Koubousen Companion: Chonan to 170, Kato to Playboy
(Pictures) likes to get lifted, and
Akihiro Gono (Pictures) has a deep wig selection, but
there's more important news out there, you know.
No, seriously. I'll prove it to you.
Speaking of Gono, "DJ Gozma" will not be the only Japanese
competitor making his Octagon debut, or dropping to 170 pounds, in
The Nov. 17 UFC at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., will also
host the debut of reigning DEEP 181-pound champion Ryo Chonan (Pictures). Chonan will be dropping to the
170-pound division for the first time in his career. He will take
on rising welterweight dynamo Thiago Alves (Pictures), a source close to the
23-year-old Brazilian told Sherdog.com.
Alves is fresh off of a destructive victory over another Japanese
Hironaka (Pictures), at the Sept. 19 UFC Fight Night.
Chonan, who spends the bulk of his training at Team Quest in
Temecula, Calif., with former adversary Dan Henderson (Pictures), last saw action in June. In
front of his hometown crowd in Yamagata, Japan, he took an easy
victory over South Korean import Seo Do Wong.
Chonan's move to the welterweight division was much anticipated.
After his loss to Paulo
Filho (Pictures) in August 2006, DEEP president
Shigeru Saeki said it would be in Chonan's best interest to drop a
weight class to regain a competitive edge and avoid being
outmuscled by larger, physical opponents.
The most high-profile event this weekend is undoubtedly
Strikeforce's venture Saturday at the Playboy Mansion.
Most fighters could only dream of beating up someone with the
bunnies around. While he is hardly representative of glamour or
decadence, experienced Japanese fighter Tetsuji Kato (Pictures) finds himself in the main event,
taking on undefeated Strikeforce 155-pound champion and rising star
(Pictures) in a non-title affair.
With a decade of pro MMA behind him, Kato's biggest moment came in
March 2000, when he fought then-undefeated Shooto 168-pound world
champion Hayato Sakurai
(Pictures) to a hotly contested split
In recent years Kato has spent time fostering the development of
MMA in Saipan, where he runs the Trench Tech gym, an affiliate of
longtime friend and mentor Enson Inoue's Purebred network. Kato has
also fought sporadically in neighboring Guam, an area seen by many
as an emerging MMA hotbed. His last competition, also in Guam, saw
him knocked out by journeyman Joe Camacho (Pictures) in April.
For the 25-year-old Melendez, the bout will be his first MMA match
of the year following Zuffa's tumultuous buyout of PRIDE.
Melendez's most recent bout saw him victorious on New Year's Eve
over standout Japanese lightweight Tatsuya Kawajiri (Pictures) via unanimous decision -- the
biggest win of his young career.
While the bout will be an uphill battle for the 10-year veteran
Kato, who has been cast as "the opponent" for Melendez, he has said
he is extremely focused for the fight. In preparation he flew to
San Diego early last week, where he has trained with grappling star
and former MMA competitor Baret Yoshida at his SD
Strikeforce's Playboy Mansion show will be streamed live Saturday
on Yahoo! Sports, beginning at midnight EST, 9 p.m. PST.
In the most recent issue of the Japanese combat sports periodical
Gonkaku, Zuffa co-owner Lorenzo Fertitta said he hoped to ink a new
deal with Japanese satellite channel WOWOW next year. He added that
an agreement could be accomplished sooner rather than later.
While a deal is far from complete, this is good news for Japanese
MMA fans. As of March 2007, WOWOW has just over 2.43 million
subscriptions in Japan. After the channel's UFC 70 telecast in
April, network executives had officially announced that they could
not reach a contractual agreement with Zuffa to continue
broadcasting UFC events.
Zuffa's relationship with WOWOW began five years ago with the April
2002 broadcast of UFC 36. However, the relationship was always
considered a hindrance to the UFC's popularity in Japan because the
events were broadcast on the hard-to-access private satellite pay
station as opposed to the considerably more popular SKY PerfecTV!
