The UFC has signed longtime Japanese regional veteran and bantamweight star, Masanori Kanehara.
Not everyone's journey to the UFC is the same and for Masanori Kanehara, that journey was an especially long one. Although no official debut date has been announced (it could be assumed he'll be fighting on the Saitama card) and no opponent has been lined up, the UFC made his signing official last week with the addition of Kanehara to their bantamweight roster.
Who is Masanori Kanehara?
When I mentioned Kanehara's journey to the UFC above, it was to prepare you for his 23-11-5 record, starting in Deep back in 2003. Since then, Kanehara has competed for ZST, Sengoku, and Pancrase, as well as brief stints with K-1 and Shooto. He has wins over, Norifumi Yamamoto, Michihiro Omigawa, Chan Sung Jung, and Shunichi Shimizu. He would be entering the UFC on a 6 fight win streak, if he hadn't lost his last fight by DQ for throwing his opponent out of the ring. The 31-year old trains out of Paraestra Hachioji alongside UFC lightweight Kazuki Tokudome. It's not a camp otherwise known for producing high end talent; at some point Kanehara spent time training with Greg Jackson town in Albuquerque, but I'm not sure if he still trains there or not.
What you should expect:
Masanori has a very upright kickboxing style, predicated on being light on his feet and throwing counter hooks over his opponents punches. He likes to stand tall with his head high, not the best against aggressive strikers, and something he's paid for in the past. While his kicks and punches are fast and look to have some power behind them, he seems to take a little while to get in rhythm, only throwing combinations as he gets more comfortable, later in fights.
He has a pretty nice shot and double leg when he wants it, but I'm not sure how well he sets it up with strikes, as most of what I've seen his him shooting under his opponents, rather than generating takedowns on his own offense. He has a very clingy top game, and while his ground and pound isn't all that heavy, he's very good at advancing position and working toward submissions. Overall he's a very well rounded fighter and a welcome addition to the bantamweight division. I don't know that he has the fluidity of transition or standup skill to make a run at the top 15, but there are definitely guys at 135 he can beat.
To get us better acquainted, here is his recent bout against Wade Choate at Deep 62 Impact: