Shooto 2023 Volume 7. Stunning Back to Back KO’s Cap Off an Entertaining Card

Jo Arai Defeated Wataru Yamauchi by KO (Ground Punch, R3, 2:55)

As the highly anticipated main event got underway the opening salvo of strikes belonged to Yamauchi, who showed no fear in taking the fight renowned power puncher Arai. Looking considerably smaller than his adversary the 115lb champion, Arai spent the opening minute of the match circling the perimeter at the end of Yamuchi’s well-utilized jab. Using almost exclusively lead leg and hand, the Fight Farm all-rounder kept Arai on his heels, unable to launch the bombs he is known for.  That was until around the 3 minute mark when the Strawweight champion suddenly found range. Corking off multiple lefts to stun his adversary, Arai exploded with a ferocious right to the chin that had Yamauchi skating on ice. Another dynamite lead hook and Yamauchi tumbled to the canvas. Yamauchi weathered the storm and survived the ground and pound before returning to his feet. Both fighters were firing on all cylinders for the remainder of the round. An unwavering Yamauchi threw volume and landed frequently conversely Arai was conservative until the bell as he loaded up for fight ending shots.

In the second round, Yamauchi demonstrated precision in his striking, utilizing jabs and powerful right punches that had Arai in trouble. The jab was money for Yamauchi, wracking up damage as he weaved punches through the guard. Head snapped back, Arai appeared hurt and Yamauchi was not prepared to let him off the hook. In an edge of your seat exchange Yamauchi tee’d off on the backtracking Arai, forcing him against the cage as both threw caution to the wind, looking for the finishing blow. Lead crescent kicks to the body took the wind from Arai and set up lefts and rights that seemed unable to miss. Taking deep breaths Arai was wearing the damage as he took his turn to go to survival mode. Yamauchi offered little respite however, as he pumped the jab and nailed his prey with right crosses. Arai absorbed significant damage but displayed remarkable toughness to stay on his feet.

With the crowd on their feet the 3rd round unfolded with Arai standing his ground and getting to work, pummeling the body with punches. Yamauchi continued his recipe of jabs, check hooks and high kicks from the front leg. Reach on his side, Yamauchi was executing a great game plan in striking first, evading the counter, then returning fire. Arai, adhering to his “never give up” motto walked into the fire, throwing combinations to the body and head. Yamauchi answered by increasing his offence, targeting the body with shovel hooks. The right hook to the body followed by left to the head was paying dividends for Arai. Slowly gaining momentum Arai started to build on his combinations. An onslaught of hooks was followed by a killer step in straight that caught Yamauchi flush. His legs gone Yamauchi tasted the canvas once more. Yamauchi waited for an opportunity to get back up. Arai seized the opportunity and secured a knockout with a right hook as Yamauchi attempted to stand.


In a fight for the ages, Yamauchi gave Arai all that he could handle, dominating the Strawweight Champion for much of the fight. Ultimately though, the bravery, perseverance and power came through yet again for the Wajutsu Keishukai standout striker. The hard-fought victory made Arai Shooto’s first-ever two-division champion, cementing his status as one of the world’s top fighters at both Strawweight and Flyweight.


Shota “Odin” Takagi Defeated Kauru “Shoten” Uno by KO (Ground Punch, 2R, 0:56)

In a battle of veteran vs young blood the 48 year old legend Uno faced an enormous task facing off against standout Judoka turned striker Takagi. The size difference was clear from the get-go as Takagi dwarfed the well rounded Uno, sending him reeling with every strike. A 1-2 and knee to the body for Odin forced Uno to drop to his back and bait the larger fighter into a ground battle. Expert in transitions and scrambles, the Uno Dojo founder seized legs and clinched but Odin muscled out each and every time. Not noted for his striking Uno resolutely stood and fought fire with fire on the feet, throwing everything into each strike. The veteran doubled up on right hands, hurting his top ranked adversary for the first time. In the last 30 seconds however, it was Uno on his back as Odin sent monstrous shots to the head.

Still throwing with ill intent, Odin was clearly looking to land his devastating rear right hand in the 2nd. As the doctors stopped to check the badly broken nose of Uno the replay showed that the damage was due to an unintentional clash of heads. With blood streaming down his face Uno once again entered the fray. Closing distance to grab a leg proved costly as Uno absorbed a vicious spinning back fist. A picture perfect right knee then sent “Shoten” to the canvas where a follow up right hand knocked him clean out.

Despite his age Uno still remains a tough test and a great barometer to gauge an opponents potential. “Odin” is one of the newer breed of fighters who are getting larger, stronger and well-versed on techniques needed to win. An outstanding performance for Takagi has marked the Fighting Dreamers representative as one to keep an eye on for title contention. With unbreakable spirit, Uno came to win and went out on his shield trying.


