DEEP big boss Shigeru Saeki has announced that he is set to make a plethora of changes in an effort to remodel DEEP in 2008. Perhaps most interesting, he is strongly considering revamping DEEP's weight classes to suit those of the unified rules of mixed martial arts used in North American regulation and sanctioning.
Currently the only promotion in Japan that uses the unified rules in any form is Greatest Common Multiple, which employs the full unified rules for its Cage Force series. Although Saeki has not elaborated on his desire to move toward the unified weight classes, it would appear that he is intent on keeping the current rule structure of DEEP, which includes stomps and soccer kicks while prohibiting elbows.
In a recent interview regarding upstart company World Victory Road and the establishment of the Japanese MMA Association, Saeki said he loathed the idea of homogenizing the rules of MMA in Japan. He feels rule structures are essential in providing the "flavor" of various promotions.
DEEP currently has championship titles at 143, 154, 168 and 181 pounds, and at106 pounds for female competition. The promotion's weight classes are less defined, however, as there are a considerable amount of both open-weight bouts and bouts contracted at catch-weights. Though that may not change, under the unified rules the divisional titles would be revamped to 145, 155, 170, and 185, and to 105 in the female case.
Saeki also revealed that he wanted to add another weight class in the neighborhood of 132 pounds -- a weight class used in amateur and pro Shooto competition. Furthermore, he hopes to jumpstart the division with a tournament in early 2008. However, if Saeki does in fact revamp DEEP's divisions according to the unified-rule weights, the division would be 135 pounds.
On the topic of championship reform, Saeki also revealed that as 181-pound champion Ryo Chonan (Pictures)'s new UFC contract is exclusive,* the 181-pound title will likely be on the market early next year. Saeki stated last month that he planned on having a 181-pound challenger tournament next year. But in light of recent events, that same tournament, which will likely begin in February or April, will probably be for DEEP's divisional championship.
Pancrase Also Set to Slide Scales
Saeki is not alone in his vision of weight class reform in Japan.
Pancrase officials have also announced that they are very interested in the idea of using the weight structure provided in the unified rules of mixed martial arts, to "aim at a more worldwide Pancrase."
Much like DEEP, Pancrase apparently wishes to keep its own in-ring rule structure, which currently eschews elbows and allows soccer kicks and stomps. However, Pancrase authorities say that by next February at the very latest, they hope to officially alter their weight classes, likely in the pattern of the unified rules.
Pancrase runs weight divisions at 141, 152, 165, 181, 198, 221 and 221-plus pounds. Under the unified rules, these weight classes would become 145, 155, 170, 185, 205, 265 and 265-plus. Current Pancrase titlists would retain their titles under the altered weight categories.
Grabaka Greets Killer Bees and Chute Boxers
One of Japan's strongest gyms just got a little stronger.
Grabaka -- home to the likes of Sanae Kikuta (Pictures), Akihiro Gono (Pictures), Kazuo Misaki (Pictures) and Kazunori Yokota (Pictures) -- recently welcomed Riki Fukuda (Pictures) as an official team member. Fukuda, who made his home at Killer Bee in addition to spending time stateside at American Kickboxing Academy, has trained at Grabaka in the past. His gym change is reportedly under amicable circumstances.
Fukuda is coming off a controversial split-decision loss to Joey Villasenor (Pictures) at EliteXC's Hawaiian venture in September. The former Japanese collegiate wrestling standout will now join the Japanese gym that has perhaps the most depth north of the lightweight division, with Kikuta, Gono and Misaki, in addition to Eiji Ishikawa (Pictures), Keiichiro Yamamiya (Pictures) and Yuki Sasaki (Pictures).
Also, Grabaka will welcome a crop of youngsters from Chute Boxe Japan, as the gym's Nakano, Tokyo, branch, which is in the same neighborhood as the main Grabaka gym, recently closed.
Sanae Kikuta (Pictures) has revealed that no less than three up-and-coming fighters from the former Chute Boxe Japan gym have opted to join the Grabaka team, and that he has been in talks with Chute Boxe representatives in Curitiba to potentially foster a relationship that could see collaborative training and fighter exchanges between the two gyms in the future.
Hioki Heads Home for Heat
Hatsu Hioki (Pictures) will have an opportunity to atone for his recent embarrassment in front of his hometown crowd in Nagoya.
