Koubousen Companion: News and Notes from Japan

By Jordan Breen Sep 15, 2006
The finale of PRIDE's Grand Prix seemed to signal more beginning than end, as Japan's mixed martial arts scene is coming to life in the final quarter of 2006.

In this issue of Koubousen Companion we look at Yuki Kondo (Pictures)'s road to recovery in Pancrase, Tomomi Iwama (Pictures)'s road to retirement, PRIDE's broadband availability with one of Japan's most preeminent pornographic e-tailers, and Greatest Common Multiple's Worldwide Cage Network initiative.

Also, we take a look at the Shooto’s Japanese calendar for the rest of 2006, tap into some possibilities emerging for Shooto stars like Tatsuya Kawajiri (Pictures) and Hatsu Hioki (Pictures), and finally recap of the week's media workouts setting the stage for the September 16 edition of Pancrase's 2006 BLOW TOUR.

Kondo scheduled to fight France's Lenogue

Just days after cruising through a successful title defense against Daijiro Matsui (Pictures) on August 27 in Yokohama, Yuki Kondo (Pictures) announced he would fight again as soon as possible. Kondo's Pancrase homecoming will continue on October 1 when he takes on France's Jean Francois Lenogue (Pictures).

Lenogue, who has extensive experience in the early days of Cage Rage, has fought five times this year already, racking up a 3-1-1 record.

Following his devastating knockout loss to Phil Baroni (Pictures) this past April, Kondo announced that he would be taking time off to recuperate and regroup before climbing back into the ring. This bout seems to be a part of a rebuilding process for the longtime Pancrase icon, loser in five of his last eight bouts.

"TAISHO" to face "Barbaro44" in official retirement bout

It was October 28, 2005 when Tomomi "TAISHO" Iwama took a brutal knockout loss at the hands of Yoshiro Maeda (Pictures) in under one minute. After the bout "TAISHO" declared that he would be retiring from mixed martial arts to focus on Brazilian jiu-jitsu competition and training fighters.

Now, "TAISHO" has announced that he will fight his official retirement bout on September 23, against up-and-coming Club Barbarian prospect Yoshihiro "Barbaro44" Tomioka, in the second card from DEEP offshoot promotion HEAT.

This will not be the first time "TAISHO" and "Barbaro44" square off. The two competed in a Brazilian jiu-jitsu match two years ago at Shootboxing's Inspire-S Vol.2 card in a four-man BJJ tournament. In the finals "TAISHO" defeated "Barbaro44" on a referee's decision.

DMM serves up PRIDE downloads

PRIDE will be getting a helping hand from DVD e-tailer and broadband video provider DMM.com in the immediate future.

On September 20, DMM.com, one of the top three companies in the online rental field in Japan, will begin online distribution of the bulk of PRIDE's Grand Prix library. The 2000, 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006 Grand Prix tournaments, encompassing 13 cards in all, will be available for broadband download. Excluded are the 2005 PRIDE Bushido 160-pound and 183-pound Grand Prix events.

Consumers can purchase the rights to view any event for up to a month for 500 yen, roughly $4.25 American. For 2,980 yen ($25 American) the viewing rights for all the Grand Prix events excluding the 2006 Open-Weight Grand Prix cards, can be purchased.

It is worth nothing that DMM.com began in 1999 as solely an adult video e-tailer, and remains one of the biggest adult e-commerce sites in Japan. DMM.com moved the pornographic material to an adult domain in 2003, the same year they began their online DVD rental service. Their rentals expanded to include non-adult films in 2005, and CD rentals in 2006.

GCM spearheads Worldwide Cage Network

Perhaps the most compelling story coming out of the Japanese MMA scene this past week, though not at all exclusive to Japan, is the formation of the Worldwide Cage Network, led by Japan's Greatest Common Multiple.

GCM revealed late last week that it formed a working coalition with a roster of international cage-fighting promotions. GCM stated that the key goals of the Worldwide Cage Network, or WWCN, are to create an environment for international talent to develop, and for fighters to gain international experience with the free exchange of talent between the promotions. As of now the Worldwide Cage Network is comprised of Japan's D.O.G., Britain's Cage Warriors, Finland's The Cage, Australia's Warrior's Realm, and the United States' Pangea Fights.

The press releases for the WWCN have indicated that it is the goal, at least of Greatest Common Multiple, to be able to foster and develop talent that can be promoted to the UFC. While the other organizations within the WWCN have yet to speak in regards to the apparent objective of acting as a unified, international feeder system for the UFC, it certainly presents an outstanding opportunity for Zuffa to groom international prospects, especially with Dana White's claims of increasing the number of cards per year and taking the UFC to foreign markets.