Women’s Infinity League Strawweight Tournament

Emi Fujino Drew with Megumi Sugimoto (20-18, 19-19, 19-19)

As the pivotal Infinity League match got underway, physical specimen Fujino squared off against the athletic Sugimoto. Sugimoto tagged her foe from the outside, landing jabs and straights as Fujino closed the distance. As they clinched against the cage, wrestler Sugimoto held her own as they jockeyed for position. A flying right straight from Sugimoto grazed Fujino who planted her feet and swung with authority at close range. A right hand stunned Sugimoto and dropped her to the canvas. Unfazed the AACC representative kicked Fujino off and both fighters regrouped. Fujino was landing the harder blows but Sugimoto was game, attacking at every opportunity. After her opponent over extended Fujino capitalised with a back take, smoothly transitioning to the ground where she locked up a rear naked choke. Sugimoto defended as the explosive Fujino finished the round strong.

In the 2nd stanza Sugimoto continued at her high-volume pace converting a perfect 1-2 combination to a double leg takedown. Fujino wall walked back to her feet and the warriors continued to trade. With a busier striking output Sugimoto was primarily firing 1-2’s while Fujino launched heavy rear hands. Avoiding the brunt of Fujino’s blitzes Sugimoto found her rhythm with a stiff jab before shooting again late in the round. Fujino sprawled and held position until Sugimoto got back to her feet. A final flurry saw both bite down on their gum shields and throw down until the final bell sounded.

The judges were divided as two scored the 2nd round to Sugimoto, prioritizing the activity and attacks over Fujino’s heavy counters. The dissenting judge saw both the rounds for the powerhouse Fujino. With the win both fighters earned 1 point in the Infinity League tournament.


Women’s Infinity League Strawweight Tournament

Haruka Yoshinari Defeated Shiho “Angel” Mori by Submission (Armbar, 2R, 4:36)

Taking the initiative “Angel” kicked off the round looking to find range with a long jab. Yoshinari leaned on her grappling, taking the fight to the cage where she took back position and chipped away with knees. Mori found separation and threw straight punches and kicks until Yoshinari timed a takedown. “Angel” kicked off and returned to the feet where both fighters traded fists. Yoshinari once again took the fight to the mat. Fighting out of Grappling Shootboxers Tajimi Mori surprised with a Omoplata attempt from her back, switching to a triangle and finally a belly down armbar as the round closed.

Mori appeared confident in the 2nd round, stepping in on her strikes and finding the mark with 1-2’s and rear kicks. While Yoshinari answered with her own punches her opponent was that bit crisper and sharper. A head and arm throw to Kesa Gatame shoulder press gave Yoshinori the opportunity to keep trying to isolate the arm for a submission. As the seconds died down the Nezawa World Shinagawa grappler finally found perfect position with her legs to execute the straight arm bar. Coined the “Ayaka Lock” after Judoka Ayaka Miura the old school submission has made quite a resurgence.

The impressive victory scored Yoshinari a much needed 3 points in the Infinity League.


Infinity League Featherweight Tournament

Kaisei Takehara Defeated Yamato Hamamatsu by KO (Right Punch, 1R, 0:38)

Tournament favorite Takehara stalked and looked for the overhand left hand as Hamamatsu answered with a check left hook. A right high kick from the T-Grip wrestler was blocked and caught by the southpaw Takehara. After clinching and landing a knee to the body, Takehara clubbed his opponent with a right then swung a left before culminating the sequence with a crushing right hand. As Hamamastu crashed to the mat Takehara followed up with a hammerfist as the referee mercifully stepped in. Takehara is explosive and proven to be dangerous early.

With the win Takehara picked up 4 points, placing the Paraestra Matsudo Featherweight far enough ahead of the pack to already be determined the Infinity League champion.


Haruki Kawakita Defeated Toshihiro “Rider” Shimizu by Submission (Front Sleeper Choke, 2R, 3:34)

Known for his Kamen Rider enthusiasm Shimizu was quick to show his cards in attempts to grapple and get the fight to the canvas. On the ground Kawakita took top position locking up a front sleeper/ guillotine. Working out “Rider” successfully got back to his feet, shot again and got caught in another guillotine! Willing to sacrifice position to get to the ground Shimizu planned to capitalise on a mistake and score a reversal or submission. With pro boxing experience, Kawakita was implementing his style and fighting his fight. A capable striker “Rider” exchanged hands just enough to mask an attempt to get the fight down. After a poorly timed shot Kawakita locked his arm under the neck and tried to rotate for a Spinning Choke/ Darce. Deftly escaping the submission attempts “Rider” instead absorbed elbows as the round finished.

