No stranger to competition, Sawada wrestled from an early age, compiling medals for over 10 years before winning the Asian Junior Championships and 2018 All Japan Amateur Championships. With Karate based striking skills to complement her phenomenal grappling, Sawada transitioned to MMA seamlessly. Tearing through the Shooto “Infinity League” Atomweight Women’s tournament the elite wrestler seemed untouchable, securing top place and the inaugural Atomweight title. Touted as one to watch on a world stage, it was not long until One Championship came calling and Sawada got her importunity to showcase her talent on a world stage.
At One Friday Fights 5 in Thailand Sawada squared off against sizable, rangy opponent Sanaz Fayazmanesh, a Iranian fighter from a wrestling family who competes in Muay Thai and BJJ. The Japanese wrestlers acumen shone through from the onset as Sawada took the match to the canvas from the opening exchange. Noting pre fight that her opponent had wild and unpredictable striking Sawada stated she needed to be careful and get on the inside. Closing the distance was the plan and it was beautifully executed.
From the top position the AACC grappler sought to fight in the vein of her mentor, Megumi Fujii as she frequently risked losing position to secure an armbar from the mount. Fayazmanesh was game and defended well but in the scrambles the slick, technical ability of Sawada kept her few steps ahead. In the 2nd stanza it was a case of deja-vu as Sawada double stepped to get in deep on the legs, and took her strong adversary to the mat. This time the submission grappler used the armbar set up as a decoy before attacking opposite arm. Locking up a lightning fast Ude-Garame (Americana) the hold was tight and the tap instant, giving Sawada the victory at 0:53 of the 2nd round.
It was a dominant performance for the 25 year old prospect, one that will surely have put the division on notice. In pre fight interviews with Japanese media Sawada expressed a desire to fight at the highest level, setting her sights on Stamp Fairtex and Angela Lee. One thing the prodigy was keenly aware of, however, was One’s weight class being a division higher. With her “normal weight” being 51kg Sawada decided to drink water to get to 52kg to ease concerns over hydration, revealing she was more anxious about hydration than competing.
Fayazmanesh had a 16cm height difference and, while the AACC ace had sparred with girls of similar height the width of foreign opponents was a factor to consider. Sawada concluded that in order to continue fighting at 52.2kg she would have to increase muscle mass and weight. Some further experience under the rule set and an increase in size and strength would certainly be advisable before facing off with the likes of Stamp and Lee. Sawada might not be ready to tackle the divisions top just yet but 2023 could well be the breakthrough year for the talented athlete.
All photography taken from Instagram/ Social Media.