-- Japan's main provider of satellite television, which had
broadcast PRIDE's live pay-per-views.
WOWOW's inability to reach a new agreement with Zuffa earlier this
year likely correlated with Zuffa's acquisition of former PRIDE
fighters such as Mirko
Filipovic (Pictures), Antonio Rodrigo
Nogueira (Pictures) and Quinton Jackson (Pictures), who are considerably popular
among Japanese MMA fans.
Since its departure from WOWOW, Zuffa has been unable to secure a
TV deal in Japan. Meanwhile many Japanese fans have lamented their
inability to view marquee UFC main events such as Liddell-Jackson
II, Couture-Gonzaga and Jackson-Henderson.
Leading Shooto promoter Sustain will head back to Osaka on Saturday
for the eighth installment of its GIG West series.
The Azalea Taisho Hall event was scheduled to be headlined by a
Class-B 154-pound bout between fast-rising Hiroshima native
(Pictures) and Italian transplant
Paolo Milano (Pictures), who trains out of Paraestra
Tokyo under Yuki Nakai
(Pictures). However, Sasaki sustained
a dislocated left elbow in training earlier this week, nixing the
bout from the card.
Kobe native "KODO" Junya
Kudou (Pictures), who headlined the last GIG WEST
event in April, will now headline against Yasuhiro Kanayama in a
132-pound rookie tournament semifinal.
Kudou has already fought three times in pro Shooto this year. He is
coming off a tight draw against veteran Seiji Otsuka (Pictures) in a July non-tournament
Kanayama, a former All Japan amateur champion at 143 pounds, has
largely underperformed as a pro. He needed the luck of the lottery
to advance to the semifinals after his draw with Nobuhiro Hayakawa at the
last installment of GIG WEST. The winner of his bout against Kudou
will meet Hiromasa
Ougikubo (Pictures) in the final later this year.
Ougikubo, who trains with Paraestra Matsudo, scored a dominant
first-round submission over Kazuya Tamura (Pictures) on Sept. 22.
In other rookie tournament action, 123-pound favorites "UK"
Suguru Inoue (Pictures) and Tatsuro Kamei will square off
with a finals berth on the line.
Inoue is an experienced second-year veteran. He fought to a draw
with last year's 123-pound rookie champion, Ryuichi Miki.
Kamei was last year's All Japan amateur champion at 123 pounds. In
his pro debut in the rookie quarterfinal against Kenya Kato (Pictures), he won impressively via triangle
choke. The winner of Inoue-Kamei will meet Kenji Hasoya (Pictures) in the tournament final later
The third rookie semifinal will pit last year's 143-pound amateur
Yokoyama (Pictures), against Kazuhiro Ito.
Yokoyama got a rude welcome to pro Shooto in a non-tournament bout
in June, when he was pulverized by Class-B up-and-comer Shintaro Ishiwatari
(Pictures). Ito made quick work of his
quarterfinal opponent, Takumi
Ota (Pictures), armbarring him in a slick and
quick 26 seconds in front of his hometown Hiroshima crowd in May.
The winner of this match will advance to the 143-pound rookie final
to face Tomonari Taniguchi, a Hayato Sakurai (Pictures) student.
The evening's other bouts match Toru Ishinaka and Class-B
Sugiura (Pictures), and 132-pound up-and-comers
(Pictures) and Kousuke Eda (Pictures).
GIG West is only the beginning for Osakan MMA fans this weekend.
Pancrase will bring the 2007 RISING TOUR back to Umeda Stella Hall
on Sunday afternoon.
Like Shooto's GIG West offering, turmoil struck the card's main
event. Colorful hometown favorite Daichi Fujiwara (Pictures) was scheduled to face French
Fernandez (Pictures). However, the Frenchman withdrew
from the bout due to personal reasons related to his family.
