A source has confirmed to Sherdog.com that standout 145-pounder Hiroyuki Takaya (Pictures) has signed a multi-fight deal with Zuffa-owned World Extreme Cagefighting. The 30-year-old Japanese fighter is expected to debut on the February WEC card, which is tentatively scheduled to feature a lightweight title clash between "Razor" Rob McCullough (Pictures) and Jamie Varner (Pictures), as well as a welterweight title defense by reigning champion Carlos Condit (Pictures).
Takaya last saw action in November, when he stopped Antonio Carvalho (Pictures) in the third round of a sensational striking clash. The bout came on the heels of Takaya's return to the featherweight division in September, which brought a knockout win over American Jarrod Card (Pictures) in Cage Force. Following the victory over Card, Takaya revealed that he wanted to move stateside and was especially interested in fighting WEC 145-pound kingpin Urijah Faber (Pictures).
Takaya began his career in pro Shooto at 143 pounds. He was quickly targeted as a future contender for then-champion Alexandre Franca Nogueira (Pictures). However, following a December 2004 loss to Gilbert Melendez (Pictures), Takaya opted to move to 154 pounds for the opportunity of more lucrative paydays in K-1 HERO'S.
Smack Girl Starts Over With New Rules, Deals
Smack Girl has taken the title of its "Starting Over" card quite seriously.
The organization has announced that for its Dec. 26 seventh anniversary card at Korakuen Hall in Tokyo, it will do away with the much-maligned 30-second ground time limit. Smack Girl has imposed the limit for nearly all of its bouts over the last seven years.
Also, the promotion will cease "Smack Girl Special Rules." The rules had been used for bouts with elite fighters, such as Yuka Tsuji (Pictures) and Megumi Fujii (Pictures), and allowed for no ground time limits and full ground-and-pound. Since the removal of these provisions will not allow for ground-and-pound, Smack Girl is currently considering launching a sister event for top females that would allow full MMA rules.
The Dec. 26 bill will feature a wide array of top female talent. In the main event, Smack Girl 115-pound champion Yuka Tsuji (Pictures) will put her title on the line against South Korean striker Su Hi Ham (Pictures).
Tsuji is coming off a crushing first-round KO of Michelli Tavares (Pictures) in September that avenged the only loss of her career. Ham made her organizational debut on the same card, besting Tsuji's teammate Ayumi "Edge" Saito by unanimous decision.
Additionally, female superstar Megumi Fujii (Pictures) will return to Smack Girl, taking on Mika Nagano. The undefeated Fujii dominated Kyoko Takabayashi (Pictures) in the Shooto ring last month and has posted a 4-0 mark on the year. The bout figures to be a mismatch of sorts as Nagano, a former amateur wrestler who has dabbled in Smack Girl grappling tournaments, is making her pro MMA debut in the fight.
In another mismatch involving a star female, Smack Girl 106-pound queen Satoko Shinashi (Pictures) will find easy duty against novice Muay Thai convert Ann.
In more relevant action, former Smack Girl open-weight champion Megumi Yabushita (Pictures), loser of her last three bouts, will look for a much-needed win in difficult waters against physically imposing American Lana Stefanac (Pictures). The 5-foot-10, 210-pound Stefanac has destroyed her first four opponents in MMA in less than a combined five minutes.
Furthermore, Smack Girl revealed that the event will be broadcast on Jan. 26 in a two-hour format on BS Fuji, a popular satellite subsidiary of one of Japan's six major television networks, Fuji Television. Smack Girl events are typically televised only on J-Sports, the Japanese affiliate of ESPN.
Smack Girl Remixes ReMix
Smack Girl also released plans to double up the World ReMix tournament in 2008.
After milestone tournaments in 2000 and 2004, Smack Girl will host two ReMix tournaments next year. As has been tradition with the ReMix tournament, one of the tournaments will be an open-weight bracket. The other bracket will be contested at 115 pounds, where Smack Girl executives feel the greatest concentration of female talent is.
The tournaments will be contested over a series of three events, with cards on Feb. 14, April 25 and July 24, all at Korakuen Hall in Tokyo.
Smack Girl has not released a list of potential competitors for the tournaments. However, given the inclusion of a 115-pound tournament, there is much speculation that the promotion will attempt to include both 115-pound champion Yuka Tsuji (Pictures) and superstar Megumi Fujii (Pictures) in order to potentially set up a much-anticipated finale that may also be the biggest bout in female mixed martial arts to date.
