In a fight that many fans have tabbed as frontrunner for fight of
the year, Torres and Maeda fought at a torrid pace in every
position, producing the sort of action suitable of a world-class
bantamweight bout. After three breakneck rounds, Maeda was halted
on the advice of the cageside physician due to a brutally swollen
right eye. However, in defeat, Maeda may have done more for his
career than in any of his previous 29 bouts.
The 26-year-old Maeda, who still reigns as the featherweight King
of Pancrase, burst onto the Japanese MMA scene in 2003 and quickly
emerged as one of the circuit's best young prospects. A dynamic
talent and an explosive finisher, he went undefeated through his
first 14 pro bouts and brought considerable hype into his Pride
Bushido debut in May 2005. However, after a brutal knockout at the
hands of the ever-dubious Charles "Krazy Horse" Bennett, questions
began to surface about the actual upside of the Osaka native.
A loss to Masakazu
Imanari(Pictures) in a bout he was otherwise
winning and a shocking upset loss to Daiki "DJ.taiki" Hata seemed
to help the idea that Maeda was a flaky fighter, but, when he ran
head first into a guillotine choke against Joe Pearson(Pictures) in his second Bushido go-around
in November 2006, Maeda was branded a big-fight choke artist.
In his bout against Torres, an emerging star who seems poised to
rule over the bantamweights with impunity, Maeda showed both the
guts and skill that were conspicuously absent in his past losses.
Maeda fought tooth-and-nail with the king of the bantams and with a
world of unfamiliar eyes on him, impressed North American fans by
showing the skill and guts that had earned him the hype as one of
the next great Japanese talents to begin with.
"Until now, it's been my most tiring match yet," Maeda told
Sherdog.com, after arriving home in Osaka. "Once I returned
backstage, I was tired to the point that I couldn't move. It's
regrettable that I lost the bout, but as I'd taken a fair amount of
damage, I'm thinking that I'll recover for a bit."
Following the bout, Maeda was handed a 180-day suspension by the
California State Athletic Commission due to a right orbital bone
injury. However, CSAC assistant executive officer Bill Douglas
confirmed to Sherdog.com that Maeda can be approved to compete
before the six months is up as long as an ophthalmologist provides
clearance to the CSAC.
"He was strong, and his grappling and striking were superb," Maeda
said of Torres. "I felt that he was very hungry and that he
believed that he couldn't be beaten. I felt the strength of his
refusal to hold back. He was, to me, like a champion should have
been, I think. I really respect him."
So, what's next for the star Pancrasist, who has emerged as a bona
fide contender at 135 pounds?
"Of course, I'd like another go at the belt if the WEC gives me the
chance. This time, I went out, fought, and now I want to measure
the feedback and see what the small difference between us was,"
said Maeda. "Of course, there's a definite difference between a
winner and a loser, but I want to find out what that difference is
in my own particular way, think about it, then conquer it by
putting on a stronger, better performance for the American
Retirement bug bites several stars
Japanese MMA has already seen a handful of high profile retirements
in 2008, and the list just got quite a bit longer. Former Shooto
world champions Akira
Kikuchi(Pictures) and Akitoshi Hokazono(Pictures) hung up their gloves to
pursue their private interests and, last month, tough veteran
Miki Shida(Pictures) decided to call it a career also.
The retirements have continued to roll in, as UFC veteran Keita
"K-Taro" Nakamura, flyweight firebrand Setsu Iguchi(Pictures) and female star Hisae Watanabe(Pictures) have all bowed out.
Nakamura revealed his retirement plans in an interview with
Japanese combat sports periodical Gong Kakutougi last month.
Nakamura cited his confidence issues following his three losses in
the UFC as playing a key role in his decide to end his career in
Nakamura, who just turned 24 years old last month, was tabbed as
one of Japan's better prospects to head stateside. Undefeated
through his first 15 bouts, the former Shooto rookie champion
debuted in the UFC in December 2006, where he lost a controversial
split decision to Brock
Larson(Pictures). After dropping a decision the
following April to Drew
Fickett(Pictures), Nakamura looked for a cut to
lightweight to get his career on track. However, in his 155-pound
debut at UFC 81 in February, "K-Taro" dropped another disputed
decision to Robert
While not stated explicitly, one factor which may have played a
considerable role in Nakamura's decision to stop fighting was the
status of an eye injury he sustained in his bout with Emerson.
