Koubousen Companion: News and Notes from Japan
Fights and femmes: a blessed union.
Sept. 5 will see Pancrase head back for the next installment of the
2007 RISING TOUR at Korakuen Hall, but the card just grabbed a
greater gravity as Izuru
Takeuchi (Pictures) and Bryan Rafiq (Pictures) have ambitions of ascendance to
the Pancrase throne.
Meanwhile, this Sunday will mark a big moment for pro Shooto as GIG
heads to Sapporo, where the fighters of Hokkaido are looking to
show how north Nihon's finest get down.
Also on deck? Ring girls.
After burning bright in the Japanese atmosphere in '06, MARS has
struggled to maintain a high profile. This weekend, in the red
light district of Tokyo, it will look for a spark during the
selection of both ring girls and young amateur talents.
DEEP is getting in on the act too, as in two weeks time it will
select the next round of ring girls for '08 as an ambitious tour
around Japan kicks off to close out the year.
But those familiar with DEEP know that Shigeru Saeki can never have
too much going on at once. DEEP's big boss is also beginning to
piece together October's 32 Impact card, with talk of multiple
PRIDE and HERO'S veterans, and revenge on the line.
The stakes have risen for the next stop on Pancrase's 2007 RISING
Pancrase authorities have confirmed to Sherdog.com that Sept. 5's
bout between Izuru
Takeuchi (Pictures) and Bryan Rafiq (Pictures) will in fact be a middleweight
King of Pancrase title eliminator. The winner of the fight will
earn the right to face reigning champion Yuichi Nakanishi (Pictures) in a bout likely to be scheduled
for the latter stages of 2007.
Takeuchi challenged for the vacant title last Dec., and lost a
bloody battle to the aforementioned Nakanishi by split decision.
Since then, he has split bouts, losing to American Kyacey Uscola (Pictures) before beating hard luck Pancrase
vet Daisuke Watanabe
(Pictures) in April.
Rafiq, a 21-year-old star pupil of UFC competitor "Jucao" Roan Carneiro (Pictures), made a strong impression in his
Pancrase debut, crushing eccentric fan favorite Hikaru Sato (Pictures) in April.
Meanwhile, the champion has not fought in the Pancrase ring since
his upset of Takeuchi to capture the crown in Dec., but was
submitted by journeyman Tim
McKenzie (Pictures) this past weekend in Vancouver,
British Columbia for the filming of the upcoming bodogFIGHT
While professional Shooto is certainly nothing foreign to the
northern island of Hokkaido, the debut of Shooto's GIG NORTH series
this Sunday in Sapporo does speak to the development of the sport
in northern Japan.
Previously, Shooto efforts in Hokkaido centered around Battle Mix,
a single annual event featuring a mixture of grappling, gloved
karate, amateur and pro Shooto. Now, with the recent explosion of
professional Shooto fighters from cities such as Sapporo, Hakodate,
and Asahikawa, promoters have recognized the necessity to hold more
frequent, and larger scale pro Shooto cards in Hokkaido.
Moreover, there exists a gross inequality in terms of Japan's local
MMA distribution, perhaps something that goes undetected by many
fans. While Tokyo is the stage for a great deal of high-profile
mixed martial arts, other large cities like Yokohama, Nagoya, and
Osaka are forced to settle largely for grassroots level promotions
in between infrequent tours of larger promotions. Other large
cities, such as Sapporo, Kobe, Kyoto, Fukuoka and Hiroshima are
almost wholly ignored.
GIG NORTH Vol. 1 will be promoted and sponsored by TT era and the
local Paraestra gym affiliates. The event will also move away from
the ultra-chic, yet ultra-cramped KING XHMU nightclub in Sapporo,
to the larger digs of Zepp Sapporo, which figures to hold just over
800 people for a fight card.
The main event will see the returns of 123-pounders Hiroaki Yoshioka (Pictures) and Takuya Mori (Pictures). A loser of his last four bouts,
Yoshioka hasn't competed since May of 2005, while Mori hasn't
fought since Nov. of last year, where he lost in the 2006 123-pound
rookie tournament final to Ryuichi Miki. The bout figures to
serve as a platform to advance the young, hometown fighter in Mori
toward a Class A license over a longtime veteran, as more and more
new blood pours into the Shooto bantamweight division.
