Hironaka Staves Off Retirement at 'Shooto Tradition 2011'


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Takashi Nakakura (yellow trunks) couldn’t overcome Kuniyoshi Hironaka’s grappling. | Taro Irei/Sherdog.com


TOKYO -- Kuniyoshi Hironaka was thinking about retirement heading into his lightweight contest with former Shooto world champion Takashi Nakakura. However, the Japanese BJJ ace found a reason to change his mind Friday at Shooto Tradition 2011 in Tokyo Dome City Hall.

The UFC and Dream veteran relied on his grappling prowess and toughed out a crucial unanimous verdict (30-28, 30-28, 29-28) over Nakakura.

Hironaka, the current Cage Force lightweight champion, took the first round by securing Nakakura's back and threatening with a rear-naked choke. However, the Osakan evened up in the second frame with repeated guillotine attempts and hard right hooks standing.

The 34-year-old Hironaka's BJJ black belt came into play in the third, as he again took Nakakura's back and threatened with punches and choke attempts to earn the win.

Post-fight, a teary-eyed and relieved Hironaka noted that he was mulling retirement before this bout and that, should he have lost, he would have decided to call it a day in the ring. The win moves Hironaka's mark to 18-8.

The bout was the first for Nakakura since May 2009, when he was knocked out by Takanori Gomi inside Shooto's ring. In the defeat, Nakakura suffered a detached retina that kept him on the sideline for nearly two years, forced him to vacate the Shooto world title and ponder retirement.

All-action flyweight Yuki Shojo returned from a 13-month absence to earn a unanimous decision over Noboru Tahara. Shojo had his back taken early, but stormed back in the second frame to pound "Shinpei" with punches and knees. In the third round, Shojo turned up his ground-and-pound to seal the deal. Judges Kyosuke Watanabe and Tadashi Yokohama saw it a close 29-28 and 30-29 respectively, while Toshiharu Suzuki had a wide 30-27 for Shojo.

At 115 pounds, the spindly Mikihito Yamagami used every inch of his 5-foot-8 frame to outbox the barely 5-foot Atsushi Takeuchi, taking scores of 30-26 and 30-27 (twice). It was a textbook demonstration of effective reach, and save for a flash knockdown which "Atch Anarchy" scored in the third, the smaller fighter couldn't escape the jabs and low kicks of Yamagami.

20-year-old Krazy Bee product Kyoji Horiguchi affirmed his status as one of Shooto's hottest up-and-comers, destroying Takahiro Hosoi in their 132-pound affair. The 2010 rookie champion's powerful punching blitzed Hosoi and put him away just 66 seconds into the contest.

Underdog Akira Okada, a pupil of Takanori Gomi, used sprawl-and-brawl tactics to earn a split draw (20-18, 19-19, 19-20) against former Shooto rookie champion Koshi Matsumoto. Matusmoto, a Kuniyoshi Hironaka understudy, was unable to consistently bring the fight to the floor to impose his skillful grappling.

In the evening's lightweight opener, Daisuke Hoshino was disqualified at 1:27 of the second round after repeatedly low-blowing Munehiro "Mike" Kin.

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