Returns are all the rage this week. Longtime veteran Takumi Nakayama (Pictures) has had his eye on returning
stateside competition for sometime, but that vision took an
unexpected gouge this past weekend. Meanwhile, it was a mere matter
of weeks ago when fight fans mourned the loss of Gong
Kakutougi, but MMA's most outstanding mag is back on newsstands
No stranger to a comeback, Kazushi Sakuraba (Pictures) has gotten his passport stamped
again and landed in Parana, ready for another training camp with
everyone's favorite cast of characters in Curitiba.
Sakuraba's fellow HERO'S star Hideo Tokoro (Pictures) was seemingly a shoo-in for fight
night when the plans for K-1 and EliteXC's Dynamite!! developed,
and now the deal is almost sealed on a fight with MMA's premier
purveyor of pink. Meanwhile, a pair of 132-pound dust-ups is due to
be announced for Shooto's star-studded BACK TO OUR ROOTS 3 in May,
with definitive title implications in tow.
The month of May will also send a healthy Japanese contingent Down
Under to meet a squad of Australia's finest in Warriors Realm, with
a handful of notables on the bill. But first up, this weekend will
serve up two shows back in Japan. Pancrase is prime for solid
outing in Tokyo with some help from its Bodog brethren,
international imports, and hopefully a spark for some starpower.
Across the country, Smackgirl go to Osaka, with some of western
Japan's most outstanding women set to showcase their skills for the
Finally, Zuffa and UFC are embarking on their global conquest at a
rapid rate. After upgrading their roster with several superstars,
the Zuffa brass is now looking to upgrade their presence on
television sets across Japan. The days of the Octagon on satellite
stations are seemingly gone, but what prospects lay ahead for an
ultimate upgrade for the UFC in Japan?
Osaka native Takumi
Nakayama (Pictures) recently revealed that he wanted
to once again start fighting avidly both in Japan and in the United
States, and although he got to step into the ring on American soil
once again this past weekend, it was undoubtedly not the return
Nakayama had envision.
In recent years, Nakayama racked up frequent flyer miles in between
several appearances in Midwestern Shooto affiliate HOOKnSHOOT and
King of the Cage, which saw him take the organization's 155-pound
crown in Nov. 2004. However, having not competed stateside since
losing his KOTC title to Mac
Danzig (Pictures) in Oct. 2005, the 33-year-old
journeyman made his return to American competition this past
Saturday night at the No Limits-promoted Proving Grounds in Irvine,
Calif. against Anthony
The bout ended unceremoniously in a mere 83 seconds, after an
accidental eye poke from McDavitt halted the action. Referee Jon
Schorle asked Nakayama if he wanted to continue twice, and claimed
he was given no response, and thus chose to call an end to the bout
on the advice of the ringside physician, ruling it a No Contest,
which then drew the ire and protest of Nakayama.
Nakayama should be in competition again in short order. In
February, he notched a victory over Yoichi Fukumoto in the opening
round of the CAGE FORCE 155-pound tournament. As a result, he will
meet Eiji Mitsuoka
(Pictures), who defeated Brian Cobb (Pictures) to advance in March, likely at
CAGE FORCE's June 9 show at Differ Ariake in Tokyo, Japan.
It was in the final weeks of March when Japanese fight fans mourned
the loss to fightsport's preeminent periodical, Gong
Kakutougi, following an executive scandal in their publisher's
offices. Now, only a month later, the cornerstone of fight reading
has already risen from its ashes, still glowing with embers.
In late February, scandal surrounded then-Nippon Sports Publishing
Co., Ltd. president Daisuke Maeda. Maeda, a respected business
manager who has held a multitude of high ranking corporate posts,
was arrested and investigated for his role in the latest of
criminal exploits of former Yamaguchi-gumi yakuza gang leader
Maeda had served as the President and CEO of Advanced Technology
and Systems Co., Ltd, or ADTX, a company specializing in the
manufacturing and marketing of computer peripherals. Shimomura then
purchased a controlling stake in the company from the ADTX
president, before trying to sell the firm to the computer service
company in late October.
The story's ripple effect logically shook up the state of Gong, as
their publishing company became linked to the criminal allegations.
