Kazuki Tokudome (top) stayed perfect in Pancrase by mauling Kota Okazawa on Sunday. | Photo: Taro Irei

TOKYO -- Kazuki Tokudome battered a tenacious Kota Okazawa in the main event of Sunday evening’s Pancrase “Impressive Tour 8” at Differ Ariake, securing his place in the finals of the promotion’s lightweight grand prix.

The bout looked as though it might end quickly, as a Tokudome boot and fist to the face sent Okazawa to the canvas. Instead of finishing with punches, however, Tokudome immediately found himself defending takedown attempts, prompting him switch to the occasional soccer kick instead. The battered Okazawa wasn’t out of the fight completely, though, as evidenced by a kimura attempt that was cut short by the bell.

The second period started much the same as the first, the southpaw Tokudome snapping Okazawa’s head back with punches before putting the Nova Uniao Japan fighter on his back. Tokudome rained blows until the final minute of the round, whereupon Okazawa reversed to mount and threw on an armbar attempt. Tokudome’s idea of armbar defense turned out to be vicious stomps to the body, which proved surprisingly adequate.

Though Tokudome looked to repeat in the third with a flattening left hand, Okazawa surprisingly reversed his mounted assailant while under fire. The turning of the tide didn’t last long, as Tokudome recovered position to close out the round on top. Judges Minoru Toyonaga, Ryogaku Wada, and Yoshifumi Oyabu all gave Tokudome lopsided 30-26 scorecards, reflecting his three-round shellacking of Okazawa.

“My strict training every day is what gets me to the final competitive form you see me in today,” remarked a breathless Tokudome, post-fight. “In December, I’ll fight in the final, and my teammate, Tomonari Kanomata, will probably fight for the [featherweight] title in September, so please come out and support us both.”

T. Irei

Kobayashi snuffed out Iwamiya.

Meeting Tokudome in the December tournament final will be Isao Kobayashi, who took a commanding unanimous decision over Tomoyoshi Iwamiya in the evening’s other lightweight semifinal. Given Iwamiya’s exotic and aggressive strikes and Kobayashi’s slightly more accurate ones, both men floored each other with cracking straights in the first period, though neither could finish.

The southpaw Kobayashi added low kicks to his arsenal in the second period, while Iwamiya shot for occasional takedowns in between roundhouse and spinning back-kicks. Kobayashi sealed his dominance in the third after stuffing a takedown attempt to deliver knees to Iwamiya’s crown. The knees forced Iwamiya to his back whereupon Kobayashi planted himself in guard and ground away with short punches for the final three minutes.

In the end, Kobayashi walked away the victor on judges Wada, Oyabu and Toyonaga’s cards (30-28, 30-27, 30-27).

Sengoku and Shooto veteran Shintaro Ishiwatari earned the next shot at bantamweight King of Pancrase Manabu Inoue with his split decision victory over Motonobu Tezuka.

T. Irei

Ishiwatari (right) cracked Tezuka.

Ishiwatari narrowly escaped a leg-scissors choke in the first frame, finally securing top position in half-guard to grind on Tezuka. The second period saw little change in either fighter’s modus operandi, as Ishiwatari stalked Tezuka with winging punches while Tezuka shelled up and continued to shoot for the legs. For all of his bravery diving into the fire however, Tezuka was reversed twice and forced to defend barrages of big punches off his back. The opening of the final stanza saw Ishiwatari somewhat less active on the ground, as he would hold position from side control, biding his time until the inevitable standup. By the final minute however, this waiting gave way to knees to Tezuka’s ribs from side control.

Despite showing good reversal abilities on the ground, the judges found themselves not only split in their verdict, but also somewhat spare in their assessment of the eventual winner. While judge Yoshinori Umeki sided with Tezuka via “must” decision (29-29), judges Kenji Kosuge and Wada turned in narrow cards for Ishiwatari, 30-29 and 30-28, respectively. Be that as it may, the tight battle saw both fighters recognized with the promotion’s “Best Bout” award, making both of them $630 richer.

T. Irei

Sunabe returned to the win column.

Elsewhere, the first and former 125-pound King of Pancrase, Mitsuhisa Sunabe, began his hunt for Pancrase’s newest title, narrowly decisioning Yoshihiro Matsunaga to advance in the promotion’s 120-pound tournament.

After a tight opening round in which Sunabe’s game plan of taking the fight to the floor backfired -- the Okinawan gave Matsunaga top position in guard for most of the round -- Sunabe got down to scrapping in the second frame. Largely even, both men traded tit-for-tat until Sunabe was able to secure Matsunaga’s back and threaten with a choke. As such, judges Kosuge, Toyonaga and Wada all saw the fight for Sunabe (20-20 must decision for Sunabe, 20-19, 20-19).

