Shooto 2023 Vol 2 Preview,

Shooto continues to go from strength to strength, their reputation souring on the heels of sensational recent events. 2023 Volume 2 promises to keep the momentum going!

Home to Martial Arts in Japan, Abema.TV continues to broadcast all the action, live and unedited. In Japan Abema can be viewed on the TV, Internet or App, which can be downloaded on smartphones. 

Action Kicks off tomorrow, March 19th at 5:30 JST!

Main Event – Match 8: World Featherweight Championship 5 min 5 R

Keisuke “Sasuke” Sasu vs. Takeo Iida

For the main event, Masters Japan standout Keisuke “Sasuke” Sasu puts his ever evolving well rounded style to the test for his first title defence. Once highly evaluated for his physicality and heavy control game the Shooto Featherweight Champion has been continually developing a fearsome arsenal of techniques. Something that, combined with raw power, speed and slick scrambling, make Sasu a force to be reckoned with. A favourite for the Road to UFC Asia tournament, an arm injury led to the champion getting choked out, effectively ending his run in the tournament before it really began. An impressive rebound against “The Snow Leopard” Balajin ensured “Sasuke” gave an excellent account of himself, displaying the full spectrum of his abilities. Now back to his usual stomping ground, a determined “Sasuke” will want to seal his reputation as the king of the division!

Challenging “Sasuke” for the coveted Featherweight strap will be another fighter who has come into his own lately. Tateo Iida has tasted the highs and lows of the unforgiving Shooto circuit and emerged as a formidable, battle-forged, fighter! On a 4 fight tear with 3 back to back finishes Iida dismantled the Akuri Ronda last time out. Breaking the durable Ronda down en route to a 3rd round TKO will have given the challenger a lot of confidence come fight night. If he wants a chance at claiming the throne, the challenger will have to match the champions pace, dig deep and be prepared to go the distance.

Semi-final – Match 7: Flyweight 5M 3R 

Jo Arai vs. Yuyu Sekiguchi 

The co-main event promises to have fans on the edge of their seats! When Jo Arai fights, hold your breath because the fight can end in a heartbeat. With firepower that is positively terrifying for his size, Arai has blasted his way through adversaries, leaving a trail of bodies in his wake. Arai disposed of one of the best, Junji Ito, in under a round to take the Strawweight Championship. Following his sensational performance the heavy handed striker moved up to Strawweight to test his trademark KO power. Dropping the brave Yo Otake in the first it seems that it is not a case of “if” but “when” will adversaries be face down on the canvas. A remarkable success story, Arai was once in an 8 fight slump before turning his career around to record 8 electrifying victories. With the Strawweight title in sights, Arai will continue marching forward firing on all cylinders until opponents inevitably fall.

Number 1 ranked challenger Yuto Sekiguchi has clawed his way up the rankings over the years and finds himself on the cusp of title contention. While well-versed in all facets of MMA, Sekiguchi is noted for possessing some heavy hands of his own. A forward pressure fighter who does not back down the Shooto Gym Tokyo veteran would appear to have the cards stacked against him. A surprising 1st round armbar halted the ascent of contender Takeru Uchida and solidified Sekiguchi position atop the division. In submitting Uchida the Shooto Gym Tokyo fighter defeated the division’s elite, a fighter who held a win over Jo Arai and seemed destined for the title. Sekiguchi will be confident in his ability to score a huge upset and take home his biggest scalp to date. Surviving the early rounds will be crucial, don’t blink for this highly anticipated war!

Match 6: Strawweight 5M 3R

Ryuto “Dragon Boy” Sawada vs. Shuto Aki

A product of renowned gym AACC, Ryuto Sawada made his mark on the Flyweight division early. Lofty expectations were placed on the teenager who fell short at the final hurdle, as the Shooto Flyweight Championship slipped through his grasp. One picked up the talented contender who made a lasting impression, fighting the organisation’s top tier fighters. Returning to Shooto after a crushing loss to expert striker Senzo Ikeda, Sawada has a chance to start from scratch. Struggling with the size and power of the competitors in One Championships 125 lb Flyweight division “Dragon Boy” makes a welcome return to 115 lbs. A consummate all rounder with strong fundamentals, Sawada is back to remind Shooto fans of his Karate striking, top class wrestling and constricting chokes. 

It is no secret that Shuto Aki has potent striking, with 6 of his 8 wins coming by T/KO. The rangy MMAZ Gym fighter is dynamic with hands, legs, knees and elbows, working in unison for maximum effect. A TKO of Kanta Murayama marked back to back 1st round stoppages highlighting a 3 fight unbeaten run. Having succumbed to chokes in the past, Aki no doubt has tightened defence and prepared a suitable game plan to play to his strong suit. Aki will fight tooth and nail to eliminate a potential title challenger and keep his dream of winning the title alive. 