The event will also determine the finals of this year's 154-pound
rookie tournament. Paraestra Sapporo fighters "Aroi" Michiyuki Ishibashi
(Pictures) and "Aniki" Hidekazu Asakura (Pictures) will look to punch tickets to the
finals against Yutaka Ueda
and Hiroshi Shiba
respectively. It will be an uphill battle for the native Sapporans,
who figure to be underdogs to Ueda and Shiba, each turning in very
impressive performances in the last year both in and out of
In a 115-pound rookie semifinal, savvy striker Tatsuya Yamamoto (Pictures) will take on Hiroyuki Ikeda (Pictures). The Hokkaido native Yamamoto is
a prohibitive favorite, based on the sharp technical striking
prowess he displayed in his dominant victory over former All Japan
amateur Shooto champion Katsuya Murofushi
(Pictures) in March. The fight's
victor will meet the winner of a yet-to-be-scheduled semifinal
between Noboru Tahara
and Tomohiko Yoshida
later this year.
Amidst a low-key, lackluster year, fledgling Japanese promotion
MARS is looking to invigorate its product by snagging some talent
both in and out of the ring.
This Sunday at Club Heights in Kabukicho -- the infamous red-light
district of Tokyo -- MARS will promote a joint bill in which they
will hold their first ever amateur competition. While MARS' head
office has not specified the format of the competition, they have
stated that a series of fights will be held to select a crop of
talented young fighters who will begin plying their professional
trade quickly in MARS.
However, before their amateur bouts get underway, the afternoon
will begin with MARS' ring girl auditions. MARS has openly called
for females looking to begin a career in film, television or print
modeling to participate in the auditions, which will consist of
solely an in-ring swimsuit contest.
MARS also confirmed that its next professional MMA card will take
place Oct. 21, also at Club Heights in Kabukicho, abandoning their
familiar digs of Shinjuku FACE.
MARS isn't the only promotion looking for ring girls, either.
DEEP's ring girl search is an annual event, and the Shigeru
Saeki-led promotion will look for their new crop of ring girls for
2008 at their Club DEEP Tokyo card on Sept. 15. Applications from
both amateur and professional models and talents ages 16-28 will be
accepted through Sept. 10, and then selected models will be
profiled online where fans can vote for their favorite femmes. The
most popular females will then audition in front of the crowd at
Shinjuku FACE on Sept. 15, and DEEP's executive will choose the top
three or four entrants to be the next DEEP ring girls.
As for the Club DEEP event itself, the two feature bouts on the
card will pit Ryuta
Sakurai (Pictures) pupil Ryuhei Sato (Pictures) against longtime journeyman and
veteran Kousei Kubota
(Pictures), who is coming off of a
much-needed win in July over Doo Won Seo at the second annual
CMA Festival, while another of Sakurai's students, Kosuto Umeda (Pictures), will take on dangerous striker
Takahiro Kajita, who
looks to rebound from his recent loss in MARS to South Korean star
prospect Un Sik Song.
Furthermore, DEEP scheduled several Club DEEP cards for the rest of
the year, which will see them tour all over Japan. Sept. 23, DEEP
will head to Yamaguchi, while Oct. 13 will bring Club DEEP to
Osaka. The next week on Oct. 21, the promotion will head to
Hamamatsu, and on Oct. 28, Club DEEP will take place in Sendai. The
Dec. 9 edition of Club DEEP is tentatively scheduled to take place
in Kanazawa, but is currently without a venue.
Three Club DEEP cards in Oct. figure to make Shigeru Saeki as busy
a promoter as you'll find, but DEEP's full-bodied boss has also
revealed that DEEP 32 Impact will take place on Oct. 9 at Korakuen
Hall in Tokyo.
After DEEP'S 31st Impact on Aug. 5 featured a total of four DEEP
champions, Saeki and the DEEP office are in the planning stages of
another strong card. Sources close to the promotion have told
Sherdog.com that while names could not be released at this time,
they have officially decided on four matches, and it is expected
that the card will feature five or six PRIDE and HERO'S
It has also been teased that the card may feature several rematches
of bouts which have taken place on prior DEEP cards, and that at
least one "strong international fighter" has been signed to compete
on the card.
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