“COLORS” Shooto’s Inaugural All Women’s Event Launches Sunday 21st

This Sunday, 21st of May, New Pier Hall will host a Shooto double header as MMA’s longest running org ventures once more into all women’s events. “Colors” by Shooto will be their first all female MMA event since the demise of G-Shooto 17 years ago. With trailblazing legend, women’s MMA pioneer Megumi Fujii at the helm as chief strategic officer “Colors” goal will be fighter development, from debuting hopefuls to world class competitors. Enjoy 6 MMA matches and 1 grappling rules bout as each lady brings her unique style, or “Color” to the competition.

Shooto’s exclusive and ever popular “infinity League” competitions continue, as the strawweight tournament gets underway. Unlike traditional “winner moves on” tournaments, Shooto implements a “Round Robin” style, where all competitors face each other. Stoppages are prioritised, with points awarded for first round and second round finishes (4 and 3 respectively). A decision win nets 2 points and a draw 1. There will be 2 “infinity League” matches between 4 competitors with a 5th and final mystery fighter yet to be revealed. 

The inaugural event will precede Shooto 2023 Vol 3 with the opening match kicking off at the early time of 13:00. 

World Women’s Super Atomweight Championship 5M x 5R

Ayaka Watanabe vs Satomi “Sarami” Takano

Satomi “Sarami” Takano makes her first title defence since she seized the Atomweight championship from Mina Kurobe. Utilising the full range of tools at her disposal “Sarami” bested the fiercely competitive Kurobe in virtually all areas over the course of 5 rounds in a dominant display. Active in Rizin, Takano faced the 7-1 BJJ fighter Laura Fontuora at landmark 5, putting together a complete performance and another well deserved victory. The Pancrasism Yokohama fighter hails from Judo and Japanese Catch Wrestling roots and is a threat on the mat, with the majority of her finishes coming by way of submission. The champion controls distance well and is slick on the ground as she transitions from positions to submissions.

Watanabe is significantly less experienced than Sarami, who has a staggering 10 times the number of fights. Do not let the lack of fight time fool you though, Watanabe has poise, precision and finishing power, as seen in her shocking upset stoppage of Mina Kurobe. Watanabe read Kurobe’s rhythm and tendencies perfectly, landing a crushing uppercut as the former champion dropped levels. The impact compounded as Kurobe dropped into the strike sending her face first to the mat. A few follow up strikes as the referee jumped in and a new title contender emerged. Fighting out of AACC, the hotbed for female fighters in Japan, Watanabe is constantly evolving. Relying on her heavy Judo base as a back up to her Karate striking, the 25 year old has developed a style that is tough to beat.

The main event will be a clash of generations and styles as old school meets new. As impressive as Watanabe has been, she is still very young in her career and no doubt has a bright future in the game regardless of the outcome fight night. “Sarami” has squared off against a “who’s who” of the division and learnt how to find the right tool for the job and steal rounds. A 5 round match is unfamiliar territory to Wantanabe and would seem to favour Takano over the long haul. Watanabe possesses dynamite in her strikes however and has proven herself a consummate finisher, expect her to be dangerous early!

Women’s Atomweight 5M x 3R, Aira Koga vs Zenny “Lady Go Go” Huang

A practitioner of Nippon Kempo since the age of 5, it comes as no surprise that Aira Koga is a threat on the feet, with 2 of her 3 wins coming by way of first round finishes. A heavy hitter who has yet to be stopped, Koga blitzed and overmatched Mikiko Hiyama last outing until the referee mercifully stepped in. One of the promising prospects in the division, Koga now trains under the tutelage of MMA royalty Megumi Fujii as Burst. For her 3rd Shooto outing Kogasteps up for a bigger test, facing an internationally recognised opponent.

Zenny Huang stepped into MMA with an amalgamation of Taekwondo and Judo. Likes to come forward, at a power deficit but accurate and experienced. Never lost by KO, on paper the better submission threat. Outsized in One Championships where she vied for the 115lb belt, Huang has tested herself at an elite level. Coming off a 2nd round rear naked choke of a top prospect, Sayako Fujita, ending her 6 fight win streak. 

Burst gym coach Megumi Fujii still maintains strong ties to her former team, AACC so you can expect a friendly rivalry between the gyms. AACC houses the Atomweight title holder, Chihiro Sawada, who is currently active overseas. With COLORS debut event highlighting 2 Atomweight bouts, both at 3 rounds, it is easy to imagine that a stand out performance could pave the way to title contention. Huang will need to dig deep into her repertoire and, as the more versatile and tested fighter, try to take the fight to the later rounds. Koga will be confident coming in of another first round shellacking, should her opponent withstand the onslaught expect the striker to have a plan B ready to go. Can Huang weather the early storm and turn the tide late?

