Wataru Yamauchi Defeated Kiyotaka Shimizu by KO (0:44, R1)
Respecting his status as a mma pioneer, the main event was reserved for battle tested 43 fight veteran Kiyotaka Shimizu’s retirement match. His opponent, solid prospect Wataru Yamauchi entered a perfect 4-0. It was 2 years professional experience versus 14 as the new generation faced the old.
An abrupt end
Oozing with confidence the undefeated Yamauchi was determined to close the distance and brawl with speedy sniper Shimizu. Winging wild strikes forced Shimizu to react, at which point Yamauchi countered the counter. A looping right hand to the back of the ear dropped the MMA Tribe Tokyo fighter face first. A few follow up blows to the top of the head and the referee jumped in. The blows seemed to jolt Shimizu back into action though as he moved to guard and protested the stoppage.
A bittersweet goodbye
It was not the way the legend wanted to close out his career but Shimizu’s resume speaks for itself. A notoriously difficult to catch striker, the seasoned all-rounder was best known for setting traps and springing forward with sensational one strike finishes. For Yamauchi, the biggest win of his career will certainly send the rookie into the spotlight.
Nobuki Fujii defeated Hayato Ishii by Split Decision (30-27, 29-28, 28-29)
Ishii was light on his feet working behind a sharp jab. Known for pushing a frenetic face, Fujii was in perpetual forward motion, dirty boxing at close range. Content to exchange jabs and straights, Fujii chipped away with strikes, intermittently going low with calf kicks. Known for his strong Judo, Ishii countered a back take with a flawless Harai-Goshi head and arm throw. An expert from every position, it was not long until the division’s number 2 was back on his feet scoring with strikes. As the mirrored each other with jabs and combinations, Ishii appeared the more polished striker, Fujii versatile and active. The action really heated up as a razor close round came to a conclusion.
A strong rally
Kicking off the 2nd round the combatants briefly went blow for blow on the feet before Ishii sought to test the grappling credentials of his highly proficient opponent. Chaining together double legs, head and arm throws to throws from the back, inexplicably it was Fujii that countered and ended up taking back position. Ishii came close with a Kimura but again Fujii was able to exploit the attempt and come out on top. Body shots to Ishii’s ribs were slowing him and that explosive power to complete a takedown fading. In a pivotal exchange Ishii flipped Fujii down but the Alliance gym all rounder fought to retain back control and sunk his hooks in. For minutes Ishii showed incredible resolve, fending off ground and pound and RnC attempts to return to the feet. Good body shots by Fujii punctuated another action packed round.
A surge to the finish line
In the 3rd and final round Ishii quite literally flew out of his corner. Landing on his back the champion bounced back up and proceeded to initiate a firefight with his stoic opponent. Swinging back and forth it was Ishii who came out on top. Well timed and places strikes hurt Fujii who maintained poised and hustled the fight to the ground. Fishing for a RnC the perennial top contender moved to a head and arm kata-garame before locking up a tight triangle choke. The sequence was read well by Ishii who did enough to remain safe in a tense game of inches. The champion rode out the danger and finished with a blitz of punches and a high kick.
A long time coming
Ultimately 2 of the 3 judges leant towards Nobuki Fujii who matched Ishii on the feet and ground out hustled the Champion. For the first time in his stories career Fujii clears the final hurdle to become the 12th Pacific Rim Bantamweight Champion.
Takeshi Arai defeated Yo Otake by KO (Right Straight, 4:10, R1)
Known for his fearless and ruthless style, Shooto Strawweight Champion Takeshi Arai elected to move up a division to test his formidable firepower at Flyweight. As customary, the Strawweight Champion marched forward with arms by his side from the get-go. Otake found himself on the back foot, with reach on his side and accurate, technical boxing Otake pumped a solid jab and uppercuts from the southpaw stance while flicking up high kicks. Fighting out of Hagane gym, Otake was effectively and efficiently scoring, marking up Arai’s face while retreating and circling out of danger. About 90 seconds in, Arai timed a straight right that, while not landing clean, had enough starch and momentum to force Otake to his back. With absolutely no regard for defence Arai loaded up and tried to find that 1 monstrous shot he is known for. Otake capitalised, going to the body with left knees and kicks while slipping and sliding out of range. Just as the underdog was getting comfortable, with jabs and straights, Arai uncorked a colossal short right against the fence, Otake crumpled and the fight was over.
A New Bantamweight Contender
The power Arai carries for his size defies belief and, what’s more, that heavy weaponry carries up a division. With a blatant disregard for defence the savage KO artist hunts his prey, uncorking fight ending blows with every strike. Eager to test his mettle, top ranker Yuto Sekiguchi was not shy about entering the cage to face off with Arai in a striking match that will have fans salivating!
