Positives and negatives.
Good news first: this weekend has three quality cards on tap in the heart of Tokyo. Saturday gets the fistic festivities started at the Tokyo Kinema Club, as Shooto promoter G-STYLE puts on the third edition of its coed series BATTLE MIX TOKYO. The marquee? Microsized fighters Atsushi Takeuchi and Takehiro Harusaki, set to show 115-pounders have a place in MMA.
Sunday keeps the MMA momentum going at the Differ Ariake with back-to-back tournament action. Greatest Common Multiple has brewed up some buzz for the repackaged CAGE FORCE in 2007 with two tournaments teasing at Octagon opportunities for the respective winners. Upstart female fed K-GRACE closes out the weekend, with female fighting's finest in a one night, eight-woman tournament with 10,000 bucks up for grabs.
The bad news? An injury epidemic is on the loose. A rib fracture has pro Shooto prospect Fanjin Son on the shelf, while Pancrase's contingent of bodogFIGHT competitors has taken blow after blow after blow, with just one shot left to notch a win in the third season of the MMA series.
Part of that Pancrase contingent? Feared female striker WINDY Tomomi, who suffered a horrifying leg injury against England's Rosi Sexton earlier this season. Meanwhile, another Pancrase stalwart in Yuki Kondo is still on the shelf. What do the roads to recovery look like for two of Pancrase's stars?
Finally, adding insult to seemingly infinite injury, the newborn PRIDE has taken another hit. With growing concerns surrounding the ongoing asset transaction between Dream Stage Entertainment and PRIDE FC Worldwide Holdings, the Lightweight Grand Prix opener scheduled for July is now on the ropes. Will another classic GP get a summer start in Nagoya, or is another postponement a stirring symptom of something else?
Shooto's finest flyweights mix it up at BATTLE MIX TOKYO
This Saturday will kick off a quality weekend of MMA action in Tokyo, with the third installment of G-STYLE's coed Shooto series BATTLE MIX TOKYO.
While the eight-fight card will feature an unusually short G-Shooto women's section boasting only two bouts, one of them will be a high quality affair between Masako Yoshida and Kyoko Takabayashi.
Yoshida is perhaps female MMA's most durable performer, often fighting on a monthly basis. While she has lost five in a row, her losses have come at the hands of high quality female fighters such as Megumi Fujii, Hisae Watanabe and Lisa Ward among others. Meanwhile, Takabayashi has built up a solid résumé over the last two years, and will Yoshida will be her stiffest test to date.
On the whole, the bulk of the pro Shooto card is not as strong as the previous BATTLE MIX TOKYO cards. If there are identifiable highlights on the undercard, they are a 123-pound rookie tournament bout between Kenji Hosoya and Yosuke Ebihara, which will see the winner advance to the tournament final, and a bout between current 132-pound tournament competitor Junya Kudou and Atsushi Asano.
The bout is a go-between of sorts for Kudou, who is awaiting the scheduling of his rookie tournament semifinal bout against Yasuhiro Kanayama. Where the bout may serve as a springboard for Kudou, Asano, who recently began training with KILLER BEE, will look simply to get back on the winning track after entertaining, but disappointing bouts in a loss to Teriyuki Matsumoto and a draw with Kazuya Tamura.
The real feature attraction, however, is the milestone main event.
Since its inception in 2003, professional Shooto's 115-pound class has been slow to develop, typically with few fighters advancing from the amateur ranks to the pros, and fewer fighters actively competing once they've obtained their professional licenses. However, recent months have seen the emergence of quality flyweight fighters, and in turn, the first two Class A Shooto promotions of 115-pounders in "ATCH Anarchy" Atsushi Takeuchi and Takehiro Harusaki.
Now, just a few months after their respective Class A promotions, the two foremost flyweights will square off in essentially a defacto crowning of Shooto's flyweight champion. However, Shooto authorities have stated that their goal, though ambitious, is to sanction a 115-pound Shooto world title match-up by late 2008. With this in mind, a fight between Harusaki and Takeuchi takes on greater gravity, as a win for either man positions him as the lead horse in the division with possible title implications on the horizon.
