The highlight of the tournament’s first round was Shooto and Sengoku veteran Shintaro Ishiwatari fighting at his proper weight against the slippery Nobuhiro Yamauchi. Ishiwatari was his usual reckless self, swinging big and missing by wide margins. Thus, Yamauchi racked up sharp low kicks in the early moments and almost caught Ishiwatari with the keylock while escaping from the back clinch.
Yamauchi’s luck, however, ran out while attempting to bait Ishiwatari into his guard after falling to his back. Ishiwatari passed and rained hammerfists onto Yamauchi’s jaw, scrambling his senses in the process. Referee Yoshinori Umeki jumped in for the save at the 3:13 mark.
Also putting on an impressive display was South Korea’s Sengoku Gold Cup champion, Joo Hyon Seo, who started the event with fireworks.
Both Seo and opponent Ichiro Sugita rocked each other on the feet and traded dominant positions on the ground throughout the bout. Seo, in particular, impressed with a tight reverse triangle, from which he pounded away at Sugita’s face between wrenching out his left arm for armbar attempts. Sugita persevered, but by bout’s end, all three judges saw the fight for Seo.
So was not the only Korean to impress, as Kil Woo Lee ended his bout with Ayato Taneichi almost as soon as it began. As both men met at the center, Lee threw a flurry that landed flush on Taneichi’s chin, sending him out cold into the ropes. Referee Umeki called the fight 10 seconds into round one.
Elsewhere, Pancrase alum Takuya Eizumi had difficulty with Taro Shimazaki’s length, but he did not let it stop him from swarming Shimazaki on the feet and scrambling out from underneath him when put on the mat. Shimazaki, a southpaw, also had his fair share of troubles, as Eizumi successfully landed low kick-overhand right combinations at will. As such, Eizumi’s tenacity and forward momentum essentially earned him the “must” nod on all three draw scorecards.
Last but not least, Shohei Kondo juked and jived in an attempt to mask his winging haymakers, but Kazushi Sakuraba understudy Wataru Takahashi saw through the distractions to counter punch effectively and control Kondo on the floor. Takahashi eventually locked up the rear-naked choke for the tapout 1:22 into the second round.
Also advancing in the tournament were Tatsuya So (unanimous decision over Min Jung Song), Shoko Sato (unanimous decision against Hiryu Okamoto) and Hirokazu Nishimura (unanimous decision over Wataru Inatsu).
Outside of the tournament, Masahiro Toryu made quick work of Noah Villanueva in a welterweight superfight, as he heel hooked Villanueva for the tapout 2:56 into the first round. Meanwhile, Koji Kanechika took a grueling three-round “must” decision over Sang Soo Lee in a superfluous heavyweight “main event super fight.”
Upon receiving his nod, Kanechika took to the microphone and issued a challenge to 2008 Olympic gold medalist Satoshi Ishii.