While Daisaku Maeda was dismissed from his position, and Nippon
Sports Publishing Co., Ltd. was cleared of any wrongdoing upon
investigation, the scandal had been too much to shake for the
company, which then suspended the publication of their popular
titles, including Gong Kakutougi.
Now known as Gonkaku, a permutation of its former title, the
magazine was picked up by publishing company East Press and burst
back onto the scene April 23 with its inaugural issue, featuring
(Pictures) on the cover. The mag will
again hit newsstands monthly, being released on the 23rd of every
It was August 2005 when Kazushi Sakuraba (Pictures) made headlines by taking his
training not just international, but into what would've once been
considered hostile territory. The MMA icon's training camp in
Curitiba, Brazil with the Chute Boxe Academy, alongside his former
nemeses Wanderlei Silva
(Pictures) and Antonio Schembri (Pictures), served as both a reminder of the
sport's unique commingling of what is friend and what is foe, as
well as a spark of interest for fans who were eager for a more
appealing turn in Sakuraba's career.
And now, the Gracie Hunter is at it again.
Chute Boxe commander Rudimar Fedrigo has confirmed that Sakuraba
landed in Brazil earlier this week and is set for another training
camp at Chute Boxe. The camp will serve to prepare Sakuraba for his
pending bout on June 2, where he scheduled to be apart of K-1 and
EliteXC's joint effort at the Los Angeles Coliseum.
While no fight has been confirmed for Sakuraba, Fight Entertainment
Group is pushing to promote a second installment of MMA's most epic
clash, between he and Royce
Perhaps what is more interesting about Sakuraba's return to the
Chute Boxe camp is the little known fact that they were actually in
negotiations to fight one another for the fourth time earlier this
Some rumors suggested a clash between Wanderlei Silva (Pictures) and Igor Vovchanchyn (Pictures) would happen at Dream Stage
Entertainment's final PRIDE offering in April 8, and were
strengthened by the words of Nobuyuki Sakakibara, who stated that
he hoped to arrange some surprises for DSE's final farewell as
PRIDE promoters. However, the only unscheduled appearances on the
card were Sakuraba and longtime rival Kiyoshi Tamura (Pictures), who addressed the fans and
offered a sliver of hope for a much-awaited showdown between the
two somewhere, sometime in the future.
Daisuke Sato recently said that the original plan was to have a
fourth and final bout between Silva and Sakuraba at the event. The
man responsible for PRIDE's much famed pre-fight video packages on
the Japanese telecasts, Sato revealed that he had actually made the
pre-fight vignette for the surprise bout, however it was discarded
as negotiations for the bout fell apart at the last moment.
And on the topic of K-1 and EliteXC's joint venture this coming
June, expect to see a match-up between recent MMA returnee
"Showtime" Javier Vazquez
(Pictures) and HERO'S resident
Cinderella boy Hideo
The participation of Tokoro on the scheduled June 2 card is no
surprise, as he is not only a highly active fighter who logged six
fights in 2006 in addition to a bevy of high profile grappling
matches, but also one of the biggest stars of the HERO'S brand.
Tokoro headlined HERO'S first 2007 offering in March, easily
disposing of kickboxing convert Kazuya Yasuhiro (Pictures) via first round submission.
Meanwhile, after three years of inactivity due to a plethora of
knee injuries, Vazquez made his return to MMA this past Feb. at
EliteXC's inaugural card, where the once highly touted prospect and
former KOTC champion took a narrow split decision win over "Nasal"
Perhaps of some interest is the fact that Vasquez's breakout
performance back in June of 2002 was a decision victory over Shooto
legend Rumina Sato
(Pictures), whose aggressive and
unorthodox submission style has served as an influence for Tokoro,
and other Japanese competitors.