Women’s Atomweight 5M x 3R, Miku Nakamura vs Mayu Kawanishi

Sharp shooting striker Miku Nakamura came within grasp of winning the Infinity League Atomweight tournament, and consequently the Atomweight title, only to fall short to champion Chihiro Sawada. With precision and accuracy, Nakamura relies on technical proficiency rather than brute force to score finishes on the feet. Last outing, the Mars Gym fighter displayed her versatility, taking the deadly kickboxing K.O artist Hisae Watanabe to the canvas en route to a ground and pound stoppage with just a second left in the opening round. Since she dropped divisions to Atomweight, Nakamura has been able to fend off takedowns more comfortably and not be overpowered on the ground as seen in her match with champion Sawada. Staying on the feet will be priority number 1, should the match hit the canvas though, Nakamura will be ready!

Submission expert Kawanishi is the 2nd fighter training at Burst under Megumi Fujii. A Judoka since she was only 5 years old, Kawanishi has excellent balance and control in the standing grappling. Added to that an arsenal of sweeps and takedowns combined with an impressive submission acumen Kawanishi could be a force in the division. Moving seamlessly between striking and grappling, Kawanishi finds the timing and set ups to get fights to the ground where she excels. With 2 fights and 2 first round submissions, the decorated JuJitsu competitor is one to keep an eye on as a potential breakout star. She has a big hurdle to clear this Sunday but the young Megumi Fujii backed prodigy will be looking to make a lasting impression on the division.

No doubt Kawanishi will be looking to chain together an early takedown and drag another victim to her world. In the 1st round fighters are relatively dry and securing a submission would be far more likely. Nakamura has improved her overall fight IQ and will not go down, or stay down, easily. Having the title slip through her fingers in the past, a win would pave the way for Nakamura to get vengeance on the Atomweight queen, Chihiro Sawada. Both fighters will be hungry and determined in this pivotal match up.

Epsomsalt Seacrystals Presents Infinity League 2023

Women’s straw weight 5M x 2R, Megumi Sugimoto vs Haruka Yoshinari

While well-versed in all facets of MMA, veteran Megumi Sugimoto is at her best when she seizes her opponent and wrestles them to the ground. A physical fighter with great cardio, Sugimoto is tenacious with takedowns, shifting and adjusting position to chain her wrestling together. On the ground her positional control is top class, attaining mount or back mount where she can ground and pound her way to a choke or TKO finish. She enters on the heels of a decision win over game grappler Yuki Sue. Sugimoto competed in the Affinity League Super Atomweight tournament, where she steamrolled the competition, winning by a significant margin and earning a chance at the belt. On the cusp of winning a title, Sugimoto fell short to then champion Mina Kurobe in an entertaining and competitive affair. Now undefeated in 4 straight the AACC submission wrestler targets a new title in a new weight class. 

For the opening round of the league, Judo, JuJitsu and MMA fighter Haruka Yoshinari makes her professional debut after taking home the coveted Shooto All Japan Amateur title. A talented grappler, Yoshinari has significantly improved since she was last seen in DEEP, where she went the distance with standout submission specialist Sakura Mori in a grappling bout. A Judo black belt and purple belt in BJJ, the Shooting Uruno Dojo grappler looks to be in great shape for her debut. 

It would seem like an uphill battle for Yoshinari, drawing one of the tournament favourites in the opening round. While the cards are stacked against her, the submission grappler has little to lose and a lot to gain by going for broke. While her striking is probably superior Sugimoto is not the worst stylistic opponent, a fellow grappler who dominates on the ground. Fans could be in for a treat, as 2 ground specialists trade positions and submissions in a war that will be decided by who can implement their game better.

Epsomsalt Seacrystals Presents Infinity League 2023

Women’s straw weight 5M x 2R, Momoka Hoshuyama vs “Angel☆” Shiho 

Momoka Hoshuyama was thrown to the wolves early in her career, going the distance with would be champion Mina Kurobe in just her 3rd professional fight. With a strong fighting spirit and refusal to accept defeat, Hoshuyama has the potential to go far as a fighter. Regarded as a stronger grappler than striker, the Akasaki Dojo A-Spirit gym fighter has the right fundamentals to build from. Last seen fighting to a competitive draw with Atomweight prospect Aira Koga, Hoshuyama is growing and perhaps beginning to come into her own as a fighter. For the opening round of the tournament the gritty warrior meets a lady making her debut that not much is known about. 

