Shooto 2023 Vol 3. Pivotal “Grappler vs Striker” Main/Co-Main Bouts Nail-Biters. Infinity League Storyline Unfolds.

Shoji Saito Defeated Takuma “The Leg Hunter” Sudo by Unanimous Decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)

There were no secrets as to both fighters intentions as they squared off in the 1st. Takuma Sudo, as his “Leg Hunter” alias implies, wanted to get into grappling range at all costs. Conversely, striking specialist Shoji Saito needed to be close enough to punish with strikes but far enough out not to be sucked into a clinch. Sudo went to the leg kicks early, aiming to stay out of range. Saito countered with straight hands until “the Leg Hunter” managed to pulled guard. An incredibly low base and quick reactions allowed Saito to pull out of danger. From the feet he kicked at the legs of the grounded Sudo, who was Imanari rolling, and scooting on his back constantly, hoping his opponent would leave a limb unguarded. As the round concluded, Saito was on his feet taking command of the round.

The 2nd round kicked off with Sudo going low with the kicks while Saito again fired off the hands as counters. A pivotal moment saw “the Leg Hunter’s” Persistence pay off as the submission grappling phenom tenaciously went from double to single to back to single to eventually get the leverage needed to go to the canvas. A tight Achilles lock to Knee-bar combination was defended remarkably well by the Fight Farm representative. Some ferocious elbows thudded down from Saito as Sudo worked to extend the leg once more. Just when it seemed that Saito was free, Sudo would inch by inch suck him back into his world. Finally able to get to the feet Saito was threatening with his strikes, throwing with ill intent as the round came to a close.

A single leg was converted to a double for a takedown for Sudo at the start of the 3rd. On top for the first time in the match, the X-Treme Ebina leg submission guru went deep into the leg with his hips before falling back for a leglock. As he had done through the fight, Saito held his deadly opponents head, arms, hands, anything to stop his leg from being extended. Sudo is “The Leg Hunter” for a reason however and managed to pry the leg free and attack. His face contorted in pain, Saito was caught in a locked heelhook, rolling to break free he pulled his leg out of danger. The near submission was the last offense from Sudo, who remained on his back for the last part of the round, at one point “pleading” for Saito to grapple. Saito was on his feet doing damage as an exhilarating bout came to a close.

The damage from Saito scored well with the judges as he claimed 2 of the 3 rounds, Sudo’s near submission netted him a the final stanza in a crucial bout for the division.


Hiroshige “Hanzo“ Tanaka Defeated Loibe de Oliveira Neto by Unanimous Decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)

Loibe de Oliveira Neto may fight like a typhoon of destruction in the cage, he is, however, remarkably relaxed an calm outside of it. When the opening bell sounded the laughing and smiling stopped as Neto Literally leapt out the gates with a flying knee rear punch combination! Hiroshige “Hanzo“ Tanaka was also relaxed and prepared, capitalizing on the aggression with a drive through bodylock takedown. “Hanzo” kept the intimidating striker grounded through the round, going body, body, head with punches from the guard. Neto maintained strong wrist control, something he utilized to isolate an arm for a submission attempt. Acutely aware of the danger, Tanaka dropped weight, stuffing the submission attempt the number 5 ranked Shooter resumed in guard. In the last 10 seconds Neto finished on the bottom with an flurry of elbows to the top of the head.

In the 2nd round Neto darted in with hands blazing. Tanaka would counter the right hand with a left check hook that he used to angle, exit and reset. The Brazilian bomber was looking for extended striking exchanges where he could find that crushing KO blow. His adversary would not oblige, continuous supply of body kicks kept Neto from charging forward. In the clinch where knees were catching him, “Hanzo” backed out striking then seized a single leg. Sitting the Evolucao Thai MMA gym fighter against the cage, the gritty “Hanzo” countered any attempts to stand. Hoisting the legs out from under his adversary, Tanaka secured position and got to work, controlling the arms while hammering punches. From 1/2 guard the gritty “Fun’s” gym grappler went for the arm crucifix as he pounded away. Again Neto broke free just as time expired.