Shooto Rookie Finale Set for Saturday
This Saturday will crown another crop of rookies in the ring of professional Shooto.
Sustain's 2007 finale at Shinjuku FACE in Tokyo will draw the sixth annual Shooto rookie tournaments to a close, crowning tournament champions in six of seven weight classes. The only rookie final that will not be contested on the card will be the 154-pound final.
Advancing to the 154-pound final this year were Purebred Kyoto teammates Yutaka Ueda and Hiroshi Shiba, who decided among themselves that Shiba, the senior of the two, would win the tournament by default. This has led to Shooto authorities revealing that effective in 2008, gyms will not be able to field more than one fighter in a single rookie tournament.
In the main event of the card, arguably 2006's most outstanding rookie champion, Masakatsu Ueda (Pictures), will take on ADCC veteran Tetsu "Hadairo" Suzuki in a 132-pound contest. The 29-year-old Ueda, an All Japan amateur Shooto champion and holder of an amateur wrestling win over Norifumi "KID" Yamamoto, is considered one of the best up-and-comers in pro Shooto. He fought to a competitive draw with fellow former rookie champion Takeya Mizugaki (Pictures) in July.
The highly unorthodox and colorful "Hadairo" has had a rough go of things in '07, posting an 0-2-1 mark, and Atsushi Yamamoto (Pictures) handled him decisively in the Shooto ring in September.
In the 115-pound tournament final, undefeated All Japan amateur champion Hiroyuki Abe of K'z Factory will look to repeat his first win as a pro against Hiroyuki Ikeda (Pictures) of Paraestra Tokyo.
Abe, who dominated Tomohiko Yoshida in the semifinals last month, dominated Ikeda in his pro debut last November and choked him out in the second round. Ikeda notched his first career win in September, stopping Tatsuya Yamamoto (Pictures) with strikes on the feet to advance to the final.
In the 123-pound finale, 2006 All Japan amateur champion Tatsuro Kamei (Pictures) of Paraestra Hiroshima will look to seal a tournament victory against Wajyutsu Keisyukai Tokyo's Kenji Hosoya. Hosoya received a bye into the semifinals and took a majority decision over Yosuke Ebihara (Pictures) to advance in May.
Meanwhile, Kamei impressively defeated Kenya Kayo and Suguru Inoue in the quarters and semis to advance, beating both via triangle choke in less than a combined five minutes.
In a battle of former All Japan amateur champions, 20-year-old Paraestra Matsudo product Hiromasa Ougikubo (Pictures) will face off with Purebred Kyoto's Yasuhiro Kanayama (Pictures). The 2005 132-pound All Japan amateur champ Ougikubo knocked off Satoru Ota in May before flattening Kazuya Tamura (Pictures) and choking him out in September.
Kanayama, who won his amateur title in 2005 at 143 pounds, has not fared well as a pro, posting a 1-2-3 record. He drew both Nobuhiro Hayakawa and Junya Kudou (Pictures) earlier this year, but he was able to advance in the tournament both times by picking the lucky envelope after the draws were announced.
In the 143-pound final, Tomonori Taniguchi (Pictures), a pupil of Hayato Sakurai (Pictures), will look to even out his record against heavily tattooed Hiroshiman Kazuhiro Ito (Pictures). Taniguchi began his pro career 0-3 before impressively stopping both veteran Yohei Suzuki (Pictures) in a non-tournament bout and Naohiro Mizuno (Pictures) to advance to the finals in July.
Ito was dominated in his pro debut against Daisuke Matsumoto, but he has looked sensational in tournament action, quickly armbarring Takumi Ota (Pictures) and knocking out Toshihiko Yokoyama (Pictures) to reach the tournament final in a combined 58 seconds.
Submit Shizuoka's Akihiro Yamazaki and Shooting Gym Osaka's Tomokazu Yuasa (Pictures) will square off in the 168-pound semifinal. The aggressive submission stylist Yamazaki impressively submitted BJJ black belt Mateus Irie Nechio (Pictures) in March, then edged out Daisuke Okumiya in September to punch his ticket to the final. The powerful brawling Yuasa picked the lucky envelope in March after his tit-for-tat battle with Takesuke Kume (Pictures) was judged a draw. He then out-slugged Toshihiko Sugimoto (Pictures) in October to advance.