Welterweight semis slots at stake at Sunday's CAGE FORCE
The ongoing highlight of Greatest Common Multiple's promoting in 2007 has been its CAGE FORCE tournament action. This Sunday at Differ Ariake in Tokyo, GCM return with CAGE FORCE: EX-eastern bound. This card will feature CAGE FORCE tourney action in the form of two 170-pound tournament quarterfinal bouts, to bring the welterweight bracket up to speed.
After a pectoral muscle injury to his fellow countryman Justin Turtle, Australian Matt Cain will step into the 170-pound tournament against Noboru Asahi pupil Yoshiyuki Yoshida. Though Cain himself is coming off of a rib injury, he is reportedly at 100 percent.
The Aussie import will need to be at full strength against Yoshida, who has emerged as a talented 170-pound prospect, with his wholesale destruction of former welterweight King of Pancrase Katsuya Inoue in March. The winner of the bout will move on to the tournament semifinal on Sept. 8 against former Shooto world champion Akira Kikuchi, the prohibitive tournament favorite.
The main event is the evening's most intriguing bout. In the same vein as last month's Yoshiro Maeda-Danny Batten bout in Pancrase, the card's final contest will pit current welterweight King of Pancrase Daizo Ishige against current CageWarriors welterweight champion Danny Batten. The sambo specialist Ishige last saw action in Dec., taking out Kenji Arai by unanimous decision, while Hardy took a tune-up bout in preparation for Ishige, choking out Holland's Willy Ni in his native England. The winner of the anticipated quarterfinal will move on to meet Hidetaka Monma on Sept. 8.
The undercard will play on the dominant theme of kyokushin stars making their transitions to MMA. Karateka Naoji Mikoshiba will take on Keitaro Maeda, while Tetsuo Seto will meet Hideki Miyatani. The most high profile of the kyokushin converts, former kyokushin star Yoshinori Ikeda, who has fought in both HERO'S and CAGE FORCE previously, will face a stiff test in rugged PUREBRED brawler "ISE" Toshikazu Iseno.
K-GRACE's debut graces Tokyo Sunday
One of the most dominant currents of mixed martial arts in 2007 has been the spotlight on the sport's female contingent. Promotions such as EliteXC and bodogFIGHT have given face time to female fighters, which has inspired smaller promoters to give other femmes the chance to shine on the local level. Moreover, MMA's established queens have emerged as true names in the sport.
Resultantly, the timing could not be more apt for K-GRACE, a new MMA venue engineered by Wajyutsu Keisyukai affiliate Marupro Gym. This Sunday at Differ Ariake in Tokyo, immediately following up the CAGE FORCE card, which takes place earlier that day at the same venue. K-GRACE will put on an eight-woman, one-night open-weight tournament, with a purse of $10,000 USD up for grabs.
Despite the card being less than a week away, no official line-up has been announced. Former Smackgirl open-weight champion Megumi Yabushita, bodog veteran Roxanne Modaferri, Dutch star Marloes Coenen, Polish shidokan champion Magdalena Jarecka, and Lithunian Muay Thai champion Jurgita Leitonaite are all confirmed to compete. A complete line-up will likely be announced in the next few days.
The K-GRACE project will be the first Japanese promotion to utilize a cage for female MMA since Ladies Legends Pro Wrestling's L-1 events years ago. Under the direction of CAGE FORCE and HERO'S rule director Gen Isono, the bouts will use a rule structure akin to HERO'S, with neither elbows nor knees allowed on the ground. Tournament bouts will feature two three-minute rounds, with super-fights utilizing two five-minute rounds.
Tetsuma Yamada, who has stated that his current aim is to run three cards per year under the K-GRACE banner, will produce the event. Yamada is currently the managing editor of lowbrow newspaper Naitai Sports, better known as "Naispo," as well as the head of the Japan Adult Entertainment Industry Writers Association. He is connected to the product through the Naitai Group firm, who sponsor the Marupro Gym.
Rib crack fractures June Son-Kadowaki bout
Fanjin Son has been forced out of his June 2 bout with Hideki Kadowaki due to a fracture of his left fifth rib during training. The Son-Kadowaki bout was slated to be the co-feature of the SHOOTING DISCO 1 card, alongside the main event between former Shooto world champion Mamoru Yamaguchi and Yusei Shimokawa.
