Tokoro Victorious at ZST 15

By Jason Nowe and Stephen Martinez Nov 23, 2007
TOKYO, Nov. 23 -- ZST, the unique creature on the Japanese MMA scene, marked its fifth anniversary at Differ Ariake on Friday with its final big show of the year, ZST 15.

An offshoot of Akira Maeda (Pictures)'s RINGS, ZST uses rules that are quite different than traditional MMA. Fights have only two five-minute rounds and no punches to the head on the ground, much akin to amateur Shooto. The promotion is also adamant on its open-guard rule, which prevents fighters from locking their legs around opponents. Due to the fact that there are no judges, fights that go the distance are automatically ruled a draw no matter how one-sided.

The main event on Friday featured ZST Golden Boy Hideo Tokoro (Pictures) against U-File Camp's Wataru Inatsu (Pictures) in somewhat of a mismatch. Inatsu is working his way up the ranks of the promotion while Tokoro has honed his skills in the ZST ring before moving up to Akira Maeda (Pictures)'s K-1 HERO'S.

Tokoro made quick work of his somewhat inexperienced opponent. Inatsu came out strong with low kicks, but Tokoro got him to the ground before he could inflict any real damage. From there, Tokoro got to half, then had a slick pass over the top of his opponent and ended with an armbar.

Inatsu interlocked his arms in an attempt to defend against the technique, but Tokoro kept the pressure on, eventually breaking the lock, extending the submission and forcing the tapout at the 1:35 mark.

ZST veteran Naoyuki Kotani (Pictures) had a tough time with Paraestra Hachioji's Masanori Kanehara (Pictures) in their semifinal bout. This was the only fight contested under full MMA rules, which allowed the closed guard and strikes to the head of a downed opponent.

Right from the start, Kanehara connected with some vicious knees to the head from the Thai clinch that rocked Kotani and bloodied his mouth. Throughout the rest of the bout, the Paraestra Hachioji fighter scored often with an absolutely murderous right hand.

Kotani turned the tide for a bit in the second round. He connected with a big right hand and followed up with a takedown, but before long Kanehara had the momentum going his way again as he peppered his opponent with punches on the feet and from within the guard. Kanehara also took Kotani's back in the last 10 seconds, though he couldn't capitalize on the position before the final bell.

Kanehara won this fight and Kotani knew it, storming out of the ring in disappointment. Due to the fact that there are no judges in ZST, though, this one went down as a draw.

U-File Camp Machida's Masashi Takeda continued his ascent in the promotion's welterweight ranks against Team Alliance's Hiroyuki Ito.

Takeda scored the takedown early, passing to side and then taking his opponent's back. Ito survived the precarious position and eventually escaped to the guard. He tried an ankle lock, but Takeda wasn't to be caught. Instead, Takeda answered back with a strong heel hook of his own, forcing his opponent to tap before the halfway point of the first round.

Kenichi Ito wanted nothing to do with ZFC's Hiroyuki Ota on the mat in their lightweight bout. The Alliance fighter displayed an excellent sprawl against Ota's numerous takedown attempts and signaled for his opponent to stand whenever Ota dropped to the ground after eating leather.

It was obvious that Ota wanted the fight to play out on the ground. Eventually he received a yellow card for dropping to the mat after each exchange.

The ZFC fighter got his wish in the second, though, and to his credit, he looked good while moving through positions and searching for submissions. However, he couldn't finish the bout before the referee stood the fighters up.

Once on the feet, Ito put the fight away with a well-timed right hand that connected just as Ota was coming in for a shot. Ota crumpled to the mat unconscious for the knockout at 3:50. So devastating was the blow, Ota had to be carried from the ring on a stretcher.

2007 Genesis Tournament bantamweight champion Keisuke Fujiwara (Pictures) quickly dispatched of Tokuaki Ninomiya, applying a deep guillotine choke off his back while his opponent was in his guard. Ninomiya passed out from the pressure, and he was saved by the keen eye of referee Wada at the 1:05 mark of the first round.

The first round of the main card grappling match between the eccentric Masayuki Okude and ZST welterweight champion Yojiro Uchimura was uneventful. The second saw Uchimura make it all the way to Okude's back, only for his unpredictable opponent to escape to the guard, then pass to the side and lock on an armbar for the tapout at 2:24.

U-File Camp's Tomohiko Yoshida (Pictures) (Tomohiko Yoshida (Pictures)' class='LinkSilver'>Pictures) defeated ZFC's Kojima Ichiro to take the 2007 Genesis Tournament welterweight crown.

Shinwa Total Combat's Tetsuya Yamada got a quick flash-knockout victory over P's Lab Yokohama's Takeaki Miyakawa.
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