The bout has not yet been officially announced by FEG And Pro
Elite, and given Fight Entertainment Group's often whimsical style
of booking, there may always be an unforeseen twist and turn in the
matchmaking around the corner. However, both parties have indicated
the match-up is a go, and should be officialized in the immediate
Adding to an already outstanding line-up, two match-ups with heavy
implications in the Shooto 132-pound division will round out the
Sustain-promoted BACK TO OUR ROOTS 3 card May 18 at Korakuen Hall
After a scheduled main event date at last weekend's GIG WEST 7 card
in front of his hometown Osaka crowd fell through, 2004 Shooto
featherweight rookie champion Koetsu Okazaki will return to
the ring to face KILLER BEE's Atsushi Yamamoto (Pictures). Since returning from an 18-month
hiatus following his rookie tournament victory, Okazaki has taken
dominant wins over Hiroyuki
Tanaka (Pictures) and So Tazawa (Pictures)s.
Meanwhile, after beginning his career in Pancrase, Yamamoto made
the jump to Shooto to compete at 132 pounds, his more natural
weight class. In his first pro Shooto outing this past Feb.,
Yamamoto handily took a decision over former rookie MVP Takeya Mizugaki (Pictures).
In a match-up of even bigger proportions, fan favorite Kenji Osawa (Pictures) will return to meet Brazilian
standout "Louro" Marcos
Galvao (Pictures). Both men are coming off dominant
victories, with Osawa having completed a miraculous comeback with a
KO-conclusion to put the first loss on the pro record of Takeya Mizugaki (Pictures) in a vicious stand-up affair,
while Louro has knocked off both Shooto veteran Naoya Uematsu (Pictures), as well as having moved up to
145 pounds to knock off a very talented fighter in multiple time
BJJ world champion Fredson
Paixao (Pictures). However, what Osawa and Louro
also share is that their last losses have come at the hands of
current Shooto world featherweight champion Akitoshi Hokazono
(Pictures), whose road to the title
was paved with victories over the two.
The bout figures to serve as a title eliminator to determine the
first challenger to Hokazono's crown. Shooto promoters and
authorities were interested in organizing a title eliminator
between Osawa, who Matsune defeated for the vacant title in July,
and former Shooto world champion Ryota Matsune (Pictures), who vacated the title in
February of 2006. However Matsune declined the fight offer. As a
result, the winner of Osawa and Louro may very well earn an
opportunity for revenge against the 132-pound kingpin in the coming
With the Land Down Under already becoming a hotbed for MMA, when
Australian premiere promotion Warriors Realm linked up with
Greatest Common Multiple and the Worldwide Cage Network, it only
served to intensify the emergence of Aussie MMA. Hot on the heels
of a successful eighth installment in March, Warriors Realm returns
to the Gold Coast May 12 with an Australia vs. Japan card.
Perhaps the most intriguing of the Australia vs. Japan match-ups is
a fight between longtime Shooto veteran Katsuya Toida (Pictures) and Australian stand-out Adrian Pang (Pictures). Despite inconsistency over the
past few years, Toida remains a viable competitor due to the fact
that his losses have come largely at the hands of quality fighters,
and that his highly unorthodox grappling makes him a factor in any
Coming off of a very evenly matched draw with Tenkei Fujimiya (Pictures) for the then-vacant 143-pound
Shooto Pacific Rim title this past November, Toida is a pre-fight
favorite, though Pang looked considerably improved in his bout last
November, when he submitted GCM regular Taiyo Nakahara (Pictures).
In a match-up of Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belts and Shooto Japan
veterans, Paraestra Hachioji leader "Gozo" Ayumu Shioda will make his
international MMA debut against world ranked Shooto 132 pounder
"Little Devil" Daniel Lima
(Pictures). A replacement for
"Hadairo" Tetsu Suzuki
(Pictures), Shioda is coming off of a
highlight reel KO loss to Yuki
Shoujou (Pictures) in Shooto this past March. "Gozo"
will be in deep against the Australian-based Brazilian, as he will
be making the jump up in weight, though perhaps taking solace in
the fact that Lima's last bout saw him dominated from bell-to-bell
Urushitani (Pictures), who made the jump up to 135
pounds for the fight after regularly competing at 123 pounds in
Yusaku Tsukkumo also
figures to be in a tough spot as he takes on PRIDE Bushido veteran
(Pictures). The unspectacular Tsukkumo
has the unfortunate distinction of being one of GCM management's
fighters large enough to square off with an opponent such as
Lombard, and while he'll bring a two-fight winning streak into his
second Warriors Realm appearance it figures to be broken by the
Cuban-born Olympian, who has already notched two dominant victories
Also on the card, DEEP regular Tomohiko Hori will square off
with touted Aussie teen Jacob
Sidic (Pictures). Hori will largely serve to gauge
the ability of the 18-year-old Australian, who was succinctly
victimized in only eight seconds by a far more experienced Tomonari Kanomata
(Pictures) in CAGE FORCE this past
Feb. Sidic, who has spent time training at Wajyutsu Keisyukai RJW
in Japan, is viewed as perhaps Australia's foremost prospect, and
as a solid but wholly unspectacular opponent, Hori figures to serve
as a valuable test for the young fighter.
