The 114-pound lightweight bracket was particularly stacked, with eight of the top female fighters from around the world vying for a ticket into the next round. Only six participants were slated for the open-weight tourney, meaning that two as yet unknown participants will get an automatic bye into the semifinal round.
The main event of Thursday's show saw the undefeated Wonder Woman of MMA, Megumi Fujii (Pictures), square off against Abu Dhabi competitor Cindy Hales (Pictures).
"Mega Megu," who usually bombards her opponents right off the opening bell, was kept mostly at bay during the first by the long arms and hard kicks of her American opponent. Both women did a good job in the clinch of preventing each other from gaining the upper hand with a takedown. In the closing moments of the round, Fujii secured a leglock attempt but ran out of time before she could capitalize.
However, it wasn't long into the second before Fuji had another chance at a submission. After a brief period in the clinch, the Japanese fighter dragged her opponent into her guard, threw her leg over Hales' head and secured a solid armbar. Hales tried her best to escape the technique, but eventually she fell to her back and tapped at the 27-second mark.
Fatal Femmes Fighting veteran Lisa Ward (Pictures) showed her mat abilities in her quarterfinal matchup against Ayumi Saito (Pictures), starting off with an excellent throw shortly after the opening bell. For the rest of the match, Ward maintained solid ground control, moving to side and mount positions and working for submissions. Saito, a hard-hitting striker who has pummeled her opponents in the past, just couldn't get going against Ward's clinch work and takedowns.
The climax of the fight came toward the end of the first, when both women went for anklelock attempts at the same time. The war of attrition lasted for several tense moments until Ward found the right alignment of the heel hook before Saito did, forcing the Japanese fighter to tap out at 4:41.
Su Hi Ham (Pictures) dominated in her quarterfinal fight against Saori Ishioka (Pictures). On her feet, the Korean sensation threw punches in combination and was particularly apt at landing her right cross and following her hands with viciously hard low kicks.
On the mat, Ham scored several reversals and maintained good ground control, including a move into the mount in the closing seconds of the fight. Outside of some judo throws and a very strong counterpunch that caught Ham off guard in the second, Ishioka couldn't find her stride against the Korean. The fight went to the judges, and Ham walked away with the decision.
Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt Michelli Tavares (Pictures) had a big reach advantage in her quarterfinal bout against Alive's Kyoko Takabayashi (Pictures). Yet the Japanese fighter still charged forward and went for takedowns when she found herself in trouble on the feet.
Takabayashi defended well against a triangle attempt from her Brazilian opponent toward the end of the first, but in the second Taraves got her revenge. The Nova Uniao fighter slapped on another triangle after Takabayashi completed a takedown just off the bell. This time the Brazilian made no mistake, forcing her opponent to tap at the 26-second mark.
After the card finished, the pairings for the April 25 lightweight tournament semifinals were randomly drawn. Megumi Fujii (Pictures) will face Su Hi Ham (Pictures), and Michilli Tavares will face Lisa Ward (Pictures).
In the quarterfinals of the open-weight tournament, former Smackgirl middleweight champion Hitomi Akano (Pictures) faced off against Smackgirl veteran Megumi Yabushita (Pictures).
After brawling in the clinch for the entire first round and the majority of the second, Akano ended up on her back following a failed judo throw. Despite missing the takedown, the AACC fighter still caught one of her opponent's legs. From there she worked for an anklelock attempt. Yabushita tried to fight off the technique, but eventually she succumbed to the pressure and tapped at 4:17.
The other open-weight quarterfinal of the evening featured Atsuko Emoto (Pictures) against Keiko Tamai (Pictures).
Tamai connected with punches early in the bout, but Emoto weathered the storm and took control on the mat, where she dominated positions and kept her opponent pinned to the canvas. Emoto really went after her Tamai's legs, applying some excellent leglock techniques. She also had an especially slick transition to a kneebar in the second but could not find the submission. After the fight went to the judges, though, Emoto did walk away with the victory.
Both Akano and Emoto will face as yet unnamed non-Japanese fighters in the April 25 semifinals.
In non-tournament bouts, Okada Madoka defeated Sakura Nakamura by rear-naked choke in the first round, and Masako Yoshida (Pictures) defeated Asami Kodera.