Koubousen Companion: News and Notes From Japan

News and Notes From Japan

By Jordan Breen Oct 7, 2006
Another seven days brings us a bevy of news bites. We all know Kazushi Sakuraba (Pictures)'s injury situation, but could a long awaited match with shoot-style rival Tamura be on the horizon? Meanwhile another catch-influenced veteran in Yuki Kondo (Pictures) can't seem to catch a break, as he disappointed in Osaka last weekend, making many people wonder if he can right his ship or if he's steadily sinking.

Pancrase and GCM have been busy retooling and revamping. Much has changed in the Pancrase divisional rankings and that includes the ranking ideology. And GCM has demolished its "octagon gear" and is ready to make their cage a force both domestically and internationally with the Worldwide Cage Network.

Shooto's rookies have been battling all year long, and now the rookie tournament finals are all just about set. Meanwhile, a rookie in its own right, young promotion MARS has had its growing pains and early struggles, but its MFC connections and efforts in the bodogFIGHT project are giving the new organization some stability, as well as visibility.

The HERO'S 154-pound and 187-pound tournaments wrap up on September 9, and the competitors for the Yokohama Arena card have been having their one-on-one time with the fight media. Judo gis, golden gloves, visualization techniques, knocking out your training partners, and death threats from Akira Maeda (Pictures) — nothing is off limits when the stars of HERO'S get in front of the camera.

Slivers of hope for shoot style legends' showdown

Kiyoshi Tamura (Pictures) versus Kazushi Sakuraba (Pictures) is a match that many fans have dreamt about for the better part of a decade. And while serious talk of the bout hasn't yet been resurrected, there is a glimmer of hope.

With the window of opportunity for such a bout rapidly closing for both men, especially Sakuraba, it seemed fairly unlikely that the bout between the former shoot-style puroresu stars would ever materialize. However, Tamura recently revealed to Japanese pro-wrestling and MMA magazine Kami no Puroresu that it would be "very easy" for him to secure a fight in HERO'S, likely due to his connections with Akira Maeda (Pictures).

Tamura downplayed the idea that he would be competing in HERO'S any time soon, saying that it may create problems within U-FILE CAMP. However, given the recent injuries to Sakuraba, Fight Entertainment Group and Sadaharu Tanigawa may consider making Sakuraba's last handful of bouts in the near future meaningful ones — and perhaps no fight, save for the mythical encounter with Rickson Gracie, would be as pertinent to the career of Sakuraba as a bout with his rival Tamura.

Kondo's crux continues in Osaka

Pancrase star Yuki Kondo (Pictures) hit a detour on his road to getting back on track in the fight game.

This past Sunday in Osaka, Kondo fought to a sobering and humbling majority draw with France's Jean Francois Lenogue (Pictures). The bout came just over a month after Kondo made his Pancrase return by successfully defending his Pancrase 199-pound title against Daijiro Matsui (Pictures) at the August.

Kondo announced he was eager to get back into the ring, and when it was announced that Lenogue would be his opponent, it was the general consensus that Kondo would notch another win.

It was uninspiring and disappointing for Kondo. Lenogue's professional résumé pales in comparison to Kondo's, with losses to English mid-carders Alex Reid (Pictures) and Sol Gilbert (Pictures), and a loss earlier this year to the Czech Republic's Andre Reinders. On paper, it seemed a no-brainer, but Kondo was lackluster in the ring, unable to effectively strike off the counter, and failing with half-hearted leglock attempts.

Kondo was even in the unusual position of being the larger man, coming in at 194 pounds, while Lenogue came in at 188 pounds. However, even with the size advantage, Kondo was unable to mount any notable offense through the course of the fight.

Criticism has poured in from fans, and Kondo himself. Kondo said his performance in the bout was "useless" and that he realized he still had much training to do to get back into shape. Some fans have stated that Kondo's moment may have passed, and that he appears to be on the tail end of his career after nearly 70 bouts during almost 11 years as a pro.

