Shooto Middleweight Title on the Line Saturday


By Jordan Breen Feb 16, 2007
Nicely bridging the gap between the major North American mixed martial arts happenings in early and late February, leading Shooto promoter Sustain's choice to permanently move its December super-cards to February is already paying off nicely.

The undeniable highlight of a great weekend of Japanese mixed martial arts, Feb. 17's card at Pacifico Yokohama boasts a sensational line-up of Shooto talent. More importantly, unlike the last time Sustain brought a large scale Shooto card to Yokohama, that aforementioned talent will be utilized in proper fashion, with seven bouts — three of which featuring titles on the line — that should shape the direction of Shooto for 2007.

The night will begin on a high note, with action in the 132-pound class. Making the anticipated move from Pancrase to Shooto, KILLER BEE's Atsushi Yamamoto (Pictures) will hop into the ring with hard-hitting Takeya Mizugaki (Pictures), in a match-up pitting a former Pancrase rookie champion against a former Shooto rookie ace.

Intrigue and anticipation are high for a pair of 154-pound rematches. Looking to avenge a loss to the last man to beat him, former Pacific Rim champion Koutetsu Boku (Pictures) will step into the ring with Kenichiro Togashi (Pictures), and attempt to redeem himself after his submission loss over three and a half years ago.

Meanwhile, potent prospects Ganjo Tentsuku (Pictures) and Yusuke Endo (Pictures) are no strangers to one another, having squared off in Dec. 2005, when Tentsuku's high work rate earned him a unanimous decision. However, both men have since made strides in their young careers, and are on the cusp of stepping into elite competition. Furthermore, the matches take on an even greater significance with former world champion Tatsuya Kawajiri (Pictures) vacating his title, making the winners prime for a title bid.

Speaking of world championships, Shooto's young and charismatic 143-pound king is back in front of his hometown crowd in Yokohama. With the date of his first world championship defense nearing, "Lion" Takeshi Inoue (Pictures) is looking to make a strong statement in a non-title affair against former world title contender Hiroyuki Abe. Meanwhile, Inoue's friend, and fellow Shooting Gym Yokohama teammate Tenkei Fujimiya (Pictures) will climb into the ring for a second meeting with Akitoshi Tamura (Pictures), whom he dispatched in highlight reel fashion this past May with the vacant Pacific Rim title on the line.

Another title will be up for grabs in another compelling 154-pound contest, when 2005 welterweight rookie ace Mizuto Hirota (Pictures) puts his undefeated record on the line against Takashi Nakakura (Pictures). While the vacant Pacific Rim crown will be on the line in the bout, much as with the previous two bouts, a win for either man puts them into direct position for a shot at the Shooto world welterweight title.

And in the main event, one year to day of their last title clash, 2006 breakout star Shinya Aoki (Pictures) puts his Shooto world middleweight title on the line against the man he defeated for the title, Akira Kikuchi (Pictures). The fourth rematch on the seven-fight card is the most compelling, as Kikuchi will seek to become the only man in Shooto history to regain a title he's lost, while Aoki will seek to add to his jaw-dropping list of submission victims.
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