Pancrase Shifts Weight Classes, Announces 120-Pound Title Tourney


Pancrase is soon to crown its lightest ever king.

Officials from the long-running Japanese promotion Monday announced plans to stage a four-man tournament to determine an inaugural 120-pound champion. The newly formed weight class will become Pancrase’s “flyweight” division, while the 125-pound class currently ruled by Kiyotaka Shimizu will be henceforth be known as “super flyweight.”

The flyweight title tournament will kick off during the eighth show of Pancrase’s 2011 “Impressive Tour,” Aug. 7 at Differ Ariake arena in Tokyo. Although opening-round matchups were not revealed Monday, all four participants in the field were announced: Mitsuhisa Sunabe (13-7-4), Hiroyuki Abe (7-3), Takuya Eizumi (8-7) and Yoshihiro Matsunaga (6-5-2).

Tournament semifinals will consist of two five-minute rounds, with the title bout scheduled for three. In the event of a draw, all tournament bouts will use the “must decision” judging system.

Sunabe (Pictured), 31, became Pancrase’s first 125-pound titleholder with a June 2009 knockout of Eizumi. The Okinawan notched one successful defense of his title before having it taken in a February 2010 majority decision loss to Shimizu. Two subsequent title rematches with Shimizu yielded a draw and, most recently, another majority decision defeat. A 10-year veteran of the sport, Sunabe’s record includes wins over Rambaa Somdet, Noboru Tahara and Russ Miura.

A former challenger to Shooto’s 115-pound throne, 34-year-old Abe made his Pancrase debut in April with a second-round submission of Takuma Ishii. Despite a strong opening against “M-16” Somdet, Abe’s July 2010 Shooto title bid was cut short by medical intervention after his eye was swollen shut by the Thai boxer’s strikes.

A participant in Sengoku’s 2010 Asia bantamweight grand prix, Eizumi reached that tournament’s quarterfinals before being eliminated by Shoko Sato. Of Eizumi’s eight victories, seven have come via some form of knockout, while five of his seven losses have come on the judges’ scorecards.

The most diminutive fighter in the field, the tiny-but-powerful Matsunaga stands just 5 feet tall. Nicknamed “Child,” the 25-year-old Zendokai representative is 3-1-1 in his last five starts, most recently coming out on top in a February unanimous decision against Eizumi.

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