Coming off a massive upset loss to unheralded South Korean Jong Man Kim (Pictures) in front of his home audience, the 24-year-old Hioki will take part in the next Heat card in Nagoya on Nov. 25 at the Nagoya International Convention Center Event Hall. No opponent has been named for Hioki in what figures to be a tune-up fight.
Hioki was originally scheduled to be a part of the Heat card in August against Brazilian import Gustavo "Coelho" Franca. However, due to a broken toe sustained in training, he was forced to pull out and be replaced by Katsuya Toida (Pictures).
Also announced for the card, Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt and NEX Sports leader Hiroshi Umemura (Pictures) will compete against a yet-to-be-named opponent. The 35-year-old Umemura is 7-0-1 in his last eight bouts and undefeated in the last three years. At the last Heat card in August, he made short work of South Korea's Seo Su In (Pictures), notching a first-round submission victory.
Kingdom of Grapple Celebrates Anniversary
One of Japan's influential MMA sites is about to celebrate its first anniversary. What better way to celebrate than with an MMA card of its own?
Later this month will mark the one-year anniversary of Kingdom of Grapple, a mobile MMA Web site created by Broad Media Casting Co. Ltd. In commemoration of the event, Broad Media Casting has announced that it will hold an MMA event, Kingdom of Grapple Live 2007, on Nov. 25 at Shinjuku FACE in Tokyo.
The event will work in cooperation with a host of Japanese promotions, including Pancrase, DEEP, GCM, Zendokai and Smack Girl. The two-part bill will feature two four-man tournaments for up-and-coming fighters at 143 and 154 pounds in the afternoon show. It is expected that Pancrase, DEEP, GCM and Zendokai will each provide a representative for each tournament to flesh out the brackets.
The evening portion of the card is scheduled to have eight individual fights. With cooperation from Smack Girl, there will be at least one female bout on the card. Pancrase competitors Hikaru Sato (Pictures) and interim welterweight King of Pancrase Katsuya Inoue (Pictures) are also being sought to compete. Japanese MMA pillar Tsuyoshi Kohsaka (Pictures) is expected to provide some talent from his Alliance-Square gym for the evening lineup.
Shooto Rookie Finales
Leading Shooto promoter Sustain has revealed the preliminary lineup for the year's final pro Shooto card, which will crown the 2007 Shooto rookie tournament champions.
The Dec. 8 card at Shinjuku FACE in Tokyo will crown six of the seven Shooto rookie champions for the year. The only final that will not be contested on the card will in fact not be contested at all. The 154-pound final was slated to match Hiroshi Shiba and Yu Ueda, who are both teammates at Purebred Kyoto. The fighters decided among themselves that Ueda would pull out of the tournament, allowing Shiba to become the 2007 rookie champion by default.
In the 115-pound tournament, All Japan amateur champion Hiroyuki Abe (Pictures) (Hiroyuki Abe (Pictures)' class='LinkSilver'>Pictures) of K'z Factory, who is undefeated as a pro, will look to repeat his first pro win against Hiroyuki Ikeda (Pictures) of Paraestra Tokyo. Abe, who dominated Tomohiko Yoshida in the semifinals last month to advance, knocked off Ikeda in his pro debut last November, choking 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 final, 2006 All Japan amateur champion Tatsuro Kamei (Pictures) of Paraestra Hiroshima will try to close out the tournament against Wajyutsu Keisuikai Tokyo's Kenji Hosoya. Hosoya, who got a bye into the semifinals, took a majority decision over Yosuke Ebihara (Pictures) to advance in May. Kamei defeated Kenya Kayo and Suguru Inoue (Pictures) in the quarters and semis to advance, defeating both via triangle choke in less than a combined five minutes.
Undefeated 20-year-old Paraestra Matsudo prospect Hiromasa Ougikubo (Pictures) hopes to add a rookie championship on top of his 2005 All Japan amateur title. Ougikubo knocked off Satoru Ota in May before steamrolling Kazuya Tamura (Pictures) and choking him out in the first round in September.
His opponent, Purebred Kyoto's Yasuhiro Kanayama (Pictures), also won a title at the All Japan amateur championships in 2005 at 143 pounds. However, Kanayama has not fared as well as a pro, with a 1-2-3 record. Kanayama drew both Nobuhiro Hayakawa and Junya Kudou (Pictures) earlier this year, and he advanced in the tournament both times via lottery, picking the lucky envelope after the draws were announced.
The 143-pound leg of the tournament will feature two turnaround fighters vying for the title. Tomonori Taniguchi (Pictures), a pupil of Hayato Sakurai (Pictures), 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.
