Koubousen Companion: News and Notes From Japan

News and Notes From Japan

By Jordan Breen Mar 14, 2007
No UFC. No PRIDE. No problem.

Many MMA fans, now having come to grips with Randy Couture's (Pictures) stunning snatch of the UFC heavyweight championship, have written off the month of March as a motionless one for mixed martial arts. While a frenzy of high profile events are on tap for April, there is no reason to be pining to turn over the calendar page just yet.

One of those April cards will feature a strong Japanese presence in the Octagon, when the UFC hits The Pearl in Las Vegas. Perhaps the most anticipated of the four match-ups featuring Japanese competitors was a scheduled showdown between Kuniyoshi Hironaka (Pictures) and Jeff Joslin (Pictures). However, the injury bug has bit again, and cut the Canadian content of the card. So, who is now in the crosshairs of one of Japan's BJJ elite?

But, as I said, March still has some madness yet, and much of it comes from across the Pacific. This weekend has a trifecta of back-to-back-to-back bangers in Tokyo, with a Shooto/CAGE FORCE/Pancrase combo. Later this week, I'll serve you a full Shooto preview, but until then, you'll be indulged with a look at the CAGE FORCE 155- and 170-pound tournaments, complete with Octagon implications, as well as the superhero-laden workouts of DJ.taiki, and peek at a Pancrase card primed with prospects, and a great promotional gimmick in Japan vs. Spetsnaz.

This past weekend had some happenings of its own, with high profile offerings from Smackgirl and HERO'S. Coming off of its doubleheader at Shinjuku FACE, Smackgirl has crystallized some of the schedule for the coming months, with charms of championship contests. Meanwhile, HERO'S has a host of happenings to discuss, from ratings, to rule changes, to the accelerating hype around its alleged American endeavor.

Joslin injury puts Petz in against Hironaka

Another injury has hit the UFC's next Fight Night card, scheduled for April 5 at The Pearl, in Las Vegas. Coming off of a loss to rising 170-pound star Jon Fitch (Pictures) in his UFC debut this past Oct., Kuniyoshi Hironaka (Pictures) was scheduled to make his second foray into the Octagon against tough Canadian Jeff Joslin (Pictures), who also was unsuccessful in his first Octagon bid this past January against Josh Koscheck (Pictures). However the injury bug, which had already struck scheduled competitors Frank Mir (Pictures) and Anthony Torres, has forced Joslin off the card.

Replacing Joslin against the Japanese BJJ ace will be two-time UFC veteran Forrest Petz (Pictures). Like Hironaka, Petz is coming off of a loss in the UFC this past Oct., when he was submitted by TUF 2 alum Marcus Davis. Hironaka elated some excitement in the switch from the very well-rounded Joslin to the striking-oriented Petz, saying that he was excited to have an opponent who would definitely rather strike with him, and that he hoped to show off his own striking abilities in the cage.

The April 5 Fight Night card will feature a pronounced Japanese influence. In addition to Hironaka, Shooto Pacific Rim champion "K-Taro" Keita Nakamura (Pictures) will take on the battle-tested Drew Fickett (Pictures) and ZST standout Naoyuki Kotani (Pictures) will take on hot Brazilian prospect Thiago Tavares (Pictures). On the main televised portion of the card, veteran Dokonjonosuke Mishima (Pictures) will look for better luck in his second go-around in the Octagon, meeting former UFC lightweight title contender Kenny Florian (Pictures).

Octagon ambitions on the line Saturday in CAGE FORCE

Back in January, Greatest Common Multiple announced that its biggest goal in 2007 would be to organize two tournaments with the help of Worldwide Cage Network associates that would be able to showcase strong international talent. These tournaments would not only offer the opportunity for talent to test their meddle against other strong international competitors, but ideally give the tournament winners the opportunity to compete in the UFC. This Saturday's CAGE FORCE at the Differ Ariake in Tokyo will be a huge step for that initiative.

On the eve of what will be their most important promotion to date, GCM has finally released more definitive tournament brackets and given some greater impression as to the scheduling of the tournaments over the course of the year. The 155-pound tournament will feature a total of 15 competitors, two of which have already advanced, and two of which have already been eliminated.

Last month in Tottori, GCM ran a CAGE FORCE card with two lightweight tournament bouts that saw Wataru Miki (Pictures) defeat Yasunori Kanehara, and Takumi Nakayama (Pictures) get past Yoichi Fukumoto.

This Saturday's card features opening round bouts in the lightweight tournament between former Shooto Pacific Rim champion Koutetsu Boku (Pictures) and Jarkko Latomaki, the representative from Finnish promotion The Cage; PRIDE veteran Eiji Mitsuoka (Pictures) and American Pangea Fights representative Brian Cobb (Pictures); Cage Warriors tournament winner Tomonari Kanomata (Pictures) and 18-year-old Aussie "Dinosaur" Jacob Sidic, the representative from Down Under promotion Warriors Realm; journeyman Wataru Takahashi (Pictures) and South Korea's In Seok Kim (Pictures); and in perhaps the most intriguing of the lightweight contests, ex-Spetsnaz officer Artur Oumakhanov (Pictures) and Hawaiian brawler Kaynan Kaku (Pictures), representing Rumble on the Rock.

