SAITAMA, Japan –- Mizuto Hirota retained his lightweight title in a close draw with Dream veteran Katsuya Inoue at Cage Force EX at the Tokorazawa municipal gymnasium on Saturday.
Hirota, coming off a loss at Sengoku 6, defended an early shot from Inoue perfectly and set the pace of the fight by pressuring the southpaw. Hirota landed the cleaner strikes, including a punch that cut Inoue on the nose. Inoue threw a right hook that dropped Hirota, but the champ was quick to recover and ended the round strong with combinations to Inoue’s the head and body.
Hirota kept his momentum going into the second set, lunging with knees and a body shot to a hook combination that forced Inoue to go for a takedown. Still, Inoue could not ground his opponent. At the end of the round Inoue sensed the urgency and pushed forward aggressively, throwing striking combinations and landing a straight left punch and a high kick.
Hirota came out energized with combinations and took control of the center of the cage in the third round. With Inoue’s nose cut and bleeding heavily, the bout was stopped for a doctor check. After a re-start, Inoue landed a strong straight left that wobbled Hirota. Again, Hirota recovered quickly, allowing Inoue no time to take advantage. The round ended with both fighters throwing everything at each other, but the judges could score the bout nothing more than a draw.
Lightweights Tomonari Kanomata and Yoshihiro Koyama, both undefeated in Cage Force, went at it to decide the next No. 1 contender in the co-main event, with Koyama prevailing by unanimous decision.
Koyama asserted his presence in the cage and backed Tomonari Kanomata down in round one. Koyama stalked Kanomata to the fence and landed a straight right. After an unsuccessful takedown attempt, Kanomata ended up on the bottom. Koyama postured up to his feet and dived into Kanomata’s guard, connecting punches to his head and body.
Kanomata opened his guard in a last-ditch effort to get something going and almost secured a gogoplata before switching to a triangle choke. Koyama kept his composure though, and defended until time ran out to secure the unanimous nod.
In another lightweight matchup, Yasunori Kanehara surprised fans by battling Dream veteran Katsuhiko Nagata to a draw.
Kanehara turned the fight into a brawl in the first round by not letting the wrestler Nagata control the match. In the second round, Nagata secured two takedowns, but he was not able to hold Kanehara down long enough to punish him. Kanehara had the upper hand in the standup though, landing some flying knees and kick-punch combinations. Nagata showed aggression in the third round by actively going for the takedown, but Kanehara defended well. All three judges declared the bout a draw.
Yuta Nezu had the only finish of the night in his lightweight tilt with Seiji Otsuka. After Otsuka landed a big left hook, Nezu answered right back with a right hook to a low kick combination and finished it off with a right high kick that nailed Otsuka’s head for the knockout at 2:39 of the first round.
In one of two female Valkyrie matchups offered on the card, Kinuka Sasaki landed more effective strikes and ground-and-pound to earn the majority decision over Kazue Matake, while Kayo Nagayasu and Maho Muranami had a back-and-forth match that ended in a draw.
In other bouts:
Naoto Miyazaki Draw Shin Kochiwa
â€¨Yoshiaki “Bancho” Takahashi Draw Koji Ando
Yusaku Tsukumo Def. Kenta Takagi -- Unanimous Decision
Rikuhei Fujii Def. Sojiro Orui -- Unanimous Decision