Koubousen Companion: Takaya to Meet Garcia

By Jordan Breen Dec 21, 2007
"The Streetfight Bancho" should be guaranteed a slugfest in his U.S. debut.

Sherdog.com previously reported that the 30-year-old Japanese featherweight had signed a deal with the Zuffa-owned World Extreme Cagefighting, which would see him debut at the promotion's Feb. 13 event.

The source of that information has also confirmed to Sherdog.com that WEC officials have told Takaya his opponent for the event, reportedly to be held in Albuquerque, N.M., will be UFC vet and New Mexico native Leonard Garcia (Pictures).

The 28-year-old Garcia is best known for his spirited bout with Roger Huerta (Pictures) in April. He went 1-2 in his UFC tenure, dropping his last bout in September to Cole Miller (Pictures) via unanimous decision. Following the loss, Garcia opted to cut to 145 pounds to compete in the WEC.

Takaya is 2-0 since his return to the featherweight division. In his first bout back at the weight in September, he knocked out American Jarrod Card (Pictures) and then knocked out highly regarded Antonio Carvalho (Pictures) in November in a thrilling pitch-fight.

‘BJ' Returns to 132 to Take on Tazawa

One failure is not enough to curb Shinichi Kojima (Pictures)'s dreams.

The Shooto 123-pound world champion moved up to 132 pounds for the first time to face 18-year-old Brazilian Eduardo "Dudu" Dantas in November. Kojima previously stated it was his goal to hold both the 123- and 132-pound Shooto world titles. However, things didn't go as smoothly as planned, and "BJ" dropped a dismal and disheartening unanimous decision to the Brazilian prodigy.

Undeterred, "BJ" will return to the ring as part of Sustain's Jan. 26 Shooto card at Korakuen Hall in Tokyo to once again compete at 132 pounds.

His bout against So Tazawa (Pictures) could be read as a must-win for either man. Tazawa, who began his career in promising fashion at 5-0-1, has gone 0-3-1 in his last four fights, albeit against top-quality competition.

While BJ's 123-pound status is not at risk, a second loss at 132 pounds would make his weight jump a definitive catastrophe. Furthermore, another dismal performance will cast the Shooto world champion into dire straits with a 123-pound world title rematch looming with Yasuhiro Urushitani (Pictures) later next year.

Pro Shooto Gets a New Gig in '08

Shooto officials have announced that 2008 will feature the debut of a new GIG tour series for pro Shooto in Japan.

Although larger Shooto cards traditionally take place in Tokyo and Yokohama, the GIG tour series events bring pro Shooto to other areas, the longest running GIG events being GIG West based in Osaka and GIG Central based in Nagoya. In September, Sapporo-based promotional group TT era, in conjunction with local Paraestra gyms, worked to produce the first GIG North card, which looks to become a fixture in northern Japan.

Hiroshima-based Shooto promoter Grapplingman will head the new GIG event, GIG Torao. Grapplingman traditionally promotes one card per year on Mother's Day weekend in May. However, due to the growing depth of competitors in the Chugoku-Shikoku region of Japan, Grapplingman will promote a handful of GIG Torao cards over the course of the year.

The first GIG Torao card is scheduled for March 23 at the Fukuyama Industrial Communication Hall in Fukuyama, Hiroshima. Though no bouts have been announced, the card will feature a blend of amateur and professional Shooto as well as grappling bouts.

Rise then Shine for Pancrase

The 2007 Rising series isn't quite over yet, but Pancrase has already christened its next tour.

While most if not all Japanese MMA promotions have roots in pro wrestling, Pancrase is one of the few organizations that has always maintained the tradition of naming its annual tours. Near the close of each year, Pancrase opens up a contest to fans to name the tour series for the following year. The tour names must be a single word, supplemented by a one-sentence explanation of the name.

Heading into its 15th annual series, Pancrase has announced that next year will be the 2008 Shining Tour.

The tour name was suggested by fan and Aichi City resident Yoshifumi Nakatani, who explained the title to represent "the Pancrasist who rises and shines like the sun."

Pancrase to Conclude 2007 Rising

However, before the 2008 Shining Tour can begin, Pancrase will wrap up the 2007 Rising Tour with its 14th event of the year.

Although the attention of the casual fan may be cast on the catch-wrestling rules bout between heavyweight star Josh Barnett (Pictures) and Pancrase's resident eccentric Hikaru Sato (Pictures), the featured bout on the bill is an old school versus new school clash between former Pancrase light heavyweight champion Keiichiro Yamamiya (Pictures) and upstart Ryo Kawamura (Pictures).

