Main Event, Shooto World Strawweight Championship, 5M x 5R
Jo Arai defeated Junji “Sarumaru” Ito by TKO (1R, 1:50)
The main event of the evening did not last long. What it lacked in length it more than made up for in action. Neither champion nor challenger took a backwards step in an explosive exchange of firepower.
Fighting out of Shooto Gym Tokyo, the Champion, Ito, drew first blood. Wading forward he corked off an onslaught of jabs, straights and kicks, marking up Arai`s face. Not wanting to lose ground the challenger planted his feet and threw back. “Sarumaru” adeptly dodged and weaved the strikes, opening the door for a takedown and momentary back take. A second takedown was foiled resulting in a slight shift in strategy for the Champion. Electing to fight fire with fire, the versatile Shooto Gym Tokyo all-rounder bombarded Arai with a lightning fast salvo of punches from close range. With his back against the cage the Wajutsu Keishukai Hearts challenger weathered the storm and responded, blasting a thunderous straight right clean on target rocked Ito. A monstrous follow up right on que and “Sarumaru” slumped to the canvas.
Going out on his shield, “Sarumaru” showered Arai with a torrent of rapid fire blows but fell victim to the challenger’s heavy artillery. A blow for blow game-plan is playing with fire with Arai who has dynamite in his hands. With the victory the fairytale finish comes to fruition for the fighter once in the gutter, on a 9 fight losing skid. A symbol for all with his “never give up” motto, a philosophy that Arai embraced and has carried him to the top of the mountain.
Co-Main Event, Welterweight, 5M x 3R
Yamato Nishikawa defeated Shigeaki “Kusa MAX” Kusayanagi by decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
The southpaws faced off as the co-main event got underway. Through the first, Nishikawa methodically measured the distance and controlled the tempo. Darting in with a stiff jab the LW Champion stacked up the offence, straights to the body and head, low kicks and knees from the clinch. A game “Kusa Max” kept a tight guard but was getting beaten in speed and timing. Taunting the 19 year old Karate stylist to engage, Kusayanagi dropped his hands, perhaps hoping to create some kind of opening. The Nishikawa Dojo fighter was happy to oblige, storming in with heavy leather as the round concluded.
In the 2nd it was clear that “Kusa Max” had a riddle to solve. With a high guard the gritty Team Climb / Grabaka Akabane fighter was not getting caught clean, as a consequence however, he was unable to get off on strikes for fear of leaving an opening. Nishikawa peppered with strikes, moving up from torso to head to legs; the slick technician worked all ranges on the feet. Kusayanagi searched for an answer, closing distance, chasing, pressuring, but could not deter the smaller, faster fighter from pouring on the strikes. As the bell sounded to end the round “Kusa Max`s” defence had held up with Nishikawa unable to land anything clean.
In the final Nishikawa was freely flowing with techniques, low high and spinning kicks, and straight lefts and rights. In what turned out to be mostly a Kickboxing bout, “Kusa Max” showed his experience. Careful not to over extend and give up a takedown or run into strikes, the wily veteran found a home for kicks and a surprising spinning back fist. With intermittent blitzes on the feet, the LW champion tried to open the doors to a finish, staggering his durable foe, but it was not to be. As the bout concluded it was scored a clear cut shut out for Nishikawa, taking every round. The LW champion requested a quick turn around, requesting inclusion in Shooto’s November event.
[8th match] Flyweight, 5M x 3R
Yuto Sekiguchi defeated Takeru Uchida by Submission (Armbar, 1R, 4:44)
The highly anticipated match between 2 of Shooto’s top rankers got off to a wild start. After connecting with a right hand off the bat Sekiguchi went airborne, looking for a leaping knee KO as Uchida lunged for a single leg. A little off target, Uchida capitalised to plant the Shooto GYM Tokyo standout on his back and keep him there. Escaping from a body lock hold down, the division`s number 1 attempted to stand but settled for open guard. Uchida showed he was not playing, progressing to ½ guard to rain down some vicious elbows to the head. Sekiguchi struggled to retrieve a closed guard, absorbing lefts rights and elbows. Reading his opponents timing, Sekiguchi seized a small window of opportunity. A weighty left hand from Paraestra Matsudo‘s Uchida was expertly locked up, going “belly down” on the armbar, Sekiguchi elicited the tap with just 16 seconds left in the round.
Uchida can hold his head high, with a spirited performance the 8th ranker’s aggression ultimately led to his undoing. Dangerous everywhere, the come from behind victory solidified Sekiguchi`s position as top contender, with a title shot surely on the horizon.