In the finals, he'll meet TK Esperanza's Kazuhiro Ito (Pictures), who after being dominated in his pro debut last November, rattled off two sensational stoppages to make it to the tournament finals. The heavily-tattooed Hiroshiman armbarred Takumi Ota (Pictures) in a mere 26 seconds in May, before smashing Toshihiko Yokoyama (Pictures) unconscious with a vicious knee in September in only 32 seconds.
Submit Shizuoka's Akihiro Yamazaki and Shooting Gym Osaka's Tomokazu Yuasa (Pictures) will do battle in the 168-pound semifinal. The slick submission specialist Yamazaki quickly submitted BJJ black belt Mateus Irie Nechio (Pictures) in March, then knocked off Daisuke Okumiya in September to punch his ticket to the final. The powerful brawling Yuasa picked the lucky envelope in March after a pitch-fight with Takesuke Kume (Pictures) was judged a draw, and then he bested Toshihiko Sugimoto (Pictures) last month to advance to the finals.
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 KO, and Oban made short work of Seiji Furukawa in May, tapping him out in less than four minutes to reach the final.
For cards such as this, it is typical that Sustain uses a single Class-A bout or an important Class-B bout with promotion implications as the main event. No main event has been announced, but the card's headliner could very well follow the aforementioned pattern.
Murofushi and Miki Move to A-League
While 2007's Shooto rookies attempt to make their mark in the pro ranks, two of last year's rookie kings have earned their Class-A promotions.
After their wins at the Oct. 20 Shooting Disco card at Shinjuku FACE in Tokyo, last year's 115-pound rookie champion Shinya Murofushi (Pictures) and 123-pound rookie champion Ryuichi Miki (Pictures) have both been officially promoted to Class A in Shooto.
Murofushi, 4-0-1, took a split decision over Atsushi "ATCH Anarchy" Takeuchi, and Miki, 5-2-2, defeated Toshimichi Akagi (Pictures) via unanimous decision after an action-packed 10 minutes.
The extremely lanky 24-year-old Murofushi dominated his way through last year's rookie field en route to winning the 115-pound tournament. He seemed bound for Class A from the beginning.
Miki's match with Akagi was essentially an eliminator bout between two Class-B competitors fighting for a Class-A promotion. Miki, who is now undefeated in his last six bouts, was an underdog throughout last year's 123-pound rookie tournament, but he showed marked improvement in each successive bout before defeating Ayumu "Gozo" Shioda in the final.
Akano, Yabushita Lead Japanese Contingent to California for FFF
There is no MMA action in Nihon this weekend, but a crop of female fighters will cross the Pacific for Saturday's Fatal Femmes Fighting card in Ontario, Calif.
With FFF champion Roxanne Modaferri sustaining a shoulder injury in training, Hitomi Akano (Pictures) has stepped into the main event against rising Brazilian star Vanessa Porto (Pictures). Akano is coming off a September loss to former adversary Takayo Hashi (Pictures), in which she lost her Smack Girl 128-pound title in a hotly contested decision.
The streaking Porto has emerged as one of the best up-and-coming females in the world and gained a measure of publicity recently with her public challenge of Gina Carano (Pictures). Because Porto-Modaferri was scheduled to be for Modaferri's organizational title, the winner will likely be Modaferri's next championship challenger.
Returning to FFF will be female-fighting pioneer Megumi Yabushita (Pictures), who will take on FFF titlist and female stalwart Lisa Ward (Pictures), who will be making a considerable jump in weight to meet the former judoka and pro-wrestler in a non-title affair.
Yabushita typically competes at 135 pounds. She fought at the last FFF card in July, where she was destroyed en route to a unanimous decision loss by the Josh Barnett (Pictures)-trained Ginele Marquez (Pictures).
Ward, who usually campaigns between 106 and 110 pounds, last saw action at the BodogFIGHT Vancouver tapings in August, where she was submitted in the first round by female superstar Megumi Fujii (Pictures).
Two of Yabushita's Tomoegumi teammates will also make the trek. Hard-luck veteran Yukiko Seki (Pictures) will look to get into the win column against novice Brandy Nerney (Pictures), and FFF and BodogFIGHT veteran Keiko "Tama Chan" Tamai will return stateside, trying to snap a four-fight losing streak against Cindy Hales.
* Sherdog.com reported that Ryo Chonan's UFC contract was non-exclusive, when it fact it's exclusive.