Shooto 2023 Vol 3, Generations Collide, Infinity League Progresses

Shooto Double Header Event with the Inaugural Shooto “Colors” All Women’s event.

Part 2: Shooto 2023 Volume 3

Bantamweight 5M x 3R, Takuma Sudo Vs. Shoji Saito 

“Fighting Dreamer” reality show standout Shoji Saito delivered a career’s best performance last outing. Dismantling the solid, well versed hustler Yasuyuki Nojiri inside of a round, Saito’s shot selection was picture perfect. A right hand floored the ranked Nojiri and, spotting that the savvy warrior was shooting the legs to survive, Saito adeptly snuck in a precision uppercut. His opponent out cold, Saito’s striking arsenal and cerebral aggression are a formidable combination. The no 7 in the division will be hunting for another knockout in the main event, eager to climb the ladder further and vie for the title.

4th ranked Takuma Sudo is the polar opposite of his opponent in many ways. As his nickname infers “the Leg Hunter” is a dedicated specialist. With attacks regulated almost exclusively to leg submissions Sudo has a lot of confidence in sacrificing position, falling to his back and somehow weaving and rotating to masterfully isolate a leg and execute a submission. Against astute grappler Joji Goto, the X-Treme Ebina grappler was patient, biding his time while staying safe and creating openings. With the smallest window of opportunity Sudo snatched a leg and applied a nasty heelhook in the 2nd round that left Goto unable to stand. Both fighters will be brimming with confidence, sure that their skillset will succeed. In a clash of styles not to be missed this main event could end very quickly, but who will pull through with the win?

Featherweight 5M x 3R, Hiroshige “Hanzo” Tanaka Vs. Loibe de Oliveira Neto 

Fighting out of the Evolucao Thai gym, Loibe de Oliveira Neto in many ways mirrors his training partner Louis “Killer” Gustavo on the feet. Overwhelming opponents with an onslaught of heavy artillery, Neto packs knockout power in every blow. A submission savvy, well rounded fighter, the Brazilian K.O artist has a penchant for getting the job done on the feet, in part for fan approval. Neto returns to Shooto as the division’s number 8 after a sensational performance against ranked competitor Kenji Kato. A slick and evasive counter striker, Kato presented some problems for Neto early. As the match progressed Neto found his mark, sending Kato careering to the canvas with a perfectly timed straight right, a barrage of ground and pound sealed the deal. A physical specimen packing dynamite in his strikes, expect intensity and ferocity from the moment the opening bell sounds!

With the unenviable task of squaring off against Neto, Hiroshige “Hanzo” Tanaka is not a fighter to back down. With an unwavering spirit “Hanzo” surges forward, constantly engaging his foe with a blend of clubbing punches and adept grappling. Returning to competition after almost a year hiatus, “Hanzo” will be determined to display the fruits of his hard work in the gym. While Tanaka by no means lacks power in his fists, getting involved in a firefight on the feet may come back to haunt him. Kenji Kato, who fought as low as 125lbs was unable to deal with the ferocity of Neto, 5th ranked “Hanzo” carries more bulk on his frame and can likely contend in the clinch with the whirlwind striker. In his last outing Tanaka shut down the game Daiki Yuki for a clear cut unanimous decision victory. Controlling the tempo, dictating the battleground and forcing his well muscled opponent to work would serve “Hanzo” well as he steadfastly defends his title. Can Neto best another ranked Japanese fighter and climb to title contention or will “Hanzo” be the fighter to halt the Brazilians’ ascent? 

Featherweight 5M x 2R, Tsubasa Saito vs. Tatsuma Okada 

The 2nd of the Fight Farm/ MMA Tsudanuma Dojo representatives, Tsubasa Saito might not always get his hand raised but his aggressive go for broke attitude has made him a fan favorite. Saito possesses heavy hands and an iron chin, the perfect combination for his brawling style. A sturdy, thick set fighter, Saito is remarkably difficult to not only take down but to hold down. On the feet the entertaining bruiser is happy to take a shot or two to throw one back with ill intent. A disappointing decision loss to prospect Su Sung Cho made it 2 continuous defeats for Saito. Having never lost 3 back to back matches, Saito will be guns blazing from the onset of the round, firing on all cylinders with little regard for self preservation!

