Pancrase Crowns Four Champions

By Jordan Breen Aug 29, 2006
Pancrase's sixth stop on their 2006 BLOW tour was certainly one to remember.

The summer blockbuster card from Pancrase was its biggest in quite sometime. Boasting a blend of homegrown and international talent, familiar faces and new blood, and a whopping four title fights, the crowd at the Yokohama Cultural Gymnasium played witness to what proved to be an exigent evening for one of MMA's longest running promotions.

Undoubtedly the most surprising of the four title bouts was the first of the evening, as Lithuania's Kestutis Arbocius (Pictures) and Hawaii's Poai Suganuma (Pictures) fought in the finals of the heavyweight King of Pancrase tournament to determine the second 220-pound champion of Pancrase.

While many thought that the young and dynamic Suganuma would be able to take “Tiger” Arbocius to the mat at will, the stand-up specialist showed poise and skill in defending the takedown attempts of Suganuma in the first round. Arbocius was able to keep the fight standing, and lure Suganuma into slugging exchanges, putting together crisp combos and hurting the 24-year-old Hilo native.

Suganuma was able to get a takedown late in the first round, but was able to do little with it as time ran out on him. In the second round however, Suganuma was able to work his game more effectively, tackling Arbocius to the mat and getting the mount. Arbocius was forced to roll to his stomach, where the Hawaiian attacked, looking for a rear-naked choke. Yet again, “Tiger” showed unexpected poise in regaining his guard and avoiding danger.

The third round would provide the bout's abrupt end. Just under a minute into the round, Suganuma looked to regain his advantage on the ground, and shot in to tackle Arbocius to the mat. Arbocius timed a perfect knee that crashed across Suganuma's face, opening up a cut that prompted a doctor's check. The ringside physician stopped the bout, pronouncing Kestutis Arbocius (Pictures) to be the second heavyweight King of Pancrase in a mild upset.

Katsuya Inoue (Pictures) comes from a wrestling background, and Daizo Ishige (Pictures) trains out of SK Absolute, dubbed Japan's “Sambo Top Team.” However, neither man's grappling credentials made much of a difference when the two knuckled up over the welterweight King of Pancrase championship.

The orthodox challenger Ishige was able to pressure the southpaw champion Inoue, and put him on the ropes in the first round, but neither man was able to gain a definitive advantage over the other by landing more frequently or effectively with their hands.

Ishige's relentless pressuring would eventually pay dividends.

In the second round, Ishige was able to score the better combinations against the champion, and was able to slip and parry Inoue's counterpunching. While Ishige's fatigue was visible through the latter portion of the second round, he scored with hooks to the body after putting Inoue on the ropes with a stiff straight right.

In the third round, with Ishige tiring out, the champion sought to make his move, scoring with a few left hands, and trying to plow through Ishige's defense. Ishige fought back with punches of his own, but neither man was able to land substantially in the dying moments of the third round. In the end, Ishige's aggression in the middle of the bout may have been the key factor in the judge's eyes, as Ishige became the second welterweight King of Pancrase, taking three scorecards of 30-29.

Perhaps the evening's most hotly anticipated bout was the rematch between would-be Pancrase poster boy Yoshiro Maeda (Pictures) and the consummate underdog and anti-hero, Daiki Hata (Pictures). The two met in March at the second installment of the BLOW tour, and in one of the most shocking upsets in a year full of unexpected outcomes, the eccentric Taiki knocked out Maeda in front of Maeda's hometown Osaka crowd.

The road to their rematch was paved in June, as both Hata and Maeda scored victories in the semifinals of Pancrase's featherweight King of Pancrase tournament, with Hata knocking out Miki Shida (Pictures), and doing likewise to KILLER BEE's Atsushi Yamamoto (Pictures). The rematch would give the once highly touted Maeda the opportunity to redeem himself, while for Hata it was the chance to prove to all those who said his win over Maeda was a fluke that he was a bonafide star in Pancrase's 141-pound class. And as if either man needed any more incentive, the winner would be crowned the first 141-pound King of Pancrase.