It was do or die time for Neto, who come out guns blazing, feverishly searching for the slightest chance of another highlight reel finish. On the feet “Hanzo” was on the defensive, crescent kicks to the body and a counter and move strategy served him well. Neto was reading the level changes, thrusting knees and loaded uppercuts up the center he came close but his experienced opponent was always just out of reach. Flying knees, superman punches and a whirlwind of straights and hooks Neto let go with all he had. Bloodied in the final minute, Tanaka was weathering the storm, shooting for a single leg as time ticked down. Going airborne again with a final jumping knee that partially landed, Tanaka ducked and dodged the follow up strikes as the round, and fight, went the distance.

All 3 judges scored the fight 2 round to 1 for Tanaka, who scalps a huge win and no doubt a raise in ranking. For Neto, the Brazilian demonstrated his ability as a top tier fighter in the 3rd round, his aggression may be a double edged sword against takedown heavy opponents.


Tsubasa Saito defeated Tatsumo Okada by Submission (Rear Naked Choke, R2, 1:43)

Perhaps deciding that attack was the best form of defence, Okada drove Saito to the cage where he maintained control. Taking the heavy handed brawler down Okada briefly stole back position as he worked Saito over. Flying knees and looping hooks forced the Fight Farm/ Tsudanuma Dojo powerhouse on the back foot, where he traditionally does not fare well. Saito had his moments but was throwing second and falling short with his strikes.

In the 2nd round Saito turned the tables, scoring an uncharacteristic takedown, a lift and slam from a double leg takedown. After grounding his foe Saito started his assault, clubbing with his fists to open the doors to pass to the mount. The Sai-Gym fighter rotated to expose his back, perhaps to attempt to regain 1/2 guard or simply escape damage. He rotated a little too far however, and Saito wasted little time in capitalizing, sinking in a skewed off-angle rear naked choke with no hooks. Saito forced the tap for the second submission finish of his career.


Yoshihiro Koyama Defeated Toshihiko “Yokosai” Yokoyama by Majority Decision (20-18, 20-18, 19-19)

Strong wrestler Koyama wasted little time before shooting a double leg and taking the fight to the canvas. “Yokusai” did not make it easy for the former Pacific Rim Champion, seeking submissions and escapes at every opportunity. The seemingly more adept striker “Yokosai” tagged his foe on the feet enough to pressure Koyama into shooting. One step ahead in the positional game, Koyama was able to shut down “Yokosai” and deliver a steady diet of ground and pound. The round ended with Koyama jamming the Sai-Gym owners head against the cage and rattling off short arm strikes.

The action stayed on the feet early in the final round. Both fighters were testing the waters with their strikes, attempting to draw out a committed attack to counter. Koyama took the initiative, driving in from the outside “Yokusai” could cut off and block the initial entry but the Paraestra gym veteran switched angles and planted his adversary against the fence once again. “Yokosai” fought to the finish, a final triangle attempt deftly shut down, the BJJ expert ended the fight on his back as Koyama chipped away once again.

The battle tested fighters, both in their 40’s, delivered a hotly contested battle of scrambles, strikes and submission attempts. Koyama had the edge in position and damage, taking the unanimous decision.


Yamato Hamamatsu and Taira Uehara Fought to a Draw (19-19, 19-19, 19-19)

With 3 points in the Infinity League Yamato Hamamatsu wanted to maintain his lead. Positively bulldozing Taira Uehara into the cage fence the T-Grip gym grappling specialist cut angles, pressing forward constantly he grounded Uehara. Not content to sacrifice position Uehara fought to his feet but spent the majority of the round pressed against the fence. Uehara attempted to pull out a “Ninja Choke” but could not really sink in anything threatening.

