Fight fans said sayonara to 'Mr. Pride' Akira Shoji at Deep '53
Impact' | Taro Irei/Sherdog.com
TOKYO -- Friday evening at Korakuen Hall, Akira Shoji's
15-year MMA career came to an end with a second loss to former
Pride grand prix champion Kazuo Misaki
in the headliner of Deep "53
Dubbed “Mr. Pride,” Shoji's fight style was markedly different from
his heyday in the Japanese super promotion, reminiscent of the
hourglass karate stance that Hiroyuki Abe
employed in his latest outings in Shoot Boxing and Deep.
“It was a new style of karate that Tatsuya
Iwasaki taught to me,” claimed Shoji after the fight, who was
wearing the black belt awarded to him by Iwasaki during his
Iwasaki is best known to Pride fans as Wanderlei
Silva's prey for the first K-1 and Pride “Dynamite”
collaboration in 2002 -- an event that still holds the record for
the most attended show in MMA with 91,000 at the National Olympic
Stadium in Tokyo.
Misaki crushed Shoji's karate stylings.
Iwasaki's style of karate proved no more effective for Shoji than
it did for Abe, however, as a cautious Misaki spent round one at
distance, landing repeated low kicks and the occasional stiff jab.
Shoji landed several hard counter left hands, though they were less
consequential than Misaki's constant offense.
“Before the fight, I wanted to crush Shoji, but once I stepped into
the ring, it was hard for me to bring myself to hurt a retiring
fighter like him,” said an emotional, teary-eyed Misaki post-fight.
“He didn't want to engage, either, so that made it even harder for
me to hurt him.”
Regardless, Misaki surmounted his reservations and unleashed a
violent flurry of punches and a knee that sent Shoji to the mat a
minute into the second period. Though Shoji covered up, he offered
little resistance, as “The Last Samurai” piled on punches and
stomps, prompting referee Yoshinori
Umeki to peel a crying Misaki off at 1:13.
It was Misaki's second victory over Shoji, having choked him out at
Deep "23 Impact"
in February 2006. Shoji briefly contested the stoppage but was
overcome by tears himself shortly after.
“I love Akira Shoji,” proclaimed the emotional Misaki in-ring.
“I've admired him since the start of my career, and have been
inspired by him to fight the way I do today. He's a samurai. I want
to thank him for encouraging and moving me.”
“After the Tohoku earthquake, I thought, 'Can I really fight given
the circumstances?'” said Shoji. “But all I have in my life are the
martial arts. I want to continue contributing to martial arts and
to found the 'MMA Old Boys Club' to help MMA contribute to the
Shoji showed off his new
The bout concluded with a retirement ceremony in which various
luminaries such as Caol Uno,
Sakurai, Dream Event Producer Keiichi Sasahara and veteran
referee Yuji Shimada, among many others, presented the retiring
Shoji with flowers and gifts. The ceremony closed with a final
playing of the Pride theme song for “Mr. Pride.”
With this second loss to Misaki, Shoji concludes his lengthy career
in MMA, which featured a staggering 23 bouts in the Pride ring.
However, he is not leaving the sport entirely. Shoji continues to
work as a referee and judge for Deep and Dream, and now, he will
direct his energies toward creating the aforementioned “MMA Old
Boys Club.” According to Shoji, the club is intended to be a group
for fighters to “give back to society,” though he was unable to
give concrete details on its planned activities.
Elsewhere, former SRC lightweight champion Satoru
Kitaoka defeated UFC veteran Jutaro Nakao
with three rounds of stifling grappling.
Nakao did his homework, as he consistently foiled Kitaoka's go-to
favorites of single-leg takedowns and leg submissions. Nakao's
defense for the Achilles’ lock was simple: as Kitaoka arched back
for the full extension, Nakao broke the former SRC champ's grip,
keeping his foot safe.
“I rushed into the submission attempts and, why, I just wasn't able
to get them,” a frustrated Kitaoka said after the fight. “I'm not
very satisfied with the outcome, but I really did try to finish
Though Nakao's defense was otherwise superb, it was still a tactic
that in the judges' eyes would not win the fight. Kitaoka took the
unanimous decision thanks to his constant takedown and submission
attempts. No scores were announced.
Kitaoka pursued submissions
but couldn't finish.
Fellow SRC veteran Eiji
Mitsuoka looked to be in trouble early against Jung Gyeong
Lee, when, after a single-leg attempt, Mitsuoka found himself
caught in a triangle choke. Mitsuoka kept his cool, however, and,
over the course of two tense minutes, worked his way free to pass
to full mount. From above, Mitsuoka mercilessly rained heavy
punches until Lee tapped to escape further punishment.
Afterward, Mistuoka made a special address to his wrestling senior,
who lost his Ishinomaki home in the recent March 11 Tohoku
disasters. Calling him out in the crowd, Mitsuoka stated
post-fight: “I fought tonight to cheer for my sempai [senior] and
the Tohoku Earthquake survivors.”
A collaboration between heavy metal band Outrage and Deep, the
first bout of the Annihilate Megaton Cup saw Seigo
Mizuguchi crush Mamoru
Nakamura in less than a minute, putting him one step closer to
becoming the Megaton division’s number one contender.
After launching three consecutive left hooks to Nakamura's cheek,
Mizuguchi flipped him over his hip and wailed away from mount.
Kicking his legs helplessly from bottom, Samio
Kimura was forced to step in and save the beached Nakamura at
the 0:52 mark.
Wada utilized an overhand right and single-leg takedown to
great effect against Yoshiki
Harada, taking all three judges' cards.
Lee attacked Mitsuoka with his
After stunning Harada in the first, Wada took him down and stifled
him on the canvas in the second frame to lock up the decision.
Iwasaki-style karate served former Yokohama Baystars batter
Furuki somewhat better than the retiring Shoji, as he stiffly
punched his way to a majority decision over Yoshitaka
Ebina. The bolt-upright Furuki marched forward with punches,
absorbing Ebina's own until Ebina gassed.
Former Deep welterweight champion Hidehiko
Hasegawa dropped a decision to winging puncher Yasushi
Kitazaki, who fended off numerous leg locks to batter the Deep
fan favorite throughout two rounds.
Lightweight Luiz Andrade
I reversed an early Yutaka Ueda
takedown in the second round to latch on a tight armbar that
referee Umeki deemed to taut for his liking, calling the bout a
mere 52 seconds in.
Kicking off the evening, Sakae
Kasuya woke up the beast in bantamweight Makoto
Kamaya, who choked him out cold at 1:46 of round two.