Kawamura suffered the first defeat of his young career in May, when he was the victim of a second-round KO courtesy of Chute Boxe brawler Fabio Silva (Pictures). He rebounded in impressive fashion in September, though, when he quickly dispatched American Jaime Fletcher (Pictures) in a mere 96 seconds.

The 35-year-old Yamamiya, a veteran of more than 60 MMA bouts, is winless in his last five matches and has yet to compete this year. However, Yamamiya's efforts in the last two years have largely been focused on kickboxing, where he has found success in the All Japan Kickboxing Federation and more recently competed in this year's K-1 Tryouts.

The semifinal bout of the evening will follow a similar theme, as 35-year-old Takafumi Ito (Pictures), a veteran of 13 years and 66 bouts, takes on 24-year-old KO artist Shoji.

Ito fought to a lackluster draw against Mike Kwok in July. Shoji is still developing an all-around MMA game, which was evidenced in his unanimous decision loss to fast-rising Brazilian Jose Aldo in July, but he is a vicious and exciting striker with considerable potential.

Another 24-year-old relative rookie, Masahiro Toryu (Pictures), will face an uphill battle against heavy-hitting Russian sambist Alavutdin Gadzhiyev (Pictures). Gadzhiyev has gone 4-0 on the year, including 2-0 in Pancrase with his last win coming over Daisuke Watanabe (Pictures) in September.

Toryu, on the other hand, is looking to rebound from a dismal and dull draw with Keitaro Maeda (Pictures) in November. With a new divisional champion in Izuru Takeuchi (Pictures) and a wide-open weight class, the winner of this bout may inch considerably into title contention in 2008.

In other action, Pancrase regular Miki Shida (Pictures) will meet Dave Strasser (Pictures) product Jameel Massouh (Pictures); Mike Kwok faces in-house brawler Kenji Arai (Pictures); Takumi Yano (Pictures) will take on Yuichi Ikari; and undefeated Hayato Shimizu (Pictures) looks to move to 4-0 against Tetsuya So.

Maeda-Kim Marquee Marks Deep Return to Osaka

Before Deep 30 Impact in July, the last time Deep had been to Osaka for an Impact card was in April 2004. Now Deep will return to Osaka on Dec. 22 for Deep Protect Impact at Umeda Stella Hall for yet another major card in western Japan.

The bill is anchored by a strong main event between Pancrase 141-pound champion and local Osakan Yoshiro Maeda (Pictures) taking on South Korean surprise Jong Man Kim (Pictures).

Maeda has looked stalwart in 2007, running his record to 3-0 in the Pancrase ring, including a dominant victory over U.K. standout Danny Batten (Pictures) in April. Meanwhile, Kim burst onto the international MMA scene in August, when he gave Deep champion Masakazu Imanari (Pictures) a scare before succumbing to a first-round submission. Kim followed up his spirited effort with a shocking upset, as he took a split decision over highly regarded featherweight Hatsu Hioki (Pictures) in October in front of Hioki's hometown Nagoya crowd.

Kim will look to play spoiler for the hometown hero again versus Maeda. The compelling slant to the matchup is that Maeda has earned a snakebitten reputation from fans and pundits alike for badly faltering in big fights, while Kim appears to be the very embodiment of the live underdog and road warrior.

The Maeda-Kim matchup is one of three bouts in a Japan versus South Korea three-on-three series featured on the bill. Osaka native Seichi Ikemoto (Pictures) and Hidehiko Yoshida (Pictures) pupil Ryuichi Murata (Pictures) will both see easier action than Maeda in their respective matchups.

Ikemoto, who is coming off of a lackluster draw in October with veteran Kiuma Kunioku (Pictures), will take on South Korean novice So Do Won. Murata, who just captured the Spirit MC Grand Prix and earned the right to challenge Denis Kang (Pictures) in 2008, will meet a seemingly overmatched Kim Ho Jin.

Deep 106-pound female champion Miku Matsumoto (Pictures) will also be in action. She easily iced Yukiko Seki (Pictures) earlier this month on Deep's clubDeep in Kanazawa card and will look to run her record for 2007 to 6-0 against nak muay Wenton Sakrungruang. The 25-year-old Sakrungruang sports a 29-7-2 Muay Thai record, but she has no documented MMA experience.

In other notable undercard action, heavy-hitting local Ken Hamamura (Pictures) will try to win his fourth bout in a row when he faces Hiroki Nagaoka (Pictures); former Deep Future King champion Yukinari Tamura (Pictures) will take on the well-traveled Naoki Matsushita (Pictures); and 2007 Shooto 154-pound rookie champion Hiroshi Shiba will take on the savvy-striking Takahiro Kajita (Pictures).