Going under the alias “Angel☆” Shiho, there is little information on the Grappling ShootBoxers Tajimi fighter other than that she came in as the runner up in the All Japan Shooto Amateur championships. Shooto’s amateur championships have been a reliable barometer in the past to gauge fighters potential and fans could be in for a pleasant surprise come Sunday afternoon!

Entering a match with no expectations can take the weight off a fighter’s shoulders. Hoshuyama, in contrast, will have the weight on her shoulders entering as an established fighter. In addition, the little information on “Angel” makes it very tough for a fighter to prepare, conversely “Angel” will know Hoshuyama’s game well. Shiho will be looking to leave a lasting impression and kick-off her Shooto career in style while a fired up Hoshuyama aims to get into the win column and solidify her position and status.

Women’s Atomweight 5M x 2R, Yasuko “Ikuko” Tamada vs Hisae Watanabe 

Pioneer of MMA for women around the world, feared K.O queen Hisae Watanabe once left a trail of bodies in her wake. With a stunning 1 punch knockout of nemesis Satoko Shinashi in 2006, Watanabe both avenged a previous loss and sat atop the 105lb division. A year later the feared striker all but retired, fighting sporadically until her official return to MMA 15 years later. The 42 year old veteran still carried her fearsome power, and the submission techniques she developed through her early career. The fight game, however, has changed and Watanabe has had difficulty adapting as shown in her last match. Against Miku Nakamura, Watanabe had opportunities and was far from outclassed. Her opponent fought the smarter fight, eventually stopping Watanabe with punches on the ground with just a second left in the opening stanza. 

Standing across the cage from the formidable heavy hitter will be a fellow veteran who will not be intimidated. The diminutive Yasuko “Ikuko” Tamada has spent the majority of her career fighting very light, recently competing in DEEP’s 44kg (97 lbs) weight class. What she lacks in size Tamada makes up for in spirit and tenacity. In 33 matches against many of the division’s elite she has only been stopped twice, and one of those was a 4th round standing T/KO in a championship bout against a far bigger striker, UFC’s Michelle Waterson-Gomez. Once enjoying a 12 fight unbeaten streak, the AACC grappler has faced some rocky patches in her career but always bounced back, her last match against Sakura Katada snapped a 3 fight skid to return to the win column. 

Tamada will have her heart tested against the ferocity and intensity of Watanabe. The Kickboxing specialist continuously seeks that 1 shot finish on the feet and never takes a backward step. Tamada does her best when grappling and controlling the tempo, using position and technique expect her to capitalise on Watanabe’s aggression, minimise the explosive exchanges and fight on the mat where she is most comfortable. Watanabe will settle for nothing less than a K.O but will need to be focused and patient, relying on her takedown defence early. 

Grappling Rules 53kg (117 lbs), 8M x 1R, Tomo Maezawa vs Yuki Sugiuchi

A battle tested MMA veteran, Tomo Maezawa is a DEEP Jewels Atomweight Champion. With 25 MMA matches under her belt, Maezawa is a durable all-rounder and a capable finisher should the opportunity present itself. Against Hiraku Oano, she locked up a tight front choke for the finish in the 3rd round to claim the Jewels Atomweight title. Since securing the strap the Reversal Gym Tokyo Standout member has yet to compete, vacating the title and going on an almost 3 year hiatus. There will be a lot of question marks surrounding Maezawa’s return but we can assume that she has been training diligently and is in prime condition for the grappling showdown against a dangerous opponent. 

Decorated submission grappler, Yuki Sugiuchi is an GTF, All Japan No-Gi open and All Japan Master’s JuJitsu champion in the light and featherweight divisions. The grappling ace is perhaps best known for her run in Quintet, where she submitted 3 top level opponents back to back, all with armbar variations. Sugiuchi actually competed in G-Shooto under her maiden name Yuki Furudate where she went unbeaten in 5 matches before falling to unheralded pioneer Miku Matsumoto. Opting to follow grappling only bouts, the Pogona Saitama gym representative made a successful debut in Valkyrie then disappeared from competition for almost 10 years. Stepping back onto the mats in 2018 the 42 year old has put together an impressive string of matches. In an almost identical manner to her opponent, Sugiuchi last competed almost 3 years ago, taking supreme submission grappler and Rizin champion Seika Izawa to a hard fought decision. 

About the Author

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

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