Thankfully, Pancrase regular Mitsuhisa Sunabe (Pictures) stepped in on a week's notice to
challenge the Inagaki pupil. Sunabe's willingness to fight on such
short notice may stem from the fact he was still in fighting shape
after drawing earlier this month with striking specialist Koji Yoshimoto (Pictures).
Fujiwara returned to action in May after sustaining a scary-looking
back injury in the ring with Miki Shida (Pictures) last December. He took a
unanimous decision over Yuichiro Shirai (Pictures).
One of Fujiwara's teammates and a fixture of Pancrase's Osaka
Fujimoto (Pictures) will also see action. He squares
off against Nobuhiro
Yamaguchi, a Dokonjonosuke Mishima
Fujimoto last competed in April, fighting an uninspired draw with
Tatsuya So (Pictures) in Okinawa. Yamaguchi suffered a
minor upset in March, when kickboxing convert Tomoki Murayama knocked him
Undefeated former Shooto rookie champion turned sporadically
competing journeyman Yu
Shiori (Pictures) will also be on the bill. He
makes his Pancrase debut against the also well-traveled Satoru Takadaya.
The 30-year-old Shiori made easy work of Yuta Nakamura (Pictures) in February, his only fight this
year. Takadaya, who has fought in many of western Japan's
grassroots shows such as RED ZONE and POWERGATE, hasn't competed
since July's Neo-Blood Tournament Final in July, when Nao Yoshida (Pictures) dispatched him.
Osaka native Kiichi
Kunimoto will also compete on the card against Yuta Nakamura (Pictures). Kunimoto is coming off a win in
August over Tim Ager in
Wisconsin's Freestyle Combat Challenge.
The Japanese fighter has spent additional time in America's dairy
capital, training with Dave
Strasser (Pictures)'s Freestyle Academy. In honor of
his time spent working with the UFC veteran, Kunimoto has changed
his ring name to "Kiichi Strasser."
Even if most of the action is in Osaka, there's always still a
little somethin' somethin' in Japan's capital.
Local club-themed promoter Tribelate will return on Sunday for its
14th card at the ever-mod Shinjuku FACE in Tokyo. Tribelate, which
offers kickboxing and MMA co-features, will be hosting a one-night
four-man tournament at 154 pounds.
In the first semifinal bout, ZST veteran Tsutomu Uehara will take
on Yuzo Ishida. The second semifinal bout will pit Shooting Gym
Hakkei's Hiroshi Takita
against Yosuke Akahiro,
a Kiyoshi Tamura
(Pictures) student. The two winners
will meet in the main event of the evening.
The other feature MMA bout will match GCM veteran and Scottish
import Steward Fulton against longtime DEEP veteran "MAX" Makoto Miyazawa (Pictures). Miyazawa hasn't competed since
July 2005, when he drew with Mitsuyoshi Sato (Pictures). In his most recent fight, Fulton
was crushed in June 2005 by Aslan Dzeboev (Pictures).
While BACK TO OUR ROOTS 5 was the main Shooto attraction of the
weekend, Sunday also brought a special event.
The 14th annual All Japan Amateur Shooto Championships took place
in Odawara, culling the best Class-C Shooto talent from all over
Japan. The day featured more than 100 competitors, both male and
female, competing in one-day tournaments across 10 weight
categories, with the prospect of pro Shooto promotions for the
day's most outstanding competitors on the line.
Former All Japan amateur champions include Norifumi Yamamoto
(Pictures), Hayato Sakurai (Pictures), Koutetsu Boku (Pictures), Akira Kikuchi (Pictures), Ryota Matsune (Pictures), Akitoshi Hokazono
(Pictures), Kenji Osawa (Pictures), Takeya Mizugaki (Pictures), and Tomonari Kanomata
(Pictures), among others. Almost every
other Shooto standout you could think of, from Rumina Sato (Pictures) to Caol Uno (Pictures), likely placed at the event.
