Yamaguchi Stuns Tsuji at Valkyrie 4

By Jordan Breen Feb 11, 2010
February 11, 2010 marks the 20th anniversary of the greatest upset in combat sports history, as two decades ago in Tokyo, 32-to-1 underdog James "Buster" Douglas felled unbeaten and seemingly unstoppable heavyweight champion Mike Tyson.

Today, not far from the Tokyo Dome where Tyson hit the mat in the 10th round, women's MMA witnessed a major upset of its own.

In the headliner of Greatest Common Multiple’s fourth edition of Valkyrie -- the all-female offshoot of its main series, Cage Force -- perennial pound-for-pound elite Yuka Tsuji barely lasted past a minute against upstart Mei Yamaguchi, who snatched the promotion’s 115-pound title with a rear-naked choke in just 76 seconds.

Shock aside, the finish was standard: on the second double-leg attempt by Tsuji, Yamaguchi simply sprawled, turned the corner, took the back and choked out “The Vale Tudo Queen from Angura.” It was just the second loss for Tsuji in her 24-fight career and her first since falling to Ana Michelle Tavares, in a defeat she would later avenge, in July 2003.

Tsuji had previously outwrestled Yamaguchi to a unanimous decision victory at the inaugural Valkyrie card in November 2008. The 27-year-old Yamaguchi rebounded last year, taking wins over Emi Fujino and Kyoko Takabayashi in a four-woman title elimination tournament to earn the right to rematch Tsuji.

Although the outcome represents the biggest upset of 2010 so far, it is not exactly akin to Tyson-Douglas. However, the ramifications of Tsuji’s defeat are what most profoundly recall Tyson’s tumble in Tokyo 20 years ago.

Opening 1990, Tyson’s bout with Douglas was a tune-up fight, as the world awaited a showdown with fellow unbeaten Evander Holyfield. Similarly, Tsuji’s entire career at this juncture has been treated like an appetizer to an elusive showdown with fellow standout Megumi Fujii.

With the paucity of elite female talent in mixed martial arts, exceptional women are rare in general, much less in the same weight class. However, since 2004, fans have anticipated a meeting between Fujii and Tsuji, who ruled the 115-pound division with respective iron fists. However, for whatever reasons, no promotion -- from Smackgirl to Deep to GCM -- has expressed serious interest in pairing the two. Now, with the upset loss to Yamaguchi, a level of tarnish has been cast upon the fight, and with both women going on 36, time is not on their side.

However, it should be noted that Tyson and Holyfield did finally square off, albeit seven years after originally desired. Here’s hoping we don’t lose a Fujii-Tsuji bout to circumstance, and that no one bites an ear off if it happens.
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