and arm to tie Nakamura up awkwardly from side position, the Okinawan avoided absorbing damage but could not progress to threaten with any kind of submission. Nakamura methodically broke through the hold and finished strong, with some elbows and hammerfists.
In the final round Nakamura unleashed her arsonal of attacks. Pin point straight hands set up a variety of kicks. Showing improved stand up, Ono countered a spinning kick with a right hand and followed up with a front kick. Playing with fire for too long, Ono ate a flurry of strikes until a left straight put her down. Smelling Blood Nakamura dived into guard looking to finish only to be caught in the butterfly guard and swept. Instantly reversing the reversal, the Mars Gym striker finished a commanding round unleashing strikes.
Nakamura, the first female professional Shooter from Hokkaido fought on her terms and secured a clear cut victory. Ono implemented her “all or nothing” strategy. Unless she finds a submission Okinawa’s first professional female Shooter generally loses the decision. With the win Nakamura attains 2 points in her second Infinity League outing.
Megumi Sugimoto Defeated Salt (Unanimous Decision, 20-18, 20-18, 20-18)
Top ranker Megumi Sugimoto squared off against standout “rookie of the year” candidate known simply as “Salt”. Sugimoto laid her cards on the table early, making no secret of her intentions, the AACC grappler clinched and scored a double leg takedown right off the bat. Salt was well prepared, keeping her head above opponents enabled her to “climb” the fence and return to her feet. Picking her shots well, the rangy Salt connected with the cleaner strikes as both ladies engaged. Tenacious, Sugimoto kept the pressure, ducking down for double legs to sit the taller fighter down. While Salt was surprisingly resilient in the grappling department and dangerous on the feet, the Mars Gym rookie could not enforce her game in the opening round.
By the 2nd round the grappling pedigree of Sugimoto was breaking through. Salt fought to her feet from an early takedown and let her hands go. After a left, right and front kick combination from Salt found their target, Sugimoto went up a gear. The expert wrestler skillfully switched from a single to a double leg to take the fight to canvas again. In her element Sugimoto controlled her opponents legs and arms before swiftly improving positions and executing calculated Ground and Pound. As Salt once again clawed her way back to the feet Sugimoto ducked under the arm to claim back position. Locking in the hooks the submission expert latched on to a tight Rear Naked Choke as time expired.
Salt exceeded expectations in her debut with crisp, accurate striking and solid grappling defence. It was not enough to topple a fighter of the stature of Sugimoto though, who dictated the battleground and controlled the tempo with her chain wrestling and submission grappling.
Keiichiro Kudo Defeated Takeaki Kinoshita (KO, Standing Punches, 1R, 3:53)
Wajutsu Keishukai Hearts Kareteka Kinoshita, who excels at a distance, fought to maintain range early in the round. Keeping his foe at bay with rear roundhouse kicks the precision striker additionally targeted the body with piercing straight hands. Kudo countered by lunging forward with left and right hands to create the opening needed to close the distance and clinch. After manoeuvring Kinoshita to the fence the Groundslam Okinawa A.P.P representative disengaged and let loose with heavy leather. The surprise onslaught prompted a response from Kinoshita, who stayed in the pocket and returned fire. The distance favoured Kudo, who landed a monstrous right hand to the chin. Knocking Kinoshita out cold before he slumped to the canvas, Kudo notched up his first professional victory in sensational style.
Masatoshi Abe Defeated Atsushi Makigaya (Unanimous Decision, 20-18, 20-18, 20-18)
The opening bout of the evening saw 2 battle tested veterans put on a show as 45 year old Abe met 42 year old Makigaya. Getting straight to work, southpaw Abe established a piston like jab. Reading his opponents head movement the AACC fighter then honed in on thunderous left hands down the pipe. Tough as nails, Makigaya would not back down, trading in the pocket before shooting for Takedowns. Hard nosed persistence led to an opportunity as Makigaya entangled his adversaries legs and worked for submissions. In a career fraught with knee injuries Abe was in obvious pain. Enduring the hold, he threw backfists that carried abnormal power. Makigaya switched up to an inside heelhook, giving a window for Abe to escape and rain down blows.
The battle continued into the 2nd round. Bloodied and battered the headstrong Makigaya closed distance and threw down with everything he had. While Abe slipped the majority of the wild swings, some of the unorthodox strikes found their mark. A clubbing right hand and spinning backfist to the chin spurred Abe on to up the intensity, finding a home formore straights and uppercuts. As the veteran war-horses went toe to toe, Abe pulled further ahead as the rugged Wajutsu Keishukai Gunma warrior showed signs of fading.
Retaining his signature power and iron chin, Abe was awarded both rounds on the judges scorecards, earning his first win since 2012. Makigaya came to fight and left it all in the cage in an entertaining scrap to kick off the event.