TOKYO -- Hideo Tokoro needed only 39 seconds to pound out Shooto legend Rumina Sato in their bantamweight bout at Vale Tudo Japan 2012 on Monday.

The clash of fan-favorites capped off the first edition of the revamped series, dubbed “VTJ 1st,” which took place inside a cage at Yoyogi National Second Gymnasium.

It was “Shooto Charisma” Sato who was first to throw a punch, rushing in on former K-1 and Dream star Tokoro with a barrage of punches. Tokoro managed to evade the shots, however, and used a quick trip to send Sato to the mat. The suddenness of the sweep seemed to stun Sato, and Tokoro capitalized with a diving hook that clipped his opponent straight across the chin. Sato immediately curled into a ball to cover himself as Tokoro rained huge punches and elbows from above. Referee Kenichi Serizawa hesitated, allowing Tokoro to add a few extra elbows to his onslaught before stepping in to end the fight. The finish came a mere 39 seconds into the first round.

Taro Irei

Hironaka outworked Prater.

In a much more drawn out fight, Shooto 154-pound champ Kuniyoshi Hironaka outpointed fellow UFC veteran Carlo Prater after three rounds of tight grappling. Prater took the first round, hitting a lateral drop takedown and staying on top of the Japanese grappler. The Brazilian-born American tried to use the same technique in rounds two and three, but Hironaka proved to have better balance, leaning into Prater and landing on top to spend most of the rounds trying to pass Prater’s half-guard.

In round three, Hironaka made it to Prater’s back, but couldn’t sink in the rear-naked choke and was content to throw punches and elbows to his opponent’s head while the clock ticked down. In the end, Hironaka’s superior grappling earned him a unanimous nod with scores of 29-28 from judges Yuki Nakai, Kenichi Serizawa and Toshiharu Suzuki.

Former Tachi Palace Fights titleholder Darrell Montague also made the trip to Japan, taking on former Shooto champion Mamoru Yamaguchi in a closely contested flyweight bout. Sporting his signature afro and mustache, Yamaguchi tried to assert his usual standup dominance on Montague, but found himself being beat to the punch by the younger man for the majority of the fight.

Montague maintained consistent pressure, using quick one-two combinations to wear down his Japanese opponent. Yamaguchi started to rally in the second and third rounds, stealing a bit of the momentum away from Montague, but still found himself on the receiving end of multiple counter-punches and kicks. After three rounds, it was the American who took home a split decision victory, earning 30-27 and 29-28 scorecards from judges Nakai and Minoru Toyonaga, respectively, while judge Kenichi Serizawa alone scored the bout 29-28 in favor of Yamaguchi.

T. Irei

Horiguchi hurt, but couldn't
finish Loveland.

Another UFC veteran, bantamweight Ian Loveland, faced off against Japan’s top prospect in 22-year-old Kyoji Horiguchi, marking Horiguchi’s first appearance in a cage. Despite his shorter reach, Horiguchi chose to stick to the outside and pick off his opponent with lunging punches and heavy leg kicks early on. Loveland tried to take the fight to the ground on multiple occasions, but Horiguchi was able to muscle his way out of the American’s clinch. The highlight of the match came around the middle of the first round, when Horiguchi landed a cannon of a right hook that sent Loveland face first into the canvas. Horiguchi pounced, but Loveland proved game enough to withstand the barrage and got back to his feet to see the round.

The second frame was razor-thin, as Loveland took on the aggressor role, puffing up Horiguchi’s eyes with quick combinations and nearly sinking in a rear-naked choke toward the end of the five-minute period. In the final round, Loveland used the same pattern of ranged attacking to stifle Horiguchi’s offense and bloody his face. Horiguchi turned the tide with a heavy kick to the body that had Loveland retreating in pain, but the Krazy Bee prospect couldn’t finish and the fight went to the final bell. At the end of three close rounds, judges Nakai, Suzuki and Toyonaga all scored the bout 29-28 for Horiguchi, who continued his climb to the world stage.

In what may have been her final professional appearance, female MMA legend Megumi Fujii earned a dominant unanimous decision victory over fellow veteran Mei Yamaguchi at 115 pounds. The fight started with fireworks, as both fighters chose to brawl before Fujii settled into her rhythm and controlled Yamaguchi with constant takedowns, ground-and-pound and submission attempts. The bout wasn't completely one-sided, though, as “V.V. Mei” put Fujii in more than a couple scary situations, using heavy hands to fight off submission attempts. Fujii’s final performance was still good enough to earn her perfect marks across the board, as she received 20-18 scores from all three judges.

T. Irei

K-Taro choked out Suzuki.

At bantamweight, Kenji Osawa took a close decision victory over former Shooto champ Takeshi Inoue in a battle of feint-heavy counter punchers. Osawa controlled the pace of the fight, staying aggressive and escaping most of “Lion” Takeshi's heavy counter punches. In the final round, Inoue landed a big four-punch combination that staggered the WEC veteran, but he couldn’t capitalize as Osawa was able to stay on his feet and return fire. Osawa just came through with the win, earning scores of 29-28 from all three judges.

Earlier in the night, Keita Nakamura did what “K-Taro” does best and submitted previously unbeaten slugger Nobutatsu Suzuki with a rear naked choke only 2:09 into their 177-pound catchweight bout. In the evening’s opener, Daisuke Hoshino tapped muay Thai convert Kuntap Weerasakreck with an armbar at the 2:19 mark of round one.

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