In a weekend which will be relatively tame by the standards set by
the sport over the course of the past month, the next stop on the
2007 RISING TOUR will be the focal point this Friday when Pancrase
returns to the Korakuen Hall in Tokyo.
The main event is a highly compelling bout, especially for avid
followers of the featherweight division globally. In a non-title
affair, Pancrase's 141-pound champion Yoshiro Maeda (Pictures) will take on arguably the United
Kingdom's class of the division in Cage Warrior's 145-pound titlist
Though Maeda has been scheduled for competition since the card was
announced weeks ago, Batten was only corralled as his opponent in
the past week after inking a three-fight deal with Pancrase.
Despite a definitive advantage in preparation, the bout is by no
means an easy affair for Maeda. Since emerging as one of Pancrase's
brightest young stars in 2003 and 2004, Maeda has suffered setbacks
against competition ranging from underdog to unspectacular to
downright dubious. Whereas Maeda is only six months removed from
his sub-60 second humiliation against Joe Pearson (Pictures) in PRIDE Bushido, Batten is
undefeated in his last seven, with decisive victories over solid
competition in Damacio
Page (Pictures) and Augusto Frota (Pictures).
The match is intriguing not only as a mingling of the two
international talent pools, but also because it may offer evidence
as to whether Batten is world class as opposed to regional class
talent, and as to how snake bitten Maeda is in marquee
The undercard will feature a prominent influence via Pancrase's
relationship with bodogFIGHT. SK Absolute teammates Takuya Wada (Pictures) and Izuru Takeuchi (Pictures), both of whom will be featured on
bodogFIGHT's third season in the coming weeks, will be in action.
Wada will meet ADCC Japan Trials runner-up Sotaro Yamada (Pictures), a close friend and training
partner of Shinya Aoki
(Pictures), while Takeuchi, who
unsuccessfully challenged for the Pancrase middleweight title in
December, meets a softer touch in minimally dangerous veteran
The undercard also features Bryan Rafiq, a member of Roan Carneiro (Pictures)'s sect of the Brazilian Top Team,
who is competing as a bodogFIGHT representative. Runner-up in MARS'
183-pound tournament last year, Rafiq is a highly skilled prospect
-- and just turned 21 years old earlier this week. He'll meet
opposition in the form of Hikaru Sato (Pictures), Pancrase's resident oddball and
more or less a poor man's Ikuhisa Minowa (Pictures).
Sato, who typically practices for the fight media in a French
maid's outfit and cat ears alongside other costumed training
partners, is actually riding a three-fight winning streak after his
majority decision win over Rikuhei Fujii (Pictures) this past Feb.
The card will also feature hyped Pancrase amateur Yukio Sakaguchi,
who makes his pro debut against South Korea's Choi Hyung Suk. The
33-year-old Sakaguchi is the son of former Olympic judoka and
famous pro-wrestler Seiji Sakaguchi. The elder Sakaguchi rose to
fame in the pro-wrestling world in the 1970s, often teaming up with
the legendary Antonio Inoki, and is viewed as a legendary puroresu
Sakaguchi's debut has been slated for several Pancrase cards in the
last five months, but injuries continuously pushed the dates back.
While Sakaguchi likely has little true potential to be an elite
fighter, his stature as the son of Seiji Sakaguchi has already
drawn national sports media attention, and given his obvious
crossover appeal as a result, Pancrase undoubtedly has a keen
interest in seeing him succeed. A successful debut fight for
Sakaguchi would give Pancrase the opportunity to continue to build
him as a fighter, making him a potential key player in the success
of Pancrase's 2007 tour.
