TOKYO -- Kuniyoshi Hironaka knocked out Yoshihiro Koyama to become Cage Force's second lightweight champion Saturday at Cage Force 12.
Fighting for a title recently vacated by current Sengoku lightweight champion Mizuto Hirota, Hironaka chopped at Koyama with low kicks and one-twos in the first half of round one. This set the pace of the fight while Koyama, the 2006 lightweight Shooto rookie champ and a product of Paraestra Matsudo, struggled to find an opportunity to open up.
Hironaka soon shot for a takedown, securing Koyama's back in the clinch. Though Koyama was able to extricate himself when Hironaka released his grip to punch him in the face, the fight came to an abrupt halt. As Koyama closed to throw a left hook, Hironaka beat him to it with a left of his own. Koyama folded sideways and Hironaka swarmed with hammer fists until referee Kenichi Serizawa jumped in for the save at 4:27.
Holding championship gold for the first time in his career, an emotional Hironaka soon took to the mic to address the two-thirds capacity crowd.
“I turned 33 this year,” said Hironaka, a UFC and Dream veteran. “I've been doing MMA for eight years now, and in the beginning, I thought it was pretty easy and that I'd become a world champion in no time. However, there are many strong fighters all over the world, and through all kinds of ups and downs, I've finally made it this far. It makes me happy to finally get a belt in MMA, to be able to show proof that I earned a title during my career.”
Despite not being as stacked as prior Cage Force events, the rest of the evening's card was likewise entertaining with eight finishes and only two decisions.
A methodical and measured Wataru Miki broke down Tomonori Taniguchi over three rounds before sinking a rear-naked choke for the submission finish. Taniguchi pushed the action from the opening bell, and while successful in hitting the occasional takedown or strike, Miki's counters made sure that the Mach Dojo fighter didn't get away unscathed. Miki dropped Taniguchi in the first two rounds with an inside elbow and cutting knee to the body, but Taniguchi tenaciously held on until a late scramble in the third period saw Miki taking back mount. A weathered and battered Taniguchi could not fight off the rear-naked choke that followed, tapping out at 4:36.
Things didn't look any better for his Mach Dojo peer, as Yasunori Kanehara put Hiroki Kuga away quickly in the first frame. Kuga injured his left shoulder while defending a Kanehara takedown, giving Kanehara the opportunity to paw at Kuga's face with repeated short right hands. In pain, Kuga covered up and offered no resistance, prompting the stop by referee Minoru Toyonaga at 55 seconds in the first. Kuga was tended to by ringside physicians immediately thereafter, leaving the cage with his left arm in a sling.
For the first two minutes of the Wataru Takahashi vs. Masayoshi Ichikawa featherweight bout, “Randleman” Ichikawa was doing very well, sparking Takahashi with two big right hooks and ground-and-pound from riding time position. He promptly imploded soon after, though, as Takahashi regained his bearings and reversed to take mount, where he dropped elbows and punches before pulling out an armbar. Trapped against the cage with nowhere to run, Ichikawa tapped at 3:43.
Yoshihiro Matsunaga overcame terminal shortness by doggedly pressing Hirokazu Nishimura, first on the feet and eventually on the canvas. Matsunaga dropped Nishimura with a flying high kick in the second frame to land punches and elbows from inside guard, then followed up with a similar third round by taking top position to ground and pound his way to a unanimous decision.
Daisuke Sugishima blasted Masato Kobayashi onto his posterior three times over their first two rounds, but Kobayashi held on to eke out the decision. Earning points with a salvo of unchecked low kicks and a huge third-round punching barrage that had Sugishima out on his feet for the final minute, Kobayashi slid by on all three judges score cards for the unanimous decision.
In the sole Valkyrie women's bout of the evening, Nagoya's Kyoko Takabayashi finished Akiko Naito within the first round, taking mount to drop punches as Naito bucked repeatedly without escaping. Referee Serizawa called the stop at 2:25 in the first round.
Katsunori Tsuda def. Yoji Sato -- TKO (Punches) 2:54 R1 (Umeki)
Kazuki Tokutomei def Arata Fujimoto -- Submission (Armbar) 2:01 R1 (Serizawa)
Daisuke Teramoto def. Yosuke Yaguchi -- DQ (Yaguchi overweight) 0:00 R1
Wataru Yoshikawa def. Norie Masaki -- Submission (RNC) 2:23 R1 (Umeki)