Friday, July 15, 2011

This Weekend in MMA (Japanese Edition)

Although it may be a while before any North Americans get to see them, there will be some tremendous fights in Tokyo, Japan this weekend. Here's a look at just a few of these fine matchups.

Dream.17 7/16

Gegard Mousasi (30-3-2) © vs Hiroshi Izumi (4-1)

Dream LHW Championship

Gegard Mousasi is one of three fighters from the April Strikeforce: Daly vs. Diaz card fighting at Dream.17. ‘The Dreamcatcher’ will defend his Dream LHW title for the first time against Japanese Judoka and Olympic hero Hiroshi Izumi.

Mousasi, the former Dream MW and Strikeforce LHW Champion, will look to bounce back from a disappointing majority draw against Keith Jardine by returning to a promotion with which he has had so much success. Including Dynamite!! 2009, Mousasi is 8-0 under the Dream banner. In fact, the 30-3-2 Mousasi has found success all around the world. With 28 finishes to go with multiple kickboxing and amateur boxing wins, he is one of the most dangerous and exciting fighters in the world.

Izumi is just 4-1 in MMA and will be taking a huge step-up in competition. The biggest win of his career came at Dynamite!! 2010 against the much smaller but always game Minowaman. But the 29-year old will have plenty of experience to draw from as the 2004 Olympic silver medalist in Judo. The Tokyo fans will surely be excited for the possibility of Izumi unseating the champ, however small that possibility may be.

Hiroyuki Takaya (15-9-1)© vs Kazuyuki Miyata (11-7)

Dream FW Championship

Hiroyuki Takaya will put his recently captured Dream Featherweight Title on the line against “Little Hercules” Kazuyuki Miyata. Takaya won the belt from Bibiano Fernandes at Dynamite!! 2010 by unanimous decision in a rematch of the FW Grand Prix final.

At 11 wins and 7 losses, Miyata does not bring the most impressive record into the ring, but he has put together a six fight winning streak to earn himself a shot at the title. His last two fights, wins over UFC/Pride veteran Caul Uno and former Shooto champion ‘Lion’ Takeshi, were the most impressive of his career. Miyata is an impressively strong fighter that competed in freestyle wrestling at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

Hiroyuki Takaya is another of the Dream fighters coming off of a fight with Strikeforce, and his journey may be the most disappointing of the three. ‘Streetfight Bancho’ saw his record fall to 0-3 on American soil as he dropped a split decision to previously unheralded prospect Roberto Peralta of Honduras.

Takaya is a good technical striker with power in both hands. He used his leg kicks effectively in defeating Fernandes, and he’ll need to use them again to wear down the legs and slow the shot of Miyata. Takaya has been put on his back in multiple fights, but he never stays there long. He is a prototypical Sprawl and Brawler.

The 35-year old Miyata, who speaks English well and has expressed interest in becoming an international star, recently secured a lucrative sponsorship deal with Nike and can propel himself to stardom with a win over Takaya. Miyata’s grinding style and international wrestling credentials make him a great fit for the cage and the 10-9 scoring system. Strength will be Little Hercules’s biggest assets as he was able to easily suplex both Takeshi and Uno multiple times, but cardio may be his weakness. Miyata was noticeably tired after his 15-minute fight with Takeshi, even after taking plenty of time to recover from a pair of low blows.

Tatsuya Kawajiri (27-7-2) vs. Drew Fickett (41-14)

“Crusher” Kawajiri is the final of the Strikeforce trio fighting at Dream.17. Kawajiri, a borderline top 10 fighter, will take on UFC and Strikeforce veteran Drew Fickett in a lightweight battle that brings two experienced veterans into the ring.

Former Shooto champion Kawajiri is a powerful wrestler with great control, but he will have his hands full with Fickett’s active ground game. Kawajiri uses his strength well in the stand up game and he is not afraid to trade leather. He proved that by getting into a K-1 superfight with kickboxing great Masato.

Kawajiri’s first fight in the US did not go any better than his fellow Dream fighters. Kawajiri lasted just 3:14 in his LW title fight against world-ranked Gilbert Melendez in a rematch of a 2006 Pride fight. Although he has a tendency to come up short in his biggest fights, Kawajiri has been in the ring with some of the best 155-LB fighters in history including Melendez, Takanori Gomi, Shinya Aoki, Eddie Alvarez and Shaolin Ribeiro.

Fickett (41-14) will hope for better luck than his opponent found on foreign soil as he brings his extensive resume, including 30 submission victories, to Japan for the first time. Fickett began his career back in 1999 at the age of 19 and amassed 12 victories before his 21st birthday. The submission master was 4-3 in the UFC including landing a last minute desperation knee to the head of Josh Koscheck that lead to Fickett's rear-naked choke victory.

Shooto - Shootor's Legacy 3 7/18

Yasuhiro Urushitani (18-4-6) © Yuki Shojo (11-5-2)

Shooto World Flyweight Title

Japan's top flyweight, Shooto Champion Yasuhiro Urushitani, will attempt to defend his title and avenge his 2008 loss against Yuki Shojo. The champ enters the fight with an 18-4-6 record and has won four straight fights since the Shojo loss.

In their first fight, Urushitani was the superior striker and proved too quick for Shojo in open space. That was until he landed a straight right that dropped Urushitani with less than two minutes remaining in the fight. Shaken by another combination, he dropped for a sloppy takedown and was forced to tap from a guillotine choke.

Urushitani is a supremely accurate striker with tons of speed that he uses to stay out of range. With the confidence to throw a flying knee at any time, he has to fight the urge to be too flashy. It was a spinning back fist that left him exposed to Shojo's right hand.

Shojo is an aggressive fighter with good cardio but he has only fought twice since September 2009. He'll need to be more successful in the clinch this time around if he wants to control the fight this time around.

Rumina “Moon Wolf” Sato (26-14-2) vs. Masakatsu Ueda (12-1-2)

Rumina Sato is a true pioneer of Japanese MMA. He has been fighting Shooto since 1994 and this will be the 17th year in a row that he has fought. The veteran will face stiff competition in former Shooto Featherweight Champion Masakatsu Ueda.

Ueda is one of the best featherweights in the world with his only loss coming from an amazing Brabo Choke by Shuichiro Katsumura from rubber guard. Ueda has extensive grappling credentials in both Japanese college and Combat Wrestling and has developed a solid technical striking game with excellent kicks. Rumors of Ueda coming to fight in America have persisted but never come to fruition.

Sato is an excellent submission fighter himself, but he is not as dangerous as he once was. Sato started his career by submitting nine of his first eleven opponents and defeated Charles Diaz (11-5) via flying armbar in just 6 seconds. Recently “Moon Wolf” has been reckless in his striking which has lead to some spectacular finishes in his last few fights.

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