Conversely, many fans have been quick to point out that Kondo has gone through uninspired slumps before which have led to lackluster performances against outmatched opponents: his loss to Yoshinori Momose and his draw with Gabriel Vella (Pictures) being two prime examples.

Whatever the case may be for Pancrase's star, the next phase in the righting of Kondo's ship will likely be in December. PANCRASEism has announced they will sponsor the year's final card on the Pancrase 2006 BLOW TOUR and Kondo may be able to use his disappointment against Lenogue as inspiration, as the December 10 card at Differ Ariake will afford him another opportunity to regain his form as a top-flight competitor.

Pancrase revamps rankings with new rationale

With three new champions wearing Pancrase titles, the King of Pancrase Executive Committee released its latest rankings on Wednesday. However, the changes went beyond a new trio of fighters taking the championship slots.

The King of Pancrase Executive Committee has revealed that in an effort to better reflect participation and success within the organization, that they would now adopt a more stringent, pro-Pancrase style of ranking. Under the new ranking guidelines, fighters who have not competed in Pancrase in 365 days, or those fighters who do not intend to compete in Pancrase in the future, will be excluded or removed from the rankings.

This policy put into place for the October rankings considerably pruned the depth of the divisional rankings. The super heavyweight class for 220-plus pounders had four fighters ranked in the August rankings: Mike Kyle (Pictures), Ron Waterman (Pictures), Anthony Netzler (Pictures), and Alex Roberts. All four fighters have now been removed, leaving the divisional ranking bare.

The 199-pound light heavyweight class was reduced from 10 ranked competitors, including long-departed faces such as Gustavo Machado (Pictures) and David Terrell (Pictures) to a slim three. The 181-pound middleweight class was also sheared to a tidy three fighters from formerly nine ranked fighters, including past competitors such as Yushin Okami (Pictures) and Kazuo Misaki (Pictures).

Additionally, the committee has announced its first set of rankings for the lightweight and featherweight classes. For what seems like an eternity, Pancrase listed the 152-pound and 141-pound divisions' rankings as "To Be Announced." The rankings now boast three ranked 152-pounders, including the eccentric Takumi Yano (Pictures) and longtime veteran Takafumi Ito (Pictures), while the 141-pound division has ranked the division's young nucleus of talent including "DJ.taiki" Daiki Hata (Pictures), Miki Shida (Pictures) and Atsushi Yamamoto (Pictures).

Official Pancrase Rankings, As Of October 4, 2006:

Open-Weight
C (C) Josh Barnett (Pictures) (AMC Pankration) - The tenth open-weight KOP

Super Heavyweight (+220 Pounds)
C (C) Vacant

Heavyweight (200 Pounds)
C (-) Kestutis Arbocius (Pictures) (Latvia Shidokan) - The second heavyweight KOP
1 (1) Poai Suganuma (Pictures) (TWIST)
2 (2) Hideki Tadao (Pictures) (Wajyutsu Keisyukai RJW)

Light Heavyweight (199 Pounds)
C (C) Yuki Kondo (Pictures) (PANCRASEism) - The third light heavyweight KOP
1 (4) Kestutis Arbocius (Pictures) (Latvia Shidokan)
2 (5) Daijiro Matsui (Pictures) (Freelance)
3 (-) Ryo Kawamura (Pictures) (PANCRASEism)

Middleweight (181 Pounds)
C (C) Nathan Marquardt (Pictures) (High Altitude Martial Arts) - The fifth middleweight KOP
1 (1) Izuru Takeuchi (Pictures) (SK Absolute)
2 (5) Yuichi Nakanishi (Pictures) (Freelance)
3 (6) Hikaru Sato (Pictures) (Freelance)