[7th match] Bantamweight, 5M x3R
Joji Goto defeated Kenji Kato by TKO (2R, 3:50)
Both natural southpaws, Kato employed a fluid striking game early as the KO specialist switched stances, leapt in with strikes and kept his ranked opponent guessing. In contrast Goto was more conventional, with solid fundamentals. An unorthodox right “shovel” uppercut penetrated the guard of Goto, first wobbling then knocking him off balance and to the ground. As the round progressed at a blistering pace, Goto read Kato`s timing well, answering with lead right hooks and straight lefts. It was the K.O Shooto Gym striker’s turn to hit the canvas momentarily, courtesy of a right hook counter. Turning up the intensity in the final minute Goto unloaded a barrage that left his adversary dazed and clinching as the round closed.
In the 2nd, both continued to throw caution to the wind as a rejuvenated Kato staged a comeback. Sharp shooting on the feet with straights and hooks, he tagged Goto, who resorted to effective low kicks from a distance. Biding his time, the Tribe Tokyo MMA all rounder unleashed a combination of hands and feet, concluding with a thudding left straight to the body. Gasping for air, Kato very briefly slowed and dropped back. Smelling blood, the 5th ranked Goto honed in on a thunderous straight left counter, sending his foe careering to the canvas. The referee dived in to stop the match as Goto emerged victorious in a battle of heavy hitters.
[6th match] Featherweight, 5M x 3R
Takeo Iida defeated Akuri Ronda by TKO (Referee Stoppage, 3R, 1:13)
Rugged warhorse Ronda had his back against the wall against no1 seed Iida yet came out guns blazing regardless. Clubbing jabs and overhand rights got through clean for the underdog as he found range early. Iida absorbed the damage well and, as he smiled, landed a monstrous counter that had Ronda in a world of trouble. On rubbery legs and struggling to keep his wits, Ronda remarkably staved off a Rear Naked Choke from consummate finisher Iida as the round finished.
In the 2nd stanza it was more of the same for the unwavering Ronda, stepping in to jar his opponents head back with lead hooks and 1-2`s. While the Shingikan MMA warrior wracked up the volume, a composed Iida calculated single shot counters. A knee and blistering right hand once again had Ronda fighting to regain footing. Unyielding, Ronda clasped his hands around a double and ploughed the number 1 contender to the fence. His respite was short lived however as Iida used the cage to work to his feet and break free. On shaky legs yet again Ronda’s fighting spirit was unbreakable as he fended off another Rear Naked Choke. Submission savvy Iida fished for an armbar transition as time expired.
Taking command of the cage centre in the final round, Iida oozed confidence. Slipping a left hook the top contender replied with picture perfect right hands, the 2nd of which sent Ronda careering to the canvas against the cage. With fighter safety paramount, the referee had seen enough, waving off the fight around the ½ way mark of the round.
Tremendous heart shown by Ronda, a hallmark of his fights. The match belonged to Iida however, who, with the title firmly in sight, notched another finish for his 4th straight victory.
[5th match] Women’s Flyweight, 5M x 2R
Raika “Fujin” Emiko vs. Megumi Sugimoto was a draw (majority, 19-19. 19-19, 20-18)
With original opponent, So Yul Kim encountering last minute Visa issues, the dependable Megumi Sugimoto stepped up 2 weight classes to take on the debuting Raika “Fujin” Emiko.
The opening round ensued with Sugimoto making her intentions clear, shooting for the legs of the elite boxer turned MMA fighter. Emiko sprawled efficiently and effectively shut down the AACC fighter’s attempts to secure her back. Countering Raika’s “box in the pocket” striking expertise with leaping punches, the grappling expert fared well in the striking but could muster one of her signature takedowns.
The trend continued in the final round. Physical, well conditioned and powerful in the clinch, the Right Thing Academy debutant whipped Sugimoto`s head down. Able to maintain balance and nullify attempts to snatch a leg from the 3rd ranked Super Atomweight, “Fujin” rode out the 2nd round, digging to the body with punches. 2 of the 3 judges awarded Sugimoto the 1st round, likely due to aggression and attempts to secure position. The dissenting judge leaned towards Emiko, 20-18.
[4th match] Bantamweight, 5M x 2R
“Susung” Soo Sung Cho defeated Tsubasa Saito by Decision (20-18, 20-18, 20-18)
Dropping down to Bantamweight, “Susong” was not intimidated by the reputation of the burly Saito. Diving in with an assortment of kicks, the Taekwondo champion was agile and precise. Overzealous in closing the distance led to a butting of heads, causing a small cut on Saito, whose face remained stoic as the doctor took a look. Upon restart, Saito swung for the fences. The rangy Krazy Bee kicker showed no fear in trading in the pocket as both launched an array of strikes to the head and body to conclude an action packed round.