Future directives for the WWCN include unifying the rules and regulations for all WWCN member organizations, from in-fight rules, to weight classes, to glove specifics, as well as securing broadcasting contracts for WWCN-affiliated events in the countries of all participating organizations.

In the meantime organizational negotiations have already begun, as Cage Warriors has scheduled to an eight-man lightweight contenders tournament for November 19. Greatest Common Multiple has reportedly nominated Shooto and GCM veteran Tomonari Kanomata (Pictures) to compete and Cage Warriors is also looking to import other talent from WWCN affiliates to fill out the bracket.

The shape of Shooto to come

With nine cards on the horizon, the remainder of 2006 has been outlined for Shooto Japan, with the balance of the year looks like this:

September 17 - Zepp Nagoya, Nagoya, Japan - Sponsored by ALIVE October 1 - Kitazawa Town Hall, Tokyo, Japan - Sponsored by GUTSMAN Shooto Dojo October 14 - Pacifico Yokohama National Convention Hall, Yokohama, Japan - Sponsored by Sustain October 20 - Tokyo Kinema Club, Tokyo, Japan - Sponsored by G-STYLE And Paraestra Tokyo November 4 - Azalea Taisho Hall, Osaka, Japan - Sponsored by Sustain November 10 - Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan - Sponsored by Sustain November 26 - Zepp Nagoya, Nagoya, Japan - Sponsored by ALIVE November 30 - Kitazawa Town Hall, Tokyo, Japan - Sponsored by SHOOTO GYM K'z FACTORY December 2 - Shinjuku FACE, Tokyo, Japan - Sponsored by Sustain

The upcoming GIG CENTRAL 10 card this weekend recently got a fight shorter. A Shooto 183-pound rookie tournament contest between Takashi Goto and Astushi Matsuki has been cancelled due an injury sustained by Goto during training. Matsuki will now advance to the finals to face Mitsuhiro Takeda, who earned his spot in the finals by submitting Seiji Furukawa on September 8.

In a strange twist of luck, Matsuki has been able to advance to the finals without fighting once in his pro career. His quarterfinal opponent, Kintaro of R-BLOOD, pulled out of the tournament a few months ago, allowing him to advance to the semifinals to fight Goto,

Furthermore, as was speculated in last week's issue of Koubousen Companion, Shooto world 154-pound champion Tatsuya Kawajiri (Pictures) did in fact appear at Shooto's September 8 Korakuen Hall event and announced his participation for the October 14 card at Pacifico Yokohama. No opponent was named but insiders are still strongly speculating that Shooto promoters will put together the necessary rematch between Joachim Hansen (Pictures) and Kawajiri for the title. However, there is also talk that Kawajiri is interested in taking a fight at a contract weight of 160 pounds, to keep his body in shape for future PRIDE Bushido appearances.

Also, there is some confusion surrounding the participation of last year's 143-pound rookie tournament champion Tenkei Fujimiya (Pictures). According to Shooto promoters, and the pages of the latest SHOOTO NEWS, Fujimiya is penciled in to face Bao Quach (Pictures) at the October 14 card. However, in a post on his personal blog this week, Fujimiya stated that nothing was official and he has not decided whether he will compete.

Finally, the first two additions to the November edition of GIG CENTRAL have been made, as hometown Nagoya stars Hatsu Hioki (Pictures) and Daisuke Sugie (Pictures) will return to the Shooto ring. Sugie hasn't fought since July 2005, when in the span of two weeks he defeated HERO's competitor Kultar Gill (Pictures) but faltered in his PRIDE Bushido debut, being submitted by Josh Thomson (Pictures).

Sugie's teammate Hioki last fought in Shooto in February at GIG CENTRAL Vol. 9, where he fought to a disappointing split draw with the aforementioned Bao Quach (Pictures) in front of his native Nagoya crowd. Since then however, Hioki has jumped into the spotlight, dominating Mark Hominick (Pictures) in Quebec to capture the TKO 145-pound title and easily besting Jeff Curran (Pictures) to a unanimous decision victory last month at PRIDE Bushido 12.

No opponents have been named for either Sugie or Hioki, but it is possible that Hioki may fight Katsuya Toida (Pictures) for the vacant Shooto Pacific Rim 143-pound title. The Pacific Rim title fight between Toida and Hioki was originally set for February 26 in Nagoya before a neck injury put Toida out of commission for two months. Hioki has kept busy since then, but now that he is back in the Shooto ring it is possible that promoters may try to organize the fight once again.

Pancrasers prep for 9/16 BLOW TOUR date

With Pancrase's next stop on the 2006 BLOW TOUR coming this Saturday at Tokyo's Differ Ariake, many of the event's competitors have stepped inside the gym for their customary pre-fight media workouts and to discuss their upcoming bouts on the 16th.

