TOKYO, Feb. 16 — Korakuen Hall, the place where legends are born,
was once again host to another card put together by the
Nagoya-based promoter DEEP under the watchful eye of founder,
president and main matchmaker Shigeru Saeki.
To kick off the year, Mr. Saeki, as he’s know in Japan mixed
martial arts circles, brought together four champions under the
same roof with three of them placing titles on the line.
The main event saw former DEEP middleweight champion Ryuta Sakurai(Pictures) challenge reigning king Ryo Chonan(Pictures) in a rematch from a Feb. 2006
affair, when Sakurai lost the belt in an anti-climatic fight less
than two minutes into the first round.
Chonan opened the match with a flying knee attempt that Sakurai
caught before he slammed the champion hard onto the canvas. Sakurai
tried to follow with punches from inside the guard but Chonan
started to sink a triangle choke that made Sakurai change
Chonan continue to push the action from the bottom with the
triangle, mixing in punches while trying to trap Sakurai’s arm.
After a few minutes of struggle, Sakurai escaped the triangle by
power-bombing his way out. However, he couldn’t work anything else
from the position so both fighters were restarted on their
Sakurai charged forward with two left hooks, rocking Chonan back.
The former DEEP champ at 183 pounds quickly clinched and pulled a
beautiful judo throw to takedown and mount Chonan. Sakurai began to
punch away at the man who took his title, but Chonan was quick to
bridge and reverse position, where he landed bombs from the
The second and third round was more of the same. A tired Sakurai
clinched Chonan along the ropes, scoring takedowns or tripping
Chonan from inside the clinch. He secured mount position and landed
shots here and there before Chonan would reverse by bridging and
then land more effective shots from top.
It was a close match to score due to both fighters’ intensity but
Chonan walked away victorious on his first title defense with a
majority decision on the judges’ card.
Obiya started aggressively, dismissing Yokota’s attempt to shake
gloves and attacking with a 1-2 combo followed by a takedown.
Yokota sprawled and ended up working from half-guard, however he
couldn’t control from the top after Obiya scramble his way out.
Yokota quickly followed by landing crisp shots over Obiya’s
The champion tried several times to engage Yokota with strikes
while they stood, but the Grabaka fighter answered by landing and
scoring with better punches, forcing Obiya to quickly change
strategy and attempt more takedowns.
Yokota took the better position out of takedown scrambles, gaining
mount position followed with punches or armlocks attempts. Obiya
moved wildly and reversed his way out from the bottom. But he found
himself trapped with Yokota in the clinch position, where the
Grabaka judoka took advantage by scoring several throws and
The rest of the fight played in similar fashion with a frustrated
Obiya trying desperately to mount any kind of offense as Yokota ran
a judo throw and takedown clinic on him.
With just a minute to go, Obiya, showing better stamina at the
moment, scored a beautiful jumping knee to Yokota’s chin that upon
impact sounded like Mark McGwire’s best home runs back in the
A visibly shaken Yokota withstood the damage and tried desperately
to clinch for a takedown, but Obiya took his back looking for a
choke. Yokota did not give in and one more time reversed position
to end the match by landing punches from inside the guard.
In the end, Yokota’s better strikes paired with his judo skills
were enough for the judges to award him a unanimous decision,
making him the third DEEP lightweight champion.
Hasegawa opened by locking up with Nakao against the ropes and
looking for a takedown, however the Shooto veteran sprawled his way
out. The challenger turned onto his back and began to set leglocks
from the bottom. Nakao comfortably defended while landing a few
strikes, mostly to Hasegawa’s body.
The beginning of the end for Nakao came in the second round when
Hasegawa, once again rushing forward to meet the champion, dodged a
front kick. Nakao slipped and Hasegawa worked work from the top,
first kicking and punching, then later trying to pass guard.
Between the mix of strikes and guard-pass attempts, Hasegawa scored
a stomp squarely on Nakao’s face, breaking the veteran’s nose and
causing a significant amount of blood to stream from the
The nasal fracture combined with considerable bleeding moved the
referee to pause the fight and ask the doctor at ringside to check
on Nakao. The doctor cleared the champ to continue with both
fighters starting in the same position — Nakao on the bottom and
Hasegawa on top.
When he wasn’t attempting to pass Nakao’s guard, Hasegawa was
unrelenting and worked from the top with punches. The challenger
made it to half-guard where he looked for armlocks or more punches
on the champion’s already messy face.
The final minute of the third round gave Nakao the last chance to
try and mount an effective offensive — and defend his title.
After a failed takedown, Nakao managed to secure Hasegawa’s back
while working submissions. Hasegawa tried to escape by spinning
into Nakao’s guard, but the veteran managed to secure mount and
work for an armbar.
Once the armbar was set and with the crowd inside Korakuen Hall on
its feet, Hasegawa pointed several times to the referee and his
corner that he was fine. Just seconds away from tapping out,
Hasegawa spun and escaped on top, only to get trapped with a heel
Both fighters finished the match trading leglocks, but this was not
enough for Nakao’s to salvage the win and the judges gave the nod
to Hasegawa by majority decision, crowning the Sk Absolute fighter
the new DEEP welterweight champion.