The 4-1 Son has emerged as one of Shooto's best up-and-coming fighters at 143 pounds. A very potent puncher, Son has won three in a row, with his lone career loss being a majority decision loss to now-Shooto world champion Akitoshi Tamura, The bout, easily the biggest of Son's career, would have given him the opportunity to earn his Class A Shooto license with a win over the veteran Kadowaki.
No replacement will be named for Son, thereby canceling the bout. It isn't known whether Shooto promoters will reschedule the bout for later this year. The June 2 card will continue with seven bouts, with a 123-pound rematch between Masaaki Sugawara and Toshimichi Akagi now becoming the semifinal bout of the evening.
Takeuchi the last stand For Pancrasists on bodogFIGHT
After disappointing performances by Pancrasists, it's up to Izuru Takeuchi to make a prominent impression this week.
Having signed a cooperative deal in late January, Pancrase sent four competitors to participate in the taping of bodogFIGHT's third season in Costa Rica this past February. However, thus far, none of the Pancrase representatives have turned up wins, with Takeuchi's teammate Takuya Wada dropping a decision to Stephen Haigh, WINDY Tomomi suffering a horrific leg injury against Rosi Sexton, and Yoshiki Takahashi's unceremonious eye injury halting his bout against Mark Burch.
The fourth and final of the Pancrase competitors to compete in the series, Takeuchi, will square off with American bodog veteran Kyacey Uscola in the season's seventh episode, airing May 29 on Ion Television. The World Combat Sambo Championships silver medalist and Combat Wrestling national champion has seen action since the taped bout, knocking off veteran Daisuke Watanabe back in the Pancrase ring in April.
WINDY and Kondo's roads to recovery
After sustaining her now-infamous leg injury in a televised bout with England's Rosi Sexton during this season's bodogFIGHT, there was much talk and speculation from fans about the current status of WINDY Tomomi, given the apparent extent of her injury.
A Pancrase official has confirmed that Tomomi underwent a surgery in Costa Rica to reattach and reset her dislocated ankle. However, after returning to Japan, Tomomi consulted with her physician, who diagnosed her as needing further surgeries due to complications with the screw anchorage, as well as a case of osteomyelitis.
To date, Tomomi has undergone four surgeries, but is on the road to recovery, already utilizing weight training in her rehabilitation. It is expected that she will make her return by October, and the feared female striker has stated that she hopes to rematch Sexton upon her return.
Furthermore, Pancrase icon Yuki Kondo is also in the process of making a comeback. Kondo underwent surgery on Jan. 10 to repair a fractured right hand, suffered in his lackluster split decision loss to Akihiro Gono on New Year's Eve. Kondo had a wire inserted into the damaged hand, which was expected to be removed in approximately two months time. With subsequent rehabilitation, he was expected to make his return in May or June.
However, Kondo reportedly has yet to have the wire surgically removed from his hand. While Kondo is currently rumored to face Trevor Prangley as part of bodogFIGHT's July PPV event, Pancrase officials have stated that there are no confirmed bouts for Kondo on the horizon, and that he will not compete until his management can assure he is in peak condition, and fully recovered from his hand injury.
Newborn PRIDE's debut In Nagoya nixed for now?
Finally, another turn in the ever-twisting saga involving the newborn PRIDE Fighting Championships.
In the midst of mounting criticisms and concerns regarding the transaction of PRIDE assets to the newly established PRIDE FC Worldwide Holdings LLC, the proposed July 16 opening of the 2007 Lightweight Grand Prix at Nagoya's Nippon Gaishi Hall (formerly the Nagoya Rainbow Hall) is now on the rocks.
The Nagoya Education and Sports Promotion Agency has removed the card from the scheduled calendar of events for the Nippon Gaishi Hall, fueling speculations that the event has been canceled, obviously due to the extended delay in the PRIDE asset transfer.
Representatives from the Nippon Gaishi Hall staff have revealed that the event was removed from the site not because of an official cancellation, but because they are presently uncertain whether or not the event will take place. While the event is not officially canceled, there is obviously considerable cause for concern about the likelihood of the event. The event was already rescheduled, with the card being originally scheduled for May 30 at the Saitama Super Arena.
It is now thought that if the asset sale between Dream Stage Entertainment and the upstart PRIDE Worldwide Holdings does occur in the near future, the first event under the new ownership will take place August in Tokyo.
Jordan Breen covers mixed martial arts for Sherdog.com