Welterweight (165 Pounds)
C (1) Daizo Ishige (Pictures) (SK Absolute) - The second welterweight KOP
1 (C) Katsuya Inoue (Pictures) (Wajyutsu Keisyukai RJW)
2 (2) Satoru Kitaoka (Pictures) (PANCRASEism)
3 (3) Carlos Condit (Pictures) (Fighters In Training NHB)
4 (5) Koji Oishi (Pictures) (PANCRASEism)
5 (10) Robert Emerson (Pictures) (No Limits)

Lightweight (152 Pounds)
C (C) Vacant
1 (1) Takumi Yano (Pictures) (Ugokai)
2 (2) Takafumi Ito (Pictures) (PANCRASEism)
3 (3) Naoki Seki (Pictures) (RISE FIGHT CLUB)

Featherweight (141 Pounds)
(C) (-) Yoshiro Maeda (Pictures) (Pancrase Inagakigumi) - The first featherweight KOP
(1) (-) Daiki Hata (Pictures) (KIBA)
(2) (-) Miki Shida (Pictures) (P's LAB Tokyo)
(3) (-) Atsushi Yamamoto (Pictures) (KILLER BEE)
(4) (-) Manabu Inoue (Pictures) (UWF Snakepit Japan)
(5) (-) Mitsuhisa Sunabe (Pictures) (REAL)

GCM drops DOG, founds CAGE FORCE

Japanese promoter Greatest Common Multiple announced late last week that keeping in tune with the formation of the Worldwide Cage Network, it would be retooling its cagefighting program.

The Worldwide Cage Network initiative, spearheaded by GCM, seeks to develop an environment for international talent to develop, and for fighters to gain international experience with the free exchange of talent between the promotions. In addition to GCM's cage promotion, the WWCN boasts Britain's Cage Warriors, Finland's The Cage, Australia's Warrior's Realm, the United States' Pangea Fights, and now recently added Hawaii's Rumble on the Rock to their line-up.

GCM announced from their offices in Tokyo on September 28 that its cagefighting series, previously known as Demolition of Octagon Gear, will now be known as CAGE FORCE, a name concocted by Caol Uno (Pictures).

According to the promotion, the name change comes as both as a symbol of starting anew with the Worldwide Cage Network and due to the seemingly late realization that the title 'Demolition of Octagon Gear' is nonsensical in the English language.

GCM representatives have stated that the ultimate goals of the WWCN are to foster the development of fighters on the international stage, and also to possibly facilitate the promotion of international talent to the Ultimate Fighting Championship, which GCM has identified as the premiere cagefighting organization in the world. To that end, GCM announced that the rules for CAGE FORCE will now mirror those of the UFC, using the sanctioned weight classes, and elbow strikes.

At the press conference, the aforementioned Caol Uno (Pictures) addressed the necessity of a cagefighting venue in Japan.

"There's a difference between fighting in the ring and fighting in the cage that only a person who has fought in both can understand," said Uno. "It's not that there's something magic about the UFC, but it can be hard to show your true strength. We want to make a venue where you can show your strength in the cage."

GCM revealed that the first CAGE FORCE card would take place November 25 at the Differ Ariake in Tokyo. The card line-up features GCM regular Taiyo Nakahara (Pictures) meeting Australia's Adrian Pang, on loan from WWCN affiliate Warrior's Realm, as well as a bout between former 165-pound King of Pancrase Katsuya Inoue (Pictures) and Combat Wrestling national champion and leglock master Takefumi Hanai (Pictures). UFC veteran Yushin Okami (Pictures) is also scheduled to compete.

Rookie throne bouts around the corner for Shooto newcomers

With three rookie semifinals taking place at the latest installment of Shooto at Kitazawa Town Hall this past Sunday, six of the seven rookie tournament finals are now set.

At the GUTSMAN Shooto Dojo sponsored Kitazawa card, Rumina Sato (Pictures)-inspired rookie and 2005 All-Japan amateur Shooto 114-pound champion Shinya Murofushi armbarred Hiroyuki Ikeda; 123-pounder Ryuichi Miki took a majority decision over 2005 All-Japan amateur Shooto 123-pound champion Ayumu Shioda; and the 2005 All-Japan amateur Shooto 143-pound champion and Combat Wrestling national champion Masakazu Ueda showcased newly found striking ability, punching his way though Naoki Yahagi to the 132-pound final.