Okada is another product of the “Fighting Dreamers” reality show. The Sai Gym youngster loves to bang on the feet and is coming off a starching of Katsuaki Hirasawa in the opening stanza. With an opponent who is there to be hit, Okada will have the opportunity to unleash his hammers, whether he can be the first to stop Saito, however, remains the critical question. Notching up back to back wins for the first time Okada will be confident in extending his streak and using his veteran opponent as a stepping stone to jump start his career. With both fighters unyielding under fire this could turn into a blow for blow war!

Featherweight 5M x 2R, Yoshihiro Koyama vs. Toshihiko “Yokosai” Yokoyama

With a career spanning back almost 20 years, Toshihiko “Yokosai” Yokoyama has been relatively inconsistent and uncommitted with competition. Taking leave in 2009 Yokoyama left competition and founded his own gym. With his BJJ black belt and Shooto knowledge he brought up the next generation of fighters until 2020 when he stepped into the cage once more. Going a respectable 1-1 since his return, “Yokosai”, at 45 years old is out to prove that age is just a number. The Sai-Gym owner would love nothing more than to add up consecutive victories for the first time in his career.

A former Pacific Rim champion, Yoshihiro Koyama has had a storied career in MMA. Fighting sporadically since 2005 the 41 year old has amassed 35 fights against some of the luminaries of the sport. With a wrestling backbone and some strong ground and pound the Paraestra Matsudo fighter matches well against the BJJ heavy grappling style of his fellow veteran. Coming off a loss to K.O specialist, the Karate practitioner Takeaki Kinoshita, Koyama has thankfully been paired off with someone less destructive in some fine matchmaking. 

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Featherweight 5M x 2R, Kaisei Takehara vs Tesshin Isobe

Touted as the one to keep an eye on for the tournament, Keisei Takehara enters the 2nd round of the league with 1 point following a hard fought draw with Taira Uehara. In a back and forth bout where both were able to demonstrate their dominance, one round a piece, the importance of enforcing a game plan surely struck Takehara. A fighter that excels when in control and on the attack the undefeated Takehara is a fast starter with 2 first round K.O finishes in 4 outings. With the draw, Takehara was on his game in the final round, supplexes, back control and ground and pound. The Paraestra Matsuda fighter has proven that, if he does not achieve a highlight reel first round stoppage he is not going to fade as the match progresses. 

Battling against Yoshitomo Inoue last time out, Tesshin Isobe was the underdog once again. Over the course of their 2 round match both fighters put on a sensational display of technical scrambles, reversals and submissions that belies their record. After failing to secure the scrambles Isobe was on the receiving end of the ground and pound for the better part of 2 rounds. As Inoue pried for an arm on top Isobe locked up a reverse triangle, with flawless technique Inoue was left unconscious on the mat with just 3 seconds left in the final round.

Isobe is not always able to attain takedowns and position, nor deliver knockout blows, he is, however, a proficient submission grappler not to be counted out of any match. A perennial underdog, the Paraestra Matsuda fighter faces a fellow gym member in Takehara. Both know their opponents strengths and weaknesses, making for an intriguing match up. Will lightning strike twice for another spectacular comeback, or can Takehara put Inoue down with his striking prowess? 

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Featherweight 5M x 2R, Yamato Hamamatsu Vs. Taira Uehara 

With 21 fights to his name, Yamato Hamamatsu is not short on experience or talent, the T-Grip fighter is a capable grappler and a submission threat. Facing some of the divisions best has taken its toll on his record, hence Hamamatsu now finds himself in a prime position to make an impression in the Infinity League. After previous opponent Ryuya “Chan-Ryu” Iwamoto failed to make weight, Hamamatsu received 3 points in the league. Poised and ready to extend his lead, watch for the burly grappler to take top position on the mat and attack with head and arm chokes. 