The event will be aired Dec. 30 on Television Osaka, the local Osaka affiliate station of the TV Tokyo network. Currently Deep represents an interesting case in the Japanese kakutougi industry due to its sustainability and product quality despite the fact that its only television exposure is on the relatively hard-to-access, premium satellite channel Samurai TV.

Other promotions aired on Samurai TV, such as Shooto and Pancrase, both have other television deals outside of the satellite network to broadcast events.

ZST Genesis Ends '07 at SWAT!

On Sunday at the Gold Gym in South Tokyo, ZST will wrap up its year by crowning the final Genesis Tournament champion.

The 15th installment of ZST's SWAT! series, designed to groom young talent for the Rings offshoot promotion, has both the semifinals and finals of the 154-pound Genesis Tournament on the bill. At the top of the 14-fight card, Toshiyuki Saito (Pictures) will take on Kota Okazawa, and Takahiro Futatsumori (Pictures) meets Osuma Ishizuka. The two winners of the semifinals will meet in the main event later in the evening.

In a battle of SWAT! regulars, hard-luck veteran Hiroyuki Ito (Pictures) will look to score the third win of his six-year career against Keigo Hirayama.

Ito was heel hooked last month at ZST's fifth anniversary card by Masashi Takeda (Pictures), building on a winless streak dating back for more than four years. Hirayama, after suffering back-to-back blowout losses to Ryo Nakajima (Pictures) and Takaya Asano earlier this year in the SWAT! series, rebounded in October with a quick submission win over Shingo Matsuda (Pictures).

One of the brightest upstarts in SWAT! this year, Kohei Kuraoka, will also see action against Shunichi Shimizu (Pictures). The hard-hitting Kuraoka has impressed en route to a 2-0 record, while the slick-grappling Shimizu, a fixture on SWAT! cards, has won four of his last five with his only loss coming to Jin Akimoto (Pictures)'s standout pupil Emerson Azuma (Pictures).

Female Stars Stud Smackgirl's ‘Starting Over'

Smackgirl will return Dec. 26 to Korakuen Hall to get a jump on the new year with its "Starting Over" card.

While the card will perhaps be most notable for the fact that it will mark the abolition of Smackgirl's much-maligned 30-second time limit on the ground, it also features a healthy cross section of top female talent.

In the main event, Smackgirl 115-pound champion Yuka Tsuji (Pictures) will put her title on the line against South Korean striker and MMA upstart Su Hi Ham (Pictures). Tsuji is fresh off a crushing first-round KO of Michelli Tavares (Pictures) in September, which avenged the only loss of her career. On that same card, Ham made her Smackgirl debut and took a commanding decision over Tsuji's teammate Ayumi "Edge" Saito.

Two of MMA's most formidable females, Megumi Fujii (Pictures) and Satoko Shinashi (Pictures), will each see easy assignments.

Fujii, flawless in her MMA career at 12-0, will take on former amateur wrestler Mika Nagano. Nagano will be making her MMA debut after competing in several Smackgirl-sponsored submission grappling events. Meanwhile, the recently married Shinashi figures to be in for a quick win against Muay Thai convert Ann, who has no known MMA experience.

In vastly more relevant action, former Smackgirl open-weight champion Megumi Yabushita (Pictures) will look to break a three-fight losing streak against hulking American Lana Stefanac (Pictures). The 5-foot-10, 210-pound Stefanac, a standout grappler, has run roughshod over her first four opponents in MMA in less than a combined five minutes.

In quality undercard action, several undefeated prospects will also hit the ring. V Hajime (Pictures), the 2007 115-pound Next Cinderella rookie tournament champion, will try to push her record to 4-0 against 7-0 Wajyutsu product Emi Fujino (Pictures). Hajime captured the Next Cinderella tournament in September, taking a split decision over Emi Tomimatsu (Pictures) in the final. Fujino is coming off of a lopsided decision over Yuuko in GCM's Cage Force in November.

Also, one of female MMA's hottest prospects, Kanako Takeshita (Pictures), will see her first action of the year against Smackgirl regular Benkei. Takeshita last fought in December 2006, when she took a commanding submission victory over sturdy and dangerous veteran Windy Tomomi (Pictures) in Pancrase.

The event will be broadcast Jan. 26 in a two-hour format on BS Fuji, a popular satellite subsidiary of one of Japan's six major television networks, Fuji Television, as opposed to Japanese ESPN affiliate J-Sports, which usually airs Smackgirl's larger events.
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