“Zombie” Ayaka Miura Returns from Injury to Grapple Danielle Kelly at One Fight Night 7

Main Image: Ayaka Miura efficiently utilizing her trademark “Kesa Gatame” Scarf hold.

It has been a turbulent year for Ayaka “Zombie” Miura. After utilizing her signature “Kesa Gatame” Scarf Hold last outing for a dominant first round against Brazilian Dayane Cardoso, disaster struck in the 2nd. Miura injured her shoulder early in the round but, embracing her Samurai spirit, attempted to fight on. Aware that the Japanese warrior could not defend herself against Cardoso’s heavy strikes the referee waved off the fight as Miura lay down in obvious pain. After entering the fight with a staple in her head from a previous injury, Miura left with a broken bone in her shoulder. “I look like a zombie, right” she joked on social media.

It marked a low point for Miura, one that, thanks to some physical and mental help, she pulled out from. “For the first time in my life, I’m on the edge of a cliff.” Miura commented at the time, adding “Sometimes I think I’m still in a nightmare. But when I’m going through hard times, a lot of people are there to support me.”

Photo: “Zombie” Miura with staples in head prior to Dayane Cardoso match and broken shoulder after.

The thing about Zombies is they keep coming back. In Miura’s case she will return from injury to test the waters in submission grappling, or given her opponent, it might be more appropriate to say she is being thrown in at the deep end. Danielle Kelly is not only the media darling of One Grappling, she is a seemingly unstoppable force on the mat. A decorated JuJitsu competitor who competes exclusively under the submission grappling rules One implements. The One Grappling champion possesses a full arsenal of techniques and can submit from any position.

In contrast to the “generalist” approach of her opponent Miura is most definitely a specialist when it comes to her grappling game. Renowned for her judo throws and mastery of the Kesa Gatame, Miura expertly controls the scarf hold, applying considerable pressure while maintaining impeccable balance to keep control of the risky position. From her chosen position the 3rd Dan Judoka expertly entwines arms with her legs to execute Ude Garame arm locks. 7 or her 8 submissions have come by way of this “old-school” technique flawlessly applied, a move now coined the “Ayaka Lock”.

Photo: Ayaka Miura applies the “Ayaka Lock”, a deadly combination of “Kesa Gatame” and “Ude Garami”

Backed by a solid support network Miura vows to consistently “get stronger and compete!”. Under the tutelage of various luminaries the elite Judo practiced and coached at Tribe Tokyo’s Now or Never BJJ gym before completing her training at more familiar territory alongside fellow outstanding Judoka, Karateka and top ranked women’s Flyweight, Kana Watanabe. Watanabe has an instructors position at the gym, Fighters Flow, where a strong emphasis is placed on a friendly relaxed atmosphere where everyone can train freely. Sporting a lot of female members the gym is also regarding for it’s fitness and conditioning regimes.

Photo: Fighters Flow Gym with Ayaka Miura on left and Kana Watanabe middle.

Of slight build, the 5 ft 1 (157cm) Miura generally competed around her natural walking weight with little need to cut for 115lbs. Since joining One Championships ranks the top ranker has filled out into a compact powerhouse. While Miura acknowledges that her “natural weight (is at) Atomweight”, 115lbs in One, vengeance is on her mind, “I really want to challenge [for] the belt [against] Xiong Jing Nan again. I will stay at strawweight for now.” As a Straweight she has found it challenging to keep the wight up, confessing recently “I am 3 kg lighter than normal and have been losing weight for a long time.” A few days ago Miura posted a picture of herself with the scale reading 53.8, noting, “I am 100(g) under and eating rice. I am in good shape.”

Photo: 3 days before fight and Ayaka Miura has already made weight.

Against Kelly Miura would appear to have the cards firmly stacked against her, the Japanese submission ace, as expected, is not intimidated. “I’m going to play to the strengths of an MMA fighter!” she declared, seeking tips from fellow MMA fighter Mei Yamaguchi. “V.V Mei,” like Miura, walked and competed at a much lighter weight before joining One. In fact both were scheduled to clash at 105lbs but the fight did not come to fruition. Yamaguchi comes from a Karate base yet tussled with Kelly on the mat in a submission match that ended a draw.  “I think I’m a bit different from Mei Yamaguchi,” Miura mused, “ but I also trained with Mei for this upcoming fight. And then I got some advice from her.”

Photo: Mei Yamaguchi showed no fear, taking grappling star Danielle Kelly to a draw.

So how will the dynamic Judo specialist approach the submission bout with Kelly? It largely seems business as usual, “I feel the same as MMA because I prepared the same as with my MMA fights.” Miura declared, before adding ”There are some reasons behind this match-up coming up. I want to showcase how strong I am as an MMA fighter.” First and foremost, personal growth and experience would appear to factor highly in the decision to participate. The MMA grappler added, “for now, I really want to enjoy this grappling match. I just want to take it as something positive.”

Win or lose, you can be sure that the “Zombie” Ayaka Miura will always pick herself up and come back, “I am happy to keep doing what I love. Only moving forward!”


Ayaka Miura and Danielle Kelly square off under submission grappling rules Friday, February 24, 8pm ET. Tune in for this intriguing bout, plus a stacked card, on Amazon Prime in the US and Abema.tv in Japan.


About the Author

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

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