The week of media workouts began Monday with karate-styled kickboxer Yuji Sakuragi (Pictures) prepping for his bout with U-FILE CAMP's Tatsuya Mizuno at Pancrase's P's LAB gym in Tokyo. Before sparring with Seiken Kaikan teammate Kozo Urita (Pictures), Sakuragi spent three minutes on a sand-filled heavy bag showing off powerful punch combinations and a wide array of kicks. Sakuragi moved fluidly in the ring and showed his ability to maintain distance, hoping to stay on his feet with Mizuno.

Sakuragi, who knocked out PRIDE Bushido star Akihiro Gono (Pictures) under kickboxing rules last year, also shared with the media that despite coming off of two losses he felt mentally ready to compete, as for the first time in three years he spent time training with the famous Satoru "Tiger Mask" Sayama.

Sakuragi stated that he would do his best for his teacher, and wanted to be a successor to the legendary Sayama.

Tuesday the 12th brought Chute Boxe star and card main eventer Daniel Acacio (Pictures) to Chute Boxe's Japanese branch in Nakano, Tokyo. Acacio, who hasn't fought since his loss to Gono nearly a year ago, seemed eager to get back into the ring, as he had already worked up a sweat and was immersed in practice when the fight media arrived.

Acacio showed well-roundedness in his sparring, first hitting the mitts with punching combinations before moving to a ground-and-pound drill during which he wore a harness connecting him to the ring post as he showed ground-and-pound technique from the guard. Finally, Acacio concluded the sparring session with a three-minute grappling drill, demonstrating a triangle choke, transitions to armbars, and an Achilles lock.

Discussing his bout with up-and-comer Ryo Kawamura (Pictures), Acacio boldly told the media, "I practiced for 10 minutes today, but all of these techniques will be taken out in five minutes, and I'll murder him."

Acacio stated that he felt like a lion with an empty stomach, and as he licked his lips said that he would use Kawamura for food.

Kawamura, the 2006 Pancrase Neo-Blood 199 pound tournament champion and Neo-Blood MVP, took to the gym the following day at P's LAB in Tokyo. Kawamura put a different spin on his workout, as he grabbed a football, and told the media that he'd been working on some American football drills.

Kawamura drew on a pro-wrestling reference, telling the media that Stan Hansen had been a football player, and that he'd dispatched his foes with his patented Western Lariat as a result of his football training.

After working on standard football agility drills, such as running ropes, Kawamura said that he felt heart and determination would be most important in his fight with Acacio. Kawamura told the media that his biggest strength was his heart, revealing that shortly after birth he almost died of an unidentified illness. Kawamura's family was told that he likely wouldn't make it, but miraculously he overcame his mysterious sickness. Kawamura attributes his recovery in his infancy to a natural inner power, that he feels will earn him victory over the PRIDE Bushido veteran.

P's LAB was even more bustling on Thursday, as foreigners Daniel Lyons and Carlos Condit (Pictures) both worked out for the media, as well as homegrown talent Mitsuhisa Sunabe (Pictures). Lyons, who makes his MMA debut at the card against Masayuki Kono (Pictures), has a decorated past in martial arts, taking three amateur boxing titles in his native Australia, and has spent time in Indonesia and Thailand as well where he honed his Muay Thai skills.

Lyons' workout centered on hitting mitts and displaying his punching power, as well as giving the media a tour of his heavily tattooed body. The 32-year-old former bodybuilder stated emphatically he'd show his punching power in the ring, and earn the knockout victory over Kono.

Condit, an American welterweight currently ranked third in the Pancrase 165.7-pound rankings, showed off an array of ground techniques for his bout with Takuya Wada (Pictures). Condit demonstrated the standard triangle choke and armbar, but also showed off some unique armbarring technique as well as a spinning choke.

Condit was acutely aware of his standing in Pancrase, noting that he is presently ranked third, and a win over the seventh-ranked Wada could put him in line to be the first title defense for newly crowned welterweight King of Pancrase Daizo Ishige (Pictures). The 22-year-old Condit also told the media that he has started to study Japanese, as he hopes to continue to fight frequently in Japan.

Mitsuhisa Sunabe (Pictures), who squares off against Manabu Inoue (Pictures), got into the ring to work the pads, showing developed boxing technique. Sunabe boxed conventionally to start, before moving to the "Hitman style" made popular by Thomas Hearns, keeping his lead left hand low, rolling his shoulders, and throwing flicker jabs on the mitts while working combinations.

Sunabe said that though he only showed his punching in the workout, he had much more in his arsenal. Sunabe told the media that he wants to be the first challenger to the new 141-pound King of Pancrase Yoshiro Maeda (Pictures), who handed Sunabe his first professional loss three years ago. Sunabe stated that he wants to be a pioneer of the featherweight division by being the first champion to hail from Okinawa.
<h2>Fight Finder</h2>