Taira Uehara is coming off an evenly matched draw with one of the tournament favourites, Kaisei Takehara, picking up 1 point in the league. In the match both took command of a round a piece. Uehara utilised his strong suit in the opening stanza, chipping away at the legs with calf kicks and stunning his opponent with heavy leather. Dropping 2 weight classes has served Uehara well, at 145lbs the Reversal Gym Yokohama Grand Slam member will not be outmuscled or outgunned. With a style catered more to striking takedown defence becomes crucial. Against an adversary known for driving forward and getting up close and physical, Uehara will need to be able to defend takedowns and separate to pick up the victory. 

Bantamweight 5M x 2R, Yoshizumi Kobayashi Vs. Yusuke Matsushita 

Yoshizumi Kobayashi is a steady fighter who has a tendency to fall short at vital moments, giving away rounds or fights. Now fighting out of Reversal Gym Tokyo Standout, Kobayashi seeks to build on the momentum of his last fight, a victory by decision over the notoriously tough Takato “Guts” Takahashi. Kobayashi has a great opportunity to tally up back to back wins, expect intensity from the get-go!

An almost 10 year veteran, Yusuke Matsushita, like his opponent, has been in there with the big guns of one of Shooto’s deepest divisions. Competing out of Paraestra TB gym, Matsushita has established himself as a resilient opponent who is not easily put away. Following a decision defeat to Akira Enomoto, Matsushita has a much better chance to right the ship against the evenly matched Kobayashi. 

Bantamweight 5M x 2R, Takumi Arai Vs. Sota Nagai 

Shooto mainstay Takumi Arai has faced a “who’s who” of the Bantamweight division, being subdued and submitted last match by the highly regarded Road to UFC semi-finalist Shohei Nose. With losses to elite prospects and champions, Striple Shinyurigaoka fighter Arai receives an opportunity to put his skills on display as he faces the relatively unknown and inexperienced Sota Nagai. 

Very little is known about Nagai, other than he fought to a draw against Munenori Fujita, who was also making his pro debut. Fighting out of renowned gym Tribe Tokyo MMA Nagai will be ready to challenge himself and take his first step into the deep waters of the Bantamweight division. Could the relatively unknown fighter cause a shock, take out Arai and establish himself as a key player at 135 lbs? 

Flyweight 5M x 2R, Yo Otake vs. Yuhei Koga 

Hagane Gym’s Yo Otake was thrown to the wolves in his most recent match, facing Flyweight champion and wrecking machine Jo Arai. The writing was on the wall for Otake who took considerable damage but kept fighting fire with fire, trading blow for blow on the feet. Against Shooto newcomer Yuhei Koga, Otake steps down to a more suitable level of competition. 

Koga is coming off a decision loss against a solid fighter in Genta Shindo and, while he has yet to score a win, Tribe Tokyo MMA’s Koga has faced some stiff competition. Both fighters will be hungry for a win, debutant Koga needs to turn the tide as a professional while Otake has his reputation to defend. 

Featherweight 5M x 2R, Takeshi Kunito vs. Taichi Aoi

Tachi Aoi had a rocky start to his pro career. In a 3 fight slump the durable Shingikan fighter has gone undefeated in his last 2, picking up a well deserved draw against Shuhei Nakamura last time out. Aoi tests himself against 24 fight professional Takeshi Kunito, a rugged veteran that has fought in 3 different weight classes. 

Kunito has put together a solid run as of late, last seen pulling off a stoppage of Kosuke Eda with a second left in the final round! While Burst gyms Kunito will have the edge on experience and level of opposition, Aoi will present problems and is a difficult fighter to put away. The well balanced opening bout will be a career turning opportunity for one of the fighters.

About the Author

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

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