Takumi Sudo defeated Joji Goto by referee stoppage (heelhold, 2:01, R2)
The contrast in styles was apparent for the moment the match kicked off. “Leg Hunter” Sudo desperately sought to get the fight to the ground with Imanari Rolls and pulling guard attempts. In comparison Goto was calculated and measured in his attacks, never over extending or leaving an opening. High kicks and rear hands pressured Sudo to the fence where the Tribe Tokyo MMA fighter unloaded. Wanting little to do with the stand up Sudo frequently dropped to his back, baiting Goto to go into his world.
In the 2nd round Sudo found the smallest of openings and capitalised. From a single leg he bailed on position and simply rolled and wrapped around both his opponents legs. From there he expertly transitioned between inner and outer heelhooks and achilles locks. Well versed on the ground Goto carefully inched his way to safe positions but could not escape the leg control of the “Leg hunter”. One step ahead through the scramble Sudo would not be denied, the 23 year old finally locked up the heelhook and wretched on Goto’s leg. With the foot facing the wrong way the referee immediately halted the bout. The gruesome finish from the leg submission wizard will certainly have put the division on notice, his leg submission arsonal is something to be feared.
Nobutaka Naito defeated Hiroki Takaoka by Unanimous Decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Both flyweights came out cautious to start the opening round. From the southpaw stance, Naito attempted to establish the jab while Takaoka darted in and out with straight hands. Both fighters were tentative and falling short until a rear left lead hook from Naito stung Takaoka. Almost exclusively firing from the left side, Naito worked front kicks, crescent kicks and knees to the body. The Force Gym representative tried to answer back but was falling short. A strong kick dug deep into Naito’s leg prompting a 1-2 response to the body of Takaoka to end the round.
Takaoka entered the 2nd frame with a riddle to solve. This time taking the center of the cage and holding his ground, rattling off combinations from a much closer range. A straight left right hook combination stunned Naito moments before a pin point left sent him to the canvas. Desperate for a stoppage, a barrage of rear uppercuts from Takaoka found their target. Game and unwavering Naito returned fire in the pocket. Takaoka used the opportunity to drop low for a double leg and toss Naito to the mat. For the remainder of the round Takaoka took command of the grappling exchanges with a supplex and back take to stamp authority on the round and shift the momentum of the match.
The final stanza was a crucial one and both fighters knew it. Takaoka came out on fire with rear hands, stiff jabs and thudding kicks. Naito pulled himself back into the round with lead leg kicks and accurate straights. Superior footwork enabled Naito to play matador, angling out of danger and bouncing back with outside kicks and straight punches. Takaoka wound not back down, doubling up the jab to land the straight he threw everything with heat. In a close round the body shots of Naito were beginning to separate the fighters as Takaoka was caught time and time again. With his adversary visibly winded Naito poured on the pressure in the final minute, angling and striking with smooth precision. Takaoka had his moments and came close in the wilder exchanges but, in the end it was Naito who emerged victorious in a fiercely contested war.
Chihiro Sawada defeated Yuki Ono by Unanimous Decision (20-18, 20-17, 20-17)
Savvy submission specialist Ono rematched world class wrestler Sawada in a match for the grappling connoisseurs. As expected both hit the canvas early, with Sawada eating a knee to the head before scoring top position just 10 seconds into the opening stanza. From ½ guard the wrestling phenom framed hands on the face and dropped nasty elbows. Ono staged a reversal that prompted a head and arm throw from Sawada. From side control the AACC standout rained down hammerfists and, as Ono stood, drilled straight left hands to the head. Not one to back down, Ono surged forward throwing wild punches only to be dumped on her back again. From side Sawada was immovable, her rock solid base opening the doors to heavy ground and pound.
In the 2nd round it took around 5 seconds for Sawada to catch a leg, rotate and drive Ono to the canvas. From standing the powerhouse wrestler sent down heavy straight hands and, as Ono stood, threw her right back to the ground. From ½ guard Sawada again grinded and pounded away until she could advance to the side. Attaining crucifix and bombarding Ono with some brutal elbows and hammerfists the referee watched carefully. Fighting back to full guard, it was go-for-broke time for Ono who went for upkicks and tried to time a fight ending knee on the feet. It was all in vain as, once again, Sawada effortlessly ploughed her to the mat. Able to generate significant power on the ground, Sawada picked her spots with blistering punches and short weighty elbows. Finishing the fight in mount, a volley of punches was converted into an armlock attempt in the dying seconds.
Ono once again proved that she is game and experienced, holding on through dicey positions and staying in the fight. It was Sawada’s fight however, the AACC next generation fighter was dominant in the rematch. With 10 points Chihiro Sawada was crowned the Infinity League Atomweight Tournament winner and consequently the inaugural Shooto Atomweight Women’s champion.