The fifteenth competitor in the 155-pound bracket has to be determined, but will be seeded in the quarterfinals against the winner of Boku-Latomaki. The winner of Cobb-Mitsuoka will face the already advanced Takumi Nakayama (Pictures), while the winner of Oumakhanov-Kaku will meet Wataru Miki (Pictures).

The remaining lightweight quarterfinal will be between the winners of Kim-Takahashi and Sidic-Kanomata. While not yet officially scheduled, it is likely that the quarterfinals will be held on June 9, with the semifinals falling Sept. 8, and the finals on Dec. 1.

The 170-pound tournament features nine competitors, six of whom will be in action this Saturday: former Shooto world champion Akira Kikuchi (Pictures) will take on American Pangea Fights rep Jared Rollins (Pictures); former King of Pancrase Katsuya Inoue (Pictures) squares off with Noboru Asahi student Yoshiyuki Yoshida (Pictures); and HERO'S veteran Hidetaka Monma (Pictures) faces Janne Tulirinta, representing Finland's The Cage.

The bout between Inoue and Yoshida is not a quarterfinal bout — the winner will advance to face seeded competitor Justin Turtle, representing Australia's Warriors Realm. The quarterfinal between Turtle and the winner of Yoshida-Inoue will likely take place on May 27, alongside the fourth quarterfinal bout between English Cage Warriors champion "The Outlaw" Dan Hardy and current welterweight King of Pancrase Daizo Ishige (Pictures). This would allow for the semifinals and finals of the 170-pound bracket to take place alongside those of the 155-pound bracket on Sept. 8 and Dec. 1.

Taiki's ‘spidey senses' hype prime Pancrase line-up

If the Japan vs. Spetsnaz theme was not enough to get you interested in this Sunday's stop on Pancrase's 2007 RISING TOUR, perhaps this will be.

On Sunday, the ever-eccentric Daiki Hata (Pictures), better known as DJ.taiki, held his open workout for the media at the P's LAB Tokyo gym in Hiroo, Tokyo in preparation for his bout with Djavathan Salmanov, a former All-Russia military grappling champion. Ever the showman, and a fan of costume play, Taiki took to the ring donning a Spiderman outfit, complete with blue gloves and red shin guards. His sparring partner for the afternoon wore an all-black ensemble, topped off with a Batman mask.

Taiki began the sparring session by allowing his partner to batter him, offering little offense of his own. Taiki then suddenly locked up a quick triangle choke, and began to drop repeated hammerfists onto his victim. Hata then demonstrated a new techinique, which he dubbed "The Spiderlock" — the inspiration for his superhero-themed workout — by inserting his own arm through his legs, and across the throat of his training partner. Taiki's training partner fell unconscious in the hold, cutting the scheduled five-minute sparring session short after only three minutes.

"I know nothing about him, except his face and birth date," Taiki joked in regard to his opponent, Djavathan Salmanov. However, the young firebrand surprised the media in attendance by saying that he wasn't concerned at all that Salmanov may be similar to rising Russian prospect Artur Oumakhanov (Pictures).

"The Special Forces practice with knives, so maybe he can shine if he brings weapons. But Oumakhanov can't strike well at all. It's really only his takedowns that are good," said Hata, who is coming off of a win in the New Japan Kickboxing Federation.

Despite his stated ambitions to fight overseas and even in HERO'S, Taiki was also acutely aware of where he stands as a competitor right now, stating, "I was a title challenger once. When you lose, it lowers the value of other fighters. When Maeda lost in PRIDE, my stock fell, and I couldn't fight elsewhere."

In addition to Hata's bout with Salmanov, this Sunday's Japan vs. Spetsnaz three-on-three feature will see Ichiro Kanai (Pictures) try to build on a three-fight winning streak against Russian Pankration champion Gadzhiev Alavutdin. Also, Pancrase mainstay Koji Oishi (Pictures) will meet Djalili Salmanov (Pictures), who makes his second trip to compete in Japan having already fought under GCM's Demolition of Octagon Gear (now CAGE FORCE) banner.

The sudden surge in Russian special-forces officers in Japanese promotions has come at the hands of Tenshin Matsumoto, the head of Japanese sambo-based fight team SK Absolute. Following a trip to Vladivostok in March 2006, Matsumoto began facilitating their participation in Japanese promotions under the banner of SK Absolute Russia, beginning with Artur Oumakhanov (Pictures) and Djalili Salmanov (Pictures) in GCM this past Nov.

Also, on the card, while less promotionally provocative than Japan vs. Spetsnaz, is a showcase match-up for young heavy hitter Ryo Kawamura (Pictures), who will meet hapless veteran Hiromitsu Kanehara (Pictures), in an attempt for promoters to continue to build the star of the young Pancrasist. Lightweight upstart Shoji and established journeyman Yuji Hoshino (Pictures) will square off in a compelling bout. Hoshino, who has only one loss in his last nine fights, will be the first real test for Pancrase's newest KO kid, and should provide an answer as to whether or not Shoji, who has thus far looked like a human wrecking ball, is a true prospect to be watched.
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