Philoctetes Niigata's Yusuke Sato, a student of former All Japan
winner and pro Shooto veteran Jin Kazeta (Pictures), won the 115-pound division. In
the 123-pound bracket, Kota Funamoto bested his Team Locks teammate
Kibo Otsuka to win the division.
A product of Dokonjonosuke Mishima
(Pictures)'s Cobra Kai, Keita Yoshida,
won the 132-pound class. Yuta Nabekubo, the star pupil of
(Pictures), captured the 143-pound
Former Shooto world champion and head Shooting Gym Yokohama trainer
(Pictures) -- the man responsible for
fighters such as Mamoru
Yamaguchi (Pictures), Takeshi Inoue (Pictures), Tenkei Fujimiya (Pictures) and "Wicky Akiyo" Nishiura -- saw
another one of his pupils shine, as Hiroshige Tanaka won the
154-pound division. In the 168-pound category, Academia Az's Naoki
Hirayama took top honors.
Shooting Gym Kobe slugger Yusaku Tanaka won the 183-pound division.
Team Banana's Nobuyasu Fujikawa won the 201-pound division, and
Cobra Kai's Tanaka Tetsuro took the 220-pound class.
In the sole female category, noted grappler Yasuko Mogi of Strapple took the
Yuta Nabekubo and
Hiroshige Tanaka were singled out by one Shooto official, who told
Sherdog.com that their talents would make them strong pros very
quickly. Team Locks teammates Kota Funamoto and Kibo Otsuka were
also tabbed as particularly outstanding competitors.
In total the International Shooto Commission has blessed 38 of this
year's competitors for professional Class-B Shooto promotion. In
2005, 31 competitors were awarded pro Shooto promotions at the All
Japan, and 39 of last year's competitors were offered
While typically new pros do not debut until their rookie tournament
bouts begin early in the following year, some promoted fighters may
compete in pro Shooto as soon as the Dec. 8 card at Shinjuku FACE
promoted by Sustain.
The following fighters have been selected for professional Shooto
promotion by the International Shooto Commission:
Yusuke Sato (Philoctetes Niigata)
Kazuyuki Yoshida (Paraestra Fukushima)
Mikishin Yamagami (STF MMA Dojo)
Yoshitaka Aki (Andreious)
Go Sato (Paraestra Fukushima)
Kota Funamoto (Team Locks)
Kibo Otsuka (Team Locks)
Yosuke Saruta (Purebred Kawaguchi REDIPS)
Seiho Fujita (T-Pleasure)
Keita Yoshida (Cobra Kai MMA DOjo)
Tatsuya Nakajima (Wajyutsu Keisyukai Toikatsu Dojo)
Haruo Ochi (Paraestra Ehime)
Hirosuke Ito (ALIVE)
Joji Kawamata (Team 5456)
Syunsuke Nomura (Paraestra Hiroshima)
Yuki Baba (Pictures) (Rodeo Style)
Mitsuru Kobayashi (Paraestra Sapporo)
Takayoshi Ono (Gonzu
Hiroaki Nakayama (Paraestra Hiroshima)
Daiki Tsuchiya (Roots)
Kenichiro Marui (Academia Az)
Makoto Akazawa (Burst)
(Shooting Gym Osaka)
Hiroshige Tanaka (Shooting Gym Yokohama)
Issei Tamura (Killer Bee)
Tsuneo Kimura (Shooting
Taro Kusano (Shooting Gym Osaka)
Hiroyoshi Kuka (Mach Dojo)
Naoki Hirayama (Academia Az)
Yoichiro Sato (Gracie Barra Tokyo)
Norihiro Shimizu (Shooting Gym Osaka)
Kenta Suzuki (Purebred Omiya)
Kazushi Kochi (Wajyutsu Keisyukai Tokyo)
Junpei Konno (Rodeo Style)
(Pictures) (Paraestra Osaka)
Yusaku Tanaka (Shooting Gym Kobe)
Naoji Mikoshiba (Paraestra Tokyo)
Nobuyasu Fujiwara (Team Banana)
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