The second round unfolded with both fighters employing feints to draw out a reaction. More accustomed to grappling heavy promotions, Shimizu dropped to his back under pressure, beckoning his foe in. Kawakita motioned his foe up and unloaded with a barrage against the fence. Rider finally seized a single leg and made good on the window of opportunity, taking Kawakita’s back. Rolling to try to set in hooks a scramble ensued that saw the more consistent and controlled Kawakita come out on top. Kawakita was seeking the back choke when the Uruno Dojo fighter skillfully reversed position. Rather than securing position “Rider” went “all-in” for an Kimura grip and was instead rolled onto his back. Kawakita rained down ground and pound from back mount to pressuring his opponent to once again go to all 4’s. History repeated itself as Kawakita again eyed a Spinning Choke/ Darce, “Rider” again stayed safe prompting the Tribe Tokyo fighter to move to a guillotine, countering the defense by switching grip to secure the tap.

The dynamic exchange showcased Kawakita’s consistent control of the fight, with Hiro defending well but ultimately succumbing to one of many submission attempts.


Simon Suzuki Drew with Makoto Eguchi (19-19, 19-19, 19-19)

Both come out aggressive, Suzuki pressed forward as Eguchi dropped levels for a takedown. A head and arm throw by Suzuki was hampered by the cage. Eguchi capitalized and took the Wajutsu Keishuke Hearts fighters back. The position was not secured long, however, as Suzuki escaped to his feet. An slick reactive counter takedown by Eguchi sat Suzuki down, only for him to pop back up. The following shot by Eguchi was under pressure and ill timed, sacrificing position he ended up in mount. Preferring to give up his back Eguchi defended well, preventing Suzuki from flattening him out or locking up a rear naked choke. Suzuki came close on occasions but could only get a single arm under the neck. Eguchi held out until the bell, spending about 1/2 the round playing defense.

As they exchanged jabs and low kicks it seemed Eguchi had some ground to make up. Outside kicks, jabs and a winging overhand set up a nicely timed takedown. The Sai Gym fighter tried to pass, giving the space needed for Suzuki to escape. Suzuki looked sharp and composed, never over extending while Eguchi was using the threat of wild power strikes to create scramble opportunities. With tackles, back takes and hustle, Eguchi began to wear Suzuki out. An elbow on separation was followed by high kicks as Eguchi rallied late on the pro debutant.

The hotly contested back and forth battle concluded in an unanimous draw.


Takehiro Nakaike defeated Naoki Honda by TKO (Ground and Pound. R1, )

16 year-old prodigy, the All Japan Kids Shooto champion Nakaike made his pro debut against a stiff test in Sai-Gym’s Honda. The first round started with both fighters throwing heavy leather, with Nakaike catching Honda’s leg and delivering a decisive straight hand that dropped his adversary. Despite absorbing another right hand, Honda displayed composure and managed to regain his footing. Nakaike executed a beautiful inside trip, transitioning to a dominant position for a relentless display of ground and pound. The 16-year-old’s power proved remarkable as he maintained posture and pummelled through Honda’s defense. Ultimately securing a referee stoppage, Paraestra Koiwa’s Nakaike’s won his debut in style. A fighter with a lot of potential.


Yo Otake Drew with Seiya Sugimoto (19-19, 19-19, 19-19)

Both southpaws looked for low kicks and straights as they fought to find rhythm in the opening stanza. Sugimoto landed lead jabs and hooks while attempting to time straight lefts. Otake circled the outside, carefully selecting opportunistic low kicks. With about 1 minute left both fighters volleyed punches and elbows into the fray, Sugimoto went straight down the pipe while Otake put his head down and winged hooks. In the dying seconds Sugimoto entered into a double leg and threw his opponent to the canvas.

The physical differences were evident, with Otake using footwork to avoid Sugimoto’s power strikes. Sugimoto kept it simple, with straight hands he planted his feet and aimed to land hard. Fighting out of Hakane Gym, Otake got his game going, dodging and returning with jabs and low kicks. Shutting down Sugimoto’s attempts to go to the mat Otake picked up the pace with thudding low kicks to the calf. Putting on a brave face the Carpe Diem Fukuoka fighters leg was compromised. An overzealous kick led to a takedown from Sugimoto. Rolling with opponents legs Otake seized an ankle before thinking better of engaging on the mat. Otake and Sugimoto finished the round on the ground, competing for position with leg attacks

All 3 judges awarded the fighters a round each for an hard fought unanimous draw.


Juji Yannick Ephoeviga Defeated Yoku Goto by TKO (Ground Punch, R1, 0:21)

Former Welterweight Rookie of the year, Ephoeviga made a long awaited return to Shooto riding a wave of momentum. Goto has faced many of the divisions best and has suffered because of it. The opening match finished before it even really got going. Ephoeviga was quick out the gates, kicks and knees had Goto backing up which spelled the beginning of the end for the Shooting Gym Osaka warrior. A left hand connected flush and Goto collapsed. Heavy ground and pound left the referee with no doubts in leaping in to call the fight at just 21 seconds of the opening round.

A force at Welterweight undefeated Tribe Tokyo KO machine Ephoeviga packs even more starch at Lightweight. Ephoeviga requested a step up in competition, something he has certainly earned.  Goto’s “anyone anywhere” attitude and fighting spirit is commendable but a step back in competition would help him showcase his skills.


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

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