At 183 pounds, Hiroki Sato (Pictures) of Kakuto Circle OZ will meet Takaaki "C-Boy" Oban in the final. Sato crushed Atsushi Matsuki (Pictures) in last month's semifinal bout with a first-round knockout, and Oban quickly submitted Seiji Furukawa in May to reach the final.
In other non-tournament action on the bill, 2006 168-pound rookie runner-up Taisuke Okuno will return against Hirosumi "C-Priest" Sugiura; Noboru Asahi pupil Hiroshi Nakamura will take on Kenji Kawaguchi (Pictures) pupil Kyotaro Nakao (Pictures); and Italian import Paolo Milano (Pictures) will meet veteran Koumei Okada (Pictures).
MARS Makes War at Differ Ariake
MARS will return Sunday with its 10th production, "All Out War," at Differ Ariake in Tokyo.
The card will be headlined by a 170-pound bout between South Korean Myeon Ho Bae (Pictures) and Brazilian import Anderson Sato (Pictures) of Muay Thai Dream Team. Myeon has picked up two victories in MMA action this year, besting Hidenobu Koike (Pictures) and Seiki Ryo (Pictures) in the MARS ring. Sato had an unimpressive MARS debut in October, when Samuel Raposo Kinoshita (Pictures) dominated and dispatched him via submission.
As usual the bill will feature both kickboxing bouts and "Blast Bouts," a MARS feature in which kickboxing rules bouts are contested with five-ounce MMA gloves.
In other MMA action, South Korean Parky, who impressed in his organizational debut in October with a KO win over William Animal (Pictures), will take on undefeated Japanese-Brazilian grappler Hairan Nishimura. Also, Shuya Arimura will meet Vitor Toffaneri; Hiroshi Kobayashi will take on William Animal (Pictures); and Kim Jun Jong will face Hiroshi Masabuchi.
MIKU, Matsui on Marquee for ClubDEEP in Kanazawa
DEEP will head to the Ishikawa Industrial Hall on Sunday for clubDEEP Kanazawa.
A co-feature of both kickboxing and MMA, the feature bout will see DEEP 106-pound queen Miku Matsumoto (Pictures) take on hard-luck veteran Yukiko Seki (Pictures). Matsumoto is already 4-0 on the year, including her August title capture over Hisae Watanabe (Pictures). Seki represents merely an opponent for Matsumoto, sporting a dismal 4-12 record and coming off a lackluster loss to a novice Brandy Nerney (Pictures) in California last month.
Also on the bill, longtime Pride veteran Daijiro Matsui (Pictures) will take on Carlos Toyota (Pictures). Matsui hasn't fought since his decision loss to Mark Weir (Pictures) in England in April, and Toyota is coming off an October win in DEEP over Ryosuke Kojima.
In other MMA action, Tomohito Watanabe will take on Shinobu Aoyama, and Masayuki Demise will face Fuhito Hasegawa.
Kondo, Oishi Rep Team Barnett in Manila
Meanwhile, two Pancrasists will head into the heart of the Pacific to take part in the debut of Filipino promotion Ring of Fire's team-based events.
Pancrase icon Yuki Kondo (Pictures) and contender Koji Oishi (Pictures) will represent Team Josh Barnett (Pictures) against Team Gokor Chivichyan in the first team-based Ring of Fire show at Araneta Stadium, the home of the landmark "Thrilla in Manila" between Joe Frazier and Muhammed Ali.
Barnett still reigns as the open-weight King of Pancrase. He personally selected both Kondo, whom he defeated to win the title in August 2003, and Oishi to represent his team.
In a 185-pound bout, Kondo will take on Swedish native August Wallen. The 33-year-old Kondo has been largely disappointing since his long-desired move down to the 185-pound division. However, he is coming off a dominant decision win in the Pancrase ring in October over converted karateka Yuji Sakuragi (Pictures).
At 155 pounds, Oishi will take on undefeated Hayastan standout Karen Darabedyan (Pictures). Like Kondo, Oishi recently dropped a weight class. He made his 155-pound debut against Canadian wrestler Chris Ade at the August Bodog Fight Vancouver tapings, notching a third-round KO victory.