Match 5: Lightweight 5M 3R

Max the Body vs Kazumasa Sugawara 

The appropriately named Mark “Max the Body” Moleke is back. With an impressive physique that is not simply for show, “Max the Body” brings his signature power to every match. Alternating between the Welterweight and Lightweight classes the Brave Gym wrestler appears to have found his home at 155lbs, where he is ranked at no2. The powerhouse enters the cage off the back of 2 wins, most recently coming out on top with a decision victory over fierce competitor Yu Tanaka. With his ranking on the line, watch for “Max the Body” to slam his foe to the canvas and pummel with strikes from top position.

With a fan friendly style, Kazumasa “Bunta” Sugawara fights fearlessly. Aiming to drag every match into a firefight all but 1 of the brawlers’ wins have ended in a blitz of strikes. Such an approach is not without risk and the Masters Japan Fukuoka striker is happy to roll the dice and go out on his shield. In his last bout, Sugawara squared off against stiff opposition in Yuta “Edomondo” Kaneko, winning by decision for the first time in his career. “Bunta” will not be satisfied with anything less than a stoppage fight night!

Match 4: Infinity League 2023 Featherweight Tournament

Kaisei Takehara vs. Taira Uehara 

Kaisei Takehara sits on a 4 fight win streak and has firmly established himself as one of the tournament favourites. With 2 consecutive 1st round TKOs stoppages the Paraestra Matsudo prospect stopped the heavy handed Karateka Takeaki Kinoshita in his last match. With power to be respected Takehara, at 4-0 has yet to taste defeat. Throw in a dec win over fellow tournament participant Yamato Hamamatsu and Takehara will be riding a wave of confidence when the cage door closes!

Taira Uehara is not an opponent to take lightly and may be the dark horse of the tournament. The Reversal Gym Yokohama Grandslam representatives modest 4-2-1 record does not tell the whole story. Uehara’s losses came at Welterweight over tough competition. Dropping 2 divisions to Featherweight Uehara got the ball rolling with a solid decision victory over Tesshin Isobe. With takedowns, top control and punishing ground and pound Uehara may have the perfect recipe to cause some upsets!

Match 3: Infinity League 2023 Featherweight Tournament

Yamato Hamamatsu vs. Ryuya “Chan-Ryu” Iwamoto

With a look at the record of Yamato Hamamatsu it would be easy to write him off. A solid competitor, nasty injuries and high level opposition have taken their toll on the T-Grip Tokyo warriors record. A drop to Featherweight and entry to the Infinity League tournament represents a fresh start for the Hamamatsu, who went the distance in a spirited loss to tournament favorite Kaisei Takehara last outing.

For his first Infinity league draw, Hamamatsu has a difficult opponent to get his career back on track. Ryuya “Chan-Ryu” Iwamoto is another fighter touted for greatness. Having only gone to only scorecards once in 6 back to back victories. With Slams, submissions and strikes, “Chan-Ryu” is flashy and brutally effective. An high altitude throw from the undefeated Judo specialist last outing left Asuka Tsubaki with his arm contorted unnaturally. The TKO announced the MMAZ Gym members’ arrival to the tournament and set himself up as a “must watch” fighter! 

Match 2: Bantamweight, 5M 2R

Shohei Nose vs. Takumi Arai 

Fresh from the Road to UFC Asia tournament, Shohei Nose has only fallen to some of the division’s top rankers. Most recently he was on the receiving end of a KO to the phenomenal Rinya Nakamura, snapping a hard earned 5 fight win streak. Fighting out of Masters Japan Fukuoka, the hard nosed finisher will be determined to rebound and score another finish to get his promising career back on track.

Takumi Arai may not have the experience and finishing credentials of his opponent, however, to count him out would be a mistake. Arai recently took Bantamweight rising star Shoji Saito to a competitive draw. A fellow victim of Rinya Nakamura, Strapple Shinyurigaoka’s Arai has experience sharing the cage with the fighting elite and will have his sights set high. 

Match 1: Bantamweight, 5M 2R

Akira Enomoto vs. Soo Sung Cho

A product of Abema reality TV show, Soo Sung Cho “Su-Sung,” demonstrated a high potential to captivate fighters and audience alike. In his last outing he faced a seasoned veteran, the rugged heavy hitting Tsubasa Saito and put on perhaps his best performance yet. Utilising his Taekwondo backbone, “Su-Sung” not only did damage at a distance but stepped into the fire to hurt Saito. With high expectations, the Krazy Bee striker carries a lot of weight on his shoulders as he steps into the cage tomorrow.

A severe arm injury loss prompted a 2 year recovery hiatus for Akira Enomoto. During his time away the Reversal Gym Tokyo Standout fighter appears reinvigorated, notching up 2 consecutive victories. Most recently besting Yusuke Matsushita, Enomoto has a great chance to thrust himself into the limelight with a win over a hyped prospect.  

About the Author

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

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