With these victories, only the 167-pound tournament remains without a set final. This will change on October 14, when Yuki Konishi and Yoshitaro Niimi square off at Shooto's Yokohama card. The winner will then meet prohibitive tournament favorite and 2004 All Japan amateur Shooto 183-pound champion Taisuke Okuno in the final.

The present line-up for the rookie tournament finales is as follows. Bouts with yet-to-be-scheduled dates will likely be contested at the November 30 card at Kitazawa Town Hall, or the December 2 card at Shinjuku FACE:

114 pounds (date undecided): Shinya Murofushi (SUBMIT Shizuoka) vs. Hiroaki Takezawa (Wajyutsu Keisyukai RJW G2)
123 pounds (date undecided)- Takuya Mori (Pictures) (Paraestra Sapporo) vs. Ryuichi Miki (GUTSMAN Shooto Dojo)
132 pounds (date undecided) - Masakazu Ueda (Paraestra Tokyo) vs. Teriyuki Matsumoto (Pictures) (Shooting Gym Osaka)
143 pounds (October 14 at Pacific Yokohama National Convention Center) - "Wicky" Akiyo Nishiura (Pictures) (Shooting Gym Yokohama) vs. Daisuke Ishizawa (Pictures)
154 pounds (November 10 at Korakuen Hall) - Shinji Sasaki (Pictures) (BURST) vs. Yoshihiro Koyama (Pictures) (Paraestra Matsudo)
167 pounds (date undecided) - Taisuke Okuno (GUTSMAN Shooto Dojo) vs. (Winner of Yuki Konishi vs. Yoshitaro Niimi on October 14)
183 pounds (date undecided) - Mitsuhiro Takeda (Paraestra Hakodate) vs. Atsushi Matsuki (North Kings Gym)

MARS gets into bodogFIGHT with offer bouts and secret matches

Fledgling promotion MARS got back into the saddle on Wednesday with its bodogfight01 card at Shinjuku FACE. The card prominently featured their relationship with the U.S.-based Mixed Fighting Championships and the bodogFIGHT project, with many of the night's bouts being billed as auditions for the MFC and bodogFIGHT.

The fights between Un Sik Song and Matteus Lahdesmaki, Kareem Ellington and Edmund Calvancanti, and Lee San Soo and Jarno Nurminen were all billed as "bodogFIGHT Offer Bouts" in which the winners would be given the opportunity to compete at Mixed Fighting Championships' February 2007 pay-per-view event in the United States.

All three bouts are also scheduled for broadcast in the United States, likely as part of the second series of bodogFIGHT, the MMA reality television show airing in the United States on the Men's Outdoor and Recreation channel.

As well, 154-pound competitors Akihiko Mori, Atsuhiro Tsuboi (Pictures), Tashiro Nishiuchi and Do Hyeong Kim all won quarterfinal bouts in an eight-man MFC Challenge tournament. The semifinals and finals of the tournament will be held in December, with the winner of the tournament also competing at the scheduled MFC pay-per-view event this coming February.

However, perhaps the most intriguing part of the card was that which few people got to see. MARS selected 15 lucky ticket holders to sit ringside before the event officially started for a secret bout to be broadcast as part of the next season of bodogFIGHT, which is thought to premiere in December or January. All 15 fans were required to sign non-disclosure agreements, keeping mum about the bout until its broadcast, much as was required for the MFC event in Costa Rica which has formed the substance of the first season of bodogFIGHT.

While there is little hard evidence to back it, rumors persist in the Japanese mixed martial arts scene that one of the participants in the secret bout is former UFC Japan tournament winner Kenichi Yamamoto (Pictures). Yamamoto has prior experience with the MFC, having lost to Kareem Ellington last June at MFC's USA vs. Russia 3.
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