Former Shooto 123-pounder Hiroyuki Abe made short work of Takuya Eizumi on the other side of the Pancrase 120-pound tournament bracket, eliciting a tap via armbar at 4:19 of the first and taking the promotion’s $380 “Submission of the Night” bonus. From the get go, Abe put Eizumi on his back and stifled him with big punches from above. Eizumi’s scrambles resulted in brief moments of freedom, but Abe’s positional dominance was so complete that, by the time the armbar was secured, both of Eizumi’s arms were caught; Eizumi’s only out was thus to verbally submit.

Clearly taken with his fellow finalist’s finish as well as his Shooto background, Sunabe commented, “Abe is the better fighter today, so I can’t really say that I’ll be able beat him now. When we meet in the future, however, I will show him my Pancrase soul.”

In typical fashion, welterweight Keiichiro Yamamiya circled his opponent, peppering with stiff jabs and the occasional left straight and knee for two whole rounds. Ichiro Kanai was more than happy to oblige the Grabaka veteran, returning fire with sharp counterpunches of his own. Kanai further evened up the cards by securing mount in the second period, resulting in judge Toyonaga giving a 20-20 card. Judges Oyabu and Wada were more discerning however, siding 20-19 with Yamamiya for the majority decision.

T. Irei

‘Animal’ made good on his name.

From the opening bell of their light heavyweight tilt, Shinsho “Animal” Anzai unrelentingly attacked Akihito Tanaka, swarming him with messy haymakers before his carelessness saw him give his back to the formerly masked fighter known briefly as “Kinnikumantaro.” Tanaka was able to sink his arms for the rear-naked choke, but Anzai gutted through it for the eventual reversal. From riding time position, Anzai rained heavy blows for an uncomfortably long period in which Tanaka did nothing but cover up in defense. As such, referee Kosuge was forced to call the bout at 4:16 of the first.

After a tight first round of trading punches, Seiji Ozuka exploded into the second with a lunging right hook that sent Isao Hirose careening to his back. Ozuka dove to finish with more punches, and while some got through, Hirose was more or less still in the fight, shelling up under the fire. This method of defense seemed unsatisfactory to referee Kosuge, who stepped in for an early stop at 0:57 of round two. Despite the premature stoppage, Ozuka was still awarded $380 for the “Knockout of the Night” by evening’s end.

Tatsuya So and Shoko Sato fought to an exciting majority draw in which the Okinawan wildly shot for takedowns to mash with punches from on top. Not to be dominated or outstruck, Sato returned fire from his back with a flurry of punches and kimura attempts from the clinch. By bout’s end, judges Kosuge and Umeki had draws of 20-20 and 19-19 respectively, while judge Wada saw it 20-19 for Sato.

Though Koshi Matsumoto wanted nothing more than to clinch up and shoot for the occasional takedown, Yoshiaki Takahashi battered him with enough sharp strikes to earn knockdowns and thus consideration on judges Kosuge (20-19) and Wada’s (19-18) cards. Only judge Umeki ruled the bout a 19-19 draw.

T. Irei

Shores recorded another finish.

The featherweight final of Pancrase’s 2011 Neo-Blood rookie tournament turned out to be a rematch between Jon Shores and Yoji Saito, a fight which occurred last February and ended in a unanimous decision victory for the American.

This second meeting with Saito ended more definitively for the U.S. Navy serviceman, however, as Shores punished his opponent with brutal ground-and-pound before sinking the rear-naked choke for the tap at 4:43 of the first round. Given that Shores finished all of his opponents during the course of the tournament, the 29-year-old “Killer” was also recognized as the 2011 Neo-Blood tournament MVP.

In the welterweight Neo-Blood finals, Shigeaki Kusayanagi was all knees and ground-and-pound, putting the hurt on Tamotsu Kitada for just over a round before a particularly sharp knee dropped him to all fours. Kusayanagi finished with punches as referee Umeki lunged for the save at the 0:54 mark of round two.

Keiji Sakuta used his sharper striking and a last minute rear-naked choke “catch” to take judges Hirokazu Takamoto, Umeki and Wada’s scorecards (20-20 must for Sakuta, 19-19 Sakuta, 20-19) and the lightweight Neo-Blood tournament championship over Takatoshi Matsumoto.

Yuta Numakura scraped by Kenichi Tosa in the bantamweight final, using knees in the clinch and a last-minute takedown to earn 20-20 must decisions from judges Wada and Takamoto, while judge Toyonaga gave him a 20-19 card.

Last but not least, in the 125-pound tournament final, Yuki Yasunaga employed well-timed big punches and takedowns to control Masakazu Utsugi and take the decision on the cards of Wada, Takamoto and Toyonaga (20-19, 20-19, 19-19 must for Yasunaga).

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