During the bout, an attempted high kick sent one of Emerson's toes
in Nakamura's left eye. Following the bout, Nakamura suffered
vision issues, as well as myodesopsia, or "floaters," in which
individuals see shadowy threads or spots in their vision.
"K-Taro" won't entirely remove himself from training, however. The
Wajyutsu product stated that he would continue to train in
submission grappling, and planned to study to become a police
The brash and outspoken Iguchi announced his retirement following
his May 28 Shoot Boxing bout against Akito Sakimura. After dropping
a hard-fought majority decision loss, Iguchi uncharacteristically
took off his gloves and embraced Sakimura. The usually caustic
Iguchi was even more shocking when he took the microphone and
addressed the crowd at Korakuen Hall in Tokyo, without his usual
combative tone of voice.
Iguchi explained to the Korakuen crowd that he'd fallen in love
with MMA and kickboxing, but that he felt it was time to hang up
his gloves and give proper attention to his wife and child. For
perhaps the first time in his career, Iguchi bowed to the crowd who
sent him off with a warm round of applause.
The 34-year-old Iguchi burst onto the MMA scene with seven straight
victories in GCM-promoted events. He notched the biggest victory of
his career in September 2004 when he took an upset majority
decision over former Shooto world title challenger Yasuhiro Urushitani(Pictures). Following the victory,
fans hoped for Iguchi to make the transition to pro Shooto for a
clash with then-Shooto world champion Mamoru Yamaguchi(Pictures).
While the thuggish Iguchi did make the jump to pro Shooto, expected
success didn't follow. Iguchi posted only a 1-2-1 mark in pro
Shooto and when he finally met nemesis Mamoru Yamaguchi(Pictures) in May 2006, he was dominated by
Shooto's afroed ace and stopped by a vicious cut in the first
Hisae Watanabe(Pictures)'s motives for retirement
weren't quite so clear, although the female star said that she's
looking forward to a long break away from training and fighting due
to exhaustion. However, also playing a likely role in her
retirement is that Watanabe recently married comic book artist SP
Nakatema, who is known for his MMA-related manga.
Watanabe, 27, first ventured into the world of MMA in April 2002
and quickly became a fixture in Smackgirl. After refining her game,
the converted kickboxer went on to become one of female MMA's
biggest stars, winning a nationally televised one-night,
eight-woman MMA tournament on the Tokyo Broadcasting System in May
The charismatic KO queen went on to rematch rival Satoko Shinashi(Pictures) to crown Deep's inaugural
106-pound female champion in August 2006, in what was then
considered the biggest match in female MMA history. Watanabe
dominated from start to finish, and knocked Shinashi out in
positively brutal fashion to become Deep's 106-pound queen.
However, an upset loss to South Korean muay Thai champ Seo Hee Ham(Pictures) in February 2007 would tarnish
Watanabe before she eventually dropped her title to current
106-pound champion Miku
Matsumoto(Pictures) last August.
Takaya to face Swanson, Miura to meet
The "Streetfight Bancho" will make his return to the cage in
August, but finding his first stateside win might not be so easy.
Hiroyuki Takaya(Pictures) will take on up-and-coming
145-pounder Cub Swanson(Pictures) at the next WEC offering in
Las Vegas on August 3. A source close to Takaya confirmed the bout
Takaya, who turns 31 years old on Tuesday, was an acclaimed signing
for Zuffa and WEC late last year, as it was thought that the
hard-hitting featherweight standout could provide an interesting
challenge to divisional champ and blooming star Urijah Faber(Pictures). However, Takaya was upset by
scrappy Leonard Garcia(Pictures), who knocked the former
Shooto rookie champion out in only 91 seconds at WEC 32 in
Swanson, an upstart 24-year-old, suffered the second loss of his
career last December when he took a step up in competition to take
on Jens Pulver(Pictures) at WEC 31, which marked the
former UFC lightweight champion's return to the featherweight
division. Since being tapped by "Lil Evil" in only 35 seconds,
Swanson has gotten back into the win column, submitting Donnie Walker at an
International Fighting & Boxing League event this past
Miura, a native of Fukuoka, has spent over a year training in
Jupiter, Fla. alongside Kurt Pellegrino(Pictures) and the Armory team. The move has
paid off for Miura. Previously an undistinguished journeyman in
Japan, Muira is coming off two very impressive victories in WEC
Gonzalez(Pictures) and most recently, Blas Avena(Pictures) at WEC 33 last March.