Round 2 continued at a frenetic pace. Saito employed his own kicking game while reading the kicks of his adversary and connecting with straight counters. Both fighters left it all in the cage, throwing everything with ill intent. “Susong” showcased his agility and speed, swiftly releasing a left high kick and left hook in succession to buckle Saito‘s knees and drop him to the ground. Springing back up the boisterous Tsudanuma Dojo/ Fight Farm representative immediately cinched a single leg and seized a body lock. Bullying “Susong” to all fours on the mat, Saito claimed back position and sought a Rear Naked Choke as the fight ended. The late rally was not enough to sway the judges though, who gave “Susung” 20-18 scores across the board.
[3rd match] Infinity League 2022, Women’s Atomweight, 5M x 2R
Yuki Ono defeated Hisae “Kuon” Watanabe by submission (armbar, 2R, 2:13)
After tentatively trading right hands and kicks Ono took a risk, driving in from the outside to get into clinch range. “Kuon” fought off a double leg but stayed in grappling range too long and surrendered her back. In her comfort zone, the Grand Slam Okinawa A・P・P submission stylist inched closer to a choke. Watanabe defended perfectly, preventing Ono from getting both hooks in. The Kickboxer then turned the tables, rotating to claim top position. Capitalising on the advantageous position, “Kuon” showered down hefty punches as Ono held on until the round ended.
More comfortable on her feet letting her strikes flow, “Kuon” unleashed a left hand in tandem with rights to the body and head that found their target. Aware of her foes legendary firepower, Ono shot a single leg from far out. Somewhat unexpectedly, the grappling expert had to fend off a heelhook attempt from the striking specialist! Using the hold to gain top position the Zero gym striker dropped hammers from the guard. Composed, Ono was in her element, she slipped a punch, swung hips out and applied a textbook armbar for the tap.
A well versed MMA fighter, “Kuon” perhaps remained too comfortable playing her opponent’s game. For Ono, the win came with a huge celebration, she now joins Watanabe and Nakamura with 4 points in the infinity league, within reach of the current leader Sawada.
[2nd match] Rookie of the Year Tournament Semifinals, Featherweight, 5M x 2R
Asuka Tsubaki defeated Keiichiro Kudo by decision (unanimous, 20-18, 20-18, 20-18)
The 1st round of the match was largely contested in the clinch. The more physical, dynamic Tsubaki was just a small fraction ahead of his counterpart. Kudo cleared a Thai clinch to work a double leg but his opponent regained their footing. Tsubaki muscled a double leg at the end of the opening stanza, winning the takedown battle to steal the round.
A guillotine counter for Kudo in the final round marked his last chance for a finish. Going all in on the technique, Kudo dropped down and adjusted the submission from his back to find an angle. Tsubaki was wise to the attack and shut the Grand Slam Okinawa A・P・P fighter down. Remaining dominant from the top the Trident gym grappler remained sticky, maintaining position and leverage to send Kudo to the mat whenever he stood to escape. Winning the 2nd round and the fight, an efficient workmanlike performance earned Tsubaki a hard fought victory and place in the Featherweight Rookie of the Year finals.
[1st match] Rookie of the Year Tournament Round 1, Flyweight, 5M x 2R
Kodai Sudo defeated Atsushi “Akkun Bomber” Otani by Submission (Rear Naked Choke, R2, 3:04)
While neither fighter shied away from engaging in the striking department it became clear early that it would be the grappling that would determine the match. Sudo was on the back foot early, countering takedown attempts with front chokes. Otani scrambled to reverse a single leg, switching to a single of his own. ExFights Sudo thwarted the attempt, stepping over to remain on top where he fired down strikes until Otani made it back to his feet. A 1-2 from Sudo wobbled “Akkun Bomber” who answered with a beautifully executed Harai Goshi throw to top position, marking the end of a competitive round.
In the final stanza, Sudo charged in, throwing a flurry that prompted a takedown battle. Otani initiated but soon found himself in ½ guard taking punishment. The Tatoru BJJ Kumamoto grappler deftly escaped, standing with arms clenched around hips. It was Sudo`s turn for a head and arm throw, flipping Otani to the canvas he took the back. Under heavy ground and pound “Akkun Bomber” dropped his guard and succumbed to a textbook Rear Naked Choke. With the win Sudo advances to the Flyweight Rookie of the Year Semi-Finals!