The 2nd round saw Hamamatsu forced to stand as Uehara brought the heat on the feet. Trading in the center of the cage, Uehara was taking the initiative, throwing first and throwing often. Showing he is more than simply a grappler, Hamamatsu answered with check left hooks and straights as his opponent came into range. Seeking the knee counter to the double leg attempts Uehara came close but to no avail. A wayward knee went low and Hamamtsu sunk to his knees in pain by the low blow. When the fight resumed, Uehara was firing on all cylinders. Hamamastu showed his heart, staying in the line of fire to brawl. Unyielding, the Infinity League leader opened a cut on Uehara late. With ever growing desperation the Reversal Gym Yokohama Groundslam all-rounder let loose with both hands as Hamamtsu shot for the legs. In the end the bout was declared a draw, awarding both fighters 1 crucial point in the Infinity League


Kaisai Takehara Defeated Tesshin Isobe by Unanimous Decision (20-18, 20-18, 20-18)

As the Infinity League continued, tournament favourite Kaisai Takehara looked to make an impact after scoring 1 point for a draw in his first match up. Hoisting Tesshin Isobe off the ground he planted him to the canvas early. Isobe, well versed in all aspects of the game, was able to return to his feet throughout yet could not handle the forward aggression of his opponent. Traditionally a fast starter, Takehara’s strategy of blasting punches with everything he had then scoring a takedown while opponent defended was remarkably effective in the opening round.

In the 2nd and final round, just as Isobe was finding range and getting his game going Takehara drove through his foe for a takedown and some opportunistic ground and pound. Isobe utilized upkicks from the bottom, coming close to landing they stopped fellow Paraestra Matsudo gym member Takehara from engaging on the ground. Visibly the fresher fighter, Isobe sensed he needed something big but time was running out. Every time Isobe tagged Takehara on the feet his opponent rallied with huge overhands and power double leg takedowns. Takehara rode out a workmanlike performance to take the win and score 2 further points in the Infinity League.


Yusuke Matsushita and Yoshizumi Kobayashi Fought to a Draw (19-19, 19-19, 19-19)

Both fighters got to the grappling engagements early in the round. The wrestling of Matsushita was impeccable but Yoshizumi was more than comfortable fighting off his back. Matsushita wroked for a Kimura but the Paraestra grappler could not find the angle. Hagane Gym’s Yoshizumi attained the back from positional scrambles but was unable to sink in a choke. Both fighters switched positions with reversals, reversals of reversals and slick scrambles in an exciting back and forth battle.


Sota Nagai Defeated Takumi Arai by TKO (Standing Punches, R1, 1:13)

Right out of the gates Sota Nagai went straight for Takumi Arai like a man possessed. Nagai wanted a stand up war and Arai obliged as both traded heavy leather. A straight right from Nagai was first clean shot to land and the Tribe Tokyo MMA fighter followed up. Another barrage got through and Arai hit the deck before popped right back up. A final left and right against the cage from Nagai and again the Stripe Shinyurigaoka representative dropped. This time referee dived in, much to Arai’s dismay, who vehemently protested the stoppage.


Yo Otake Defeated Yuhei Koga by TKO (Knee and Punches, R2, 0:50)

Yuhei Koga diligently stuck to a takedown attempt, receiving a large amount of elbows to the head in the process. The Tribe Tokyo MMA fighter eventually got the fight to the canvas. Once there however there was little he could do as Yo Otake defended until the time expired.

A flurry of strikes and stiff left knee from Otake in the 2nd stanza had Koga hitting the deck briefly. A second barrage of punches and knees from the Hagane Gym fighter and his opponent was reeling from the damage, prompting the referee to jump in.


Takeshi Kunito Defeated Taichi Aoi by Submission (Head and Arm choke, R2, 2:14)

Burst gym representative Takeshi Kunito was all over Taichi Aoi as their match commenced. With speed and fantastic scrambling, he maneuvered to the back from an Aoi double leg attempt. From the dominant position Kunito hammered the head of his Shingikan gym opponent continuously for the better part of a round. Showing he was still game Aoi punched back behind his head, scoring with some surprisingly hard strikes of his own.

In the 2nd round Kunito wasted little time in taking the fight to the mat. Initiating a scramble in which he again emerged on top. Moving to mount and triangling his opponents legs with his own he locked Aoi down. In effort to turn, to sacrifice his back and attempt to stand, Aoi was caught mid transition in an expertly set up a head and arm choke. The tap came at 2:14 of the 2nd.












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Peter Leghorn
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