TOKYO -- Mikihito
Yamagami successfully passed his first test as Shooto
115-pound world champion Sunday night in Tokyo.
It took the lanky brawler only six and a half minutes to put
challenger Junji Ito to
sleep with a rear-naked choke at Shooto
“10th Round” before a packed house inside Korakuen Hall.
Yamagami earned the title last November by besting former champion
Ikoma with a lightning-fast knockout, but this time, the champ
wanted to prove that he could work on the ground as well.
“I think Ito wasn’t expecting me to try to grapple with him, and I
took advantage of that,” Yamagami said after the bout.
Yamagami celebrated his first defense.
The opening frame was an all-standing affair, with both fighters
bouncing in and out of range, winging quick hooks to the head.
Yamagami caught kicks to the groin both early and late in the
round, but moved on with his usual lightning speed, dodging Ito’s
power shots to reply with quick combos of his own.
In the second round, the challenger came out swinging and landed a
fast combo to the champion’s head, but Ito got overconfident and
found himself being taken down after getting too close. As Ito
tried to recover, Yamagami got behind him and started to throw
punches before sinking his hooks in for the back mount. After a
momentary tie-up with the ring ropes, Yamagami pulled his opponent
backwards and locked on a tight rear-naked choke. Ito held on for
as long as he could, but nevertheless succumbed to inevitable
unconsciousness, forcing referee Toshiharu Suzuki to stop the fight
at 1:36 of the second round.
After his win, Yamagami expressed his desire to head overseas and
join the ranks of the UFC, implying that he would be willing to
move up about 10 pounds in weight and fight in the UFC’s flyweight
Prior to the night’s main event, UFC vet Caol Uno and
Pancrase champ Shintaro
Ishiwatari brought Korakuen Hall to a deafening roar in their
143-pound bout that was all action from the opening bell.
Ishiwatari (left) and Uno went at it.
Uno maintained constant pressure throughout the entire match but
could not keep up with the younger, smaller fighter. Ishiwatari,
who moved up from bantamweight for the bout, seemed unperturbed by
the size difference, slamming Uno with huge power bombs and
suplexes on multiple occasions.
Ishiwatari used his speed to move in and out of Uno’s range,
peppering the legendary Shooto fighter with crisp combos and
avoiding takedowns while scoring takedowns of his own. Uno came
close with a few classic “Kadowaki Special” rear-naked chokes, with
seemingly all of the packed hall cheering him on, but the game
Ishiwatari managed to escape every time. Both fighters spent the
final two minutes of the fight at full throttle, annihilating each
other with an endless flurry of punches, kicks, takedowns and
reversals. In the end, all three judges scored the technical brawl
in favor of Ishiwatari, with scores of 29-28 (twice) and 30-27.
In an odd, but quick 143-pound bout, AACC team leader Hiroyuki Abe
took on former Sengoku prospect Shigeki
Osawa. Abe opened up the match by taking center and standing
stone-faced with his hands at his sides, while Osawa confusedly
stood out of range. While tentative at first, Osawa slowly opened
up, throwing hard shots at Abe’s head and stomach. Abe seemed
unfazed by the hard hooks at first, but late in the round was
finally hit by a right hand which put him down. Osawa pounced and
threw a few hammerfists before referee Suzuki dove in and called a
stop at 4:12 of the first round.
Osawa mashed the elder Abe.
At 168 pounds, Yukinari
Tamura took a close win over Kenta
Takagi after three rounds of clinch work. “Hibiki” finally
broke the stalemate in the final minute of the match, getting a
takedown and taking mount before raining down heavy punches on
Takagi. All three judges scored the bout in favor of Tamura.
Onetime rookie champion Kosuke
Suzuki had a close, exciting fight with Masumi
Tozawa in their 123-pound matchup. Despite the efforts of
“Rambo” Suzuki to use his superior strength and power to control
Tozawa, the Grabaka product showed technically superior grappling,
popping back to his feet and reversing Suzuki on multiple
occasions. In the second round, Tozawa spent some time cranking on
an omoplata and managed to get a fully-extended armbar before being
cut short by the bell. The razor-close armbar sealed the fight for
Tozawa, earning him scorecards of 20-19, 20-18 and 20-18.
The younger Abe brother, Masatoshi
Abe, made easy work of Takeshi
Saito at 123 pounds, stuffing his opponent’s persistent
double-leg attempts and pounding on his head. Abe spent a few
minutes pancaking Saito before realizing he could finish, but
eventually pounded his opponent out 4:37 in round one.
In rookie tournament action, Masatsugu
Sakaki took a unanimous decision over Kenta
Konishi at 154 pounds and Yuta Sato
scored a unanimous decision win over Yutaka
Saito in their 143-pound semifinal.