Hata was able to use his long limbs effectively through the first half of the bout to score against Maeda. After both men felt each other out with punches, Hata was able to make good use of his right kick to the body, repeatedly scoring with kicks to the ribs. Hata was able to work off of his kicks to throw crisp punch combinations, and even surprised Maeda with a jumping knee.

Just as Hata was able to work his game through the first half of the fight, Maeda began to work his through the second half. Maeda was able to scoot from his back to his feet, and immediately tackle Hata to the mat again, where he worked his ground-and-pound tactics. Maeda was able to put punches on Hata from his guard, from turtle position, and from mount, as well as attempt both a standing guillotine choke in the second round and a straight foot lock in the final round.

As the clock ticked down to the final bell, a desperate Maeda sat in Hata’s guard, dropping punches and hammerfists before standing up and unleashing a soccer kick that just missed. After a bout split into two dominant halves for the two combatants, the judges returned with a verdict of a unanimous draw, each scoring the bout 29-29.

A tournament final to decide an inaugural champion, the nature of the bout demanded a decision. The judges were then called upon for a decisive judging on dominance, in which the judges pick whichever fighter they felt dominated and won the bout as a whole. In a split decision, the judges voted two to one that Yoshiro Maeda (Pictures) was the winner, crowning the 24-year-old Osaka native as the first 141-pound King of Pancrase, the role envisioned for Maeda when he stormed into Pancrase in 2003 before a streak of hard luck through 2005 and 2006.

In the main event, longtime Pancrase hero Yuki Kondo (Pictures) returned to the Pancrase ring for the first time since last October, where he defeated Hiromitsu Kanehara (Pictures). Defending against longtime PRIDE veteran Daijiro Matsui (Pictures), Kondo had little trouble using his striking skills to control the bout.

In a sense, the bout reflected what MMA fans have come to expect from both men.

Kondo was light on his feet and crisp with his strikes, picking Matsui apart with a variety of offense. Matsui struggled to generate offense, but was game until the final bell, absorbing whatever punishment Kondo had in store.

Through the first 10 minutes, Kondo was able to use a blend of six-point striking from the southpaw stance to batter Matsui, attacking with low kicks, body kicks, high kicks, push kicks, punches to the head, punches to the body and flying knees. Matsui attempted to get the bout to the floor, but Kondo defended his takedowns ably.

When the bout did touch the floor, it was Kondo on top, raining down punches on Matsui, before standing up and beckoning Matsui back to his feet.

In the final frame, Kondo aggressively pursued the knockout, attacking Matsui with a full out assault from his lower body. Kondo put Matsui onto the ropes with a series of kicks and knees, before attempting a jumping left kick to the body.

While Matsui got a hold of the Kondo's leg and sought the takedown, it was Kondo who ended up on top again, as he controlled the bout on the floor, pounding away on former Takada Dojo member until the final bell. After 15 minutes the Pancrase star walked away with an easy decision from the judges, taking two scorecards of 30-27, and one of 30-28.

In Other Action

Sambo-savvy Pancrase vet Izuru Takeuchi (Pictures) used his ground control to best the eccentric Hikaru Sato (Pictures) by unanimous decision (30-28, 30-29, 30-29).

Satoru Kitaoka (Pictures) got back into the 165-pound welterweight title hunt, choking out dynamic British striker Paul Daley (Pictures).

Brash Team Oyama fighter Robert Emerson (Pictures) got more comfortable in the Pancrase ring with his second win in the organization this year, notching a unanimous decision (30-28, 30-29, 30-29) over resident bad boy and PRIDE Bushido vet Kenji Arai (Pictures).

In their super heavyweight tilt, PRIDE veteran Henry Miller (Pictures) submitted Seiji Ogura (Pictures) with a rear-naked choke in only 97 seconds in the battle of former sumo competitors.
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