Pancrase is not the only card lined up for this weekend. After last
weekend's Shooto card at Azeria Taisho Hall, Smackgirl will fill up
the venue and give Kansai fans another fight card this Saturday in
None too surprisingly, western Japan's foremost female Yuka Tsuji (Pictures) is the main event attraction of
the evening. While her Smackgirl 115-pound title will not be on the
line, Tsuji will take on New Mexico native and KOTC veteran
Thricia Poovey. Tsuji,
who hasn't fought since her high profile winner-take-all grudge
match with WINDY Tomomi last June, is an overwhelming favorite
against the pedestrian Poovey, who has had lukewarm results against
nondescript competition, and will more than likely put on a
dominant showing for her hometown crowd in Osaka.
Ayumi Saito, better known
as "Edge," is a teammate of Tsuji's at MMA Angura and another Osaka
native in the ring Saturday. Riding a four-fight winning streak
over the course of the last year, the hard-punching Edge will
square off with Thailand's Kanitta Choosuk, an influential female
fighter pushing the development of MMA in Thailand.
While Edge holds a considerable advantage over Choosuk, Choosuk is
by no means a stereotypical Thai fighter competing in MMA, having
cut her teeth largely as a grappler in her native Thailand. The
bout is part of Smackgirl's Killer Queen tournament, and the winner
will advance to May 19's card at Korakuen Hall in Tokyo to face
either Mai, or Eri Kaneya
(Pictures). While unconfirmed, it is
thought that the Killer Queen tournament winner will be the next to
challenge Smackgirl champion Satoko Shinashi (Pictures) for her 106-pound title.
Also in action will be former Smackgirl open-weight champion and
female fighting pioneer Megumi Yabushita (Pictures), in an unthreatening bout against
novice Benkei. With a soft choice in opponent, it is clear
Yabushita is slowly working her way back into contention, following
a four-fight losing streak that followed her from late 2005 and
After a majority decision win this past March in Shooto over
Mizuho Sato (Pictures), who also holds a win over
Benkei, this bout figures to serve as a tune-up for Yabushita
before she seeks to avenge any of her losses to the likes of
(Pictures), Laura D'Auguste and Roxanne Modafferi
While UFC 70 will likely be remembered for a host of other reasons,
it also marked the end of Zuffa's relationship with Japanese
satellite channel WOWOW.
Anxieties arose in Japanese fans last week when WOWOW's May
schedule did not feature a date for UFC 71. The worst of these
suspicions were confirmed following the Japanese telecast of UFC
70, when the channel's executives officially announced that they
could not reach a contractual agreement with Zuffa to continue
broadcasting UFC events on WOWOW.
Zuffa's relationship with WOWOW began five years ago, with the
April 2002 broadcast of UFC 36. However, it was always considered a
hindrance to the UFC's popularity in Japan that their event were
broadcast on the hard-to-access WOWOW -- a private satellite pay
station in Japan -- as opposed to the considerably more popular
SKYPerfecTV!, Japan's main provider of satellite television.
WOWOW's inability to come to terms with Zuffa likely directly
correlates to the company's acquisition of fighters such as
(Pictures) and Antonio Rodrigo
Nogueira (Pictures), definitive stars of the sport in
Japan, in addition to an ever-growing Japanese presence on UFC
cards. With a greater starpower in the Japanese market, the
broadcasting rights of UFC telecasts are driven up considerably,
and, in the minds of Zuffa, out of WOWOW's price range.
It would be the ideal outcome for Zuffa to acquire a network
broadcasting deal with one of Japan's six major broadcasters.
Rumors persist about talks between Zuffa and Nippon TV, and it is
perhaps worthy to mention that the UFC did previously have a show
similar to UFC Unleashed's current format two years ago on TV
Tokyo, the smallest of the six major networks, but one of the six
However, a more likely outcome in the future, at least the interim,
would be the UFC simply moving over to SKYPerfecTV!, which has
broadcast PRIDE pay-per-views in the past.
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