Miku “Northern Striker” Nakamura Defeated Hisae “Kuon” Watanabe by TKO (Referee Stoppage, 4:59, R1)
The 1st of 2 crucial Infinity League Women’s Atomweight tournament bouts got underway as formidable strikers, Watanabe and Nakamura took centre stage. The KO veteran Watanabe struck early, parrying a front kick she fired off a short right hook that sent Nakamura to the canvas. A follow up knee barely missed the head as Nakamura instinctively wrapped around a leg to regain her footing. On the feet an elbow from the break to Watanabe sent the message that the “Northern Striker” would not be intimidated. As both clinched up, short elbows and strikes again found their mark, bloodying Watanabe’s nose. Wading in with hooks and kicks, Hisae was clearly looking for a highlight reel finish. In close however Nakamura was controlling the clinch work, doggedly working for a take down. Persistence paid off as the veteran finally slipped up, giving up mount. Nakamura rode top position and peppered away from top and back control as her “Kuon” struggled to defend. With just a second left in the round the referee had seen enough and stepped in. With the 1st round stoppage Nakamura notched 8 points in the Infinity League for 2nd place.
So Yul Kim Defeated Reika “Fujin” Emiko by Submission (Rear Naked Choke, 2:18, R3)
Initially slated to face each other at Shooto 2022 volume 6, the 2 elite strikers finally met in the cage and definitely did not disappoint. Kim fought smart early, using kicks to mask her punch combinations she was able to land left and right straights and shovel uppercuts. The Mob Training Center Kickboxer had a speed edge and successfully angled out of prolonged exchanges with the decorated ex-boxing champion. Reika really shone in the pocket, settling to her rhythm late with crisp, accurate hooks and body shots.
In the 2nd round “Fujin” switched up her tactics, turning to rarely seen kicking techniques to set up her boxing. Rear straights and lead hooks were weapons of choice for the boxer who was finding her mark more frequently as the fight progressed. Kim prioritised landing with accuracy over loading up, chipping away as her foe pushed forward. Off balancing with an O-Uchi-Gari inside sweep, Kim set up a picture perfect Uchi-Mata, planting Reika onto her back and taking side position. Perhaps sensing her opponent was tiring Kim continued to grapple against the cage on the feet, it was Raika, however who attempted the final takedown before catching Kim with a loaded straight on the exit.
Right Thing Academy’s Raika turned up the heat to start the 3rd round, with straights to body and head followed by a lead hook that continued to pay dividends. Pressure was building and just as momentum was shifting towards Raika, Kim switched the script and took the fight to the ground. Attaining mount Kim waited on her opponent to turn before cinching up a fight ending RnC that left Reika out on the canvas.
Shoji Saito Defeated Takumi Arai by Judgement after Draw (19-19, 20-18, 19-19)
In the opening stanza Arai went on the offensive early. Blitzing with strikes just enough to draw a response, the wrestling expert sought to go to the ground each time Saito returned fire. Winging punches to keep his foe honest, Arai then showed off some technical takedowns. Saito was game off his back, not passing on any opportunity to land strikes the striker maintained composure and made Arai work hard.
The second round started where the 1st left off as Arai scored a single to double leg combination right off the bat. Making good use of an open guard, Saito attempted to elevate and disrupt the base of the Stripe Shin-Yurigaoka wrestler. Arai was able to get shots through however and was in control until Saito pulled an unexpected armbar out of nowhere! As Saito went “belly down” for the finish the well educated Arai used his free arm to clear the legs and escape. On the feet, Arai showed no fear in striking with the Fight Farm Kickboxer, throwing caution to the wind with high kicks and straights. Saito was the more accurate striker, landing solid knees and punches on the surging Arai. Both fighters traded blow for blow on the ground to conclude an evenly contested bout that was scored a majority draw.
As it was a Rookie Tournament Semi-Final bout Shooto judges voted for the fighter they felt deserved the nod, with 2 of the 3 siding with Arai.
Kodai Sudo Defeated Daichi Mizuta (20-17, 20-17, 19-18)
After spending the opening minute measuring distance and range Sudo found his target with a straight hand down the pipe. Mizuta returned the favour with a matching rear hand that opened the door for a slick back take transition. With one arm tight under the chin the Arinaga Dojo Team Resolve fighter worked to secure the finish. As Sudo had one arm locked in between his opponents legs and was defending with a single arm it appeared that the end was near. Defying the odds, Sudo spent minutes fending off the choke before pulling his adversaries head down to reverse the position. Tables turned, Mizuta fought to escape RnC attempts as Sudo punished from mount and back mount, attempting a last second armbar as time expired.
As the second round started both fighters unloaded heavy strikes, Sudo expertly ducking under for a well timed double leg against the fence. Inching his way to mount and side position the ExFight representative utilised some top notch positional control, creating space to do damage. Mizuta could not find an answer but showed considerable heart, from mount and back mount he absorbed blow after blow, holding out to see the final bell. After a close opening round Sudo pulled ahead to take over.