Watanabe Takes DEEP Women’s Title

By Jason Nowe Aug 4, 2006
TOKYO, August 4 — It has been a long time coming — three and a half years to be exact — but finally tonight, within the confines of MMA Mecca Korakuen Hall, Smackgirl’s 106-pound champion Satoko Shinashi (Pictures) once again faced kickboxing-turned-mixed martial artist Hisae Watanabe for the newly formed DEEP women’s lightweight title.

Their first encounter in December 2002 saw Shinashi take things to the ground and apply a heelhook on the somewhat one-dimensional kickboxer.

What a difference three and a half years makes.

Why this fight was not the main event of the card is a question only DEEP President Shigeru Saeki can answer. All the promotional material for featured only the two female combatants. Perhaps the promotion thought that MMA fans in general were not ready to see a female bout headlining a major card — something akin to people not being ready to see a woman in the White House.

Whatever the reason, the promotion made an error in judgment by not giving the bout the prized position, because it definitely got the most reaction from the fans in attendance.

Anyone who looks at Shinashi’s record can’t deny that the Japanese Sambo practitioner has had an unbelievable run in the women’s division of several promotions, going 19-0-1. But perhaps the moon and the stars weren’t in alignment on this night, because in this bout she did not look good at all.

Shinashi’s stand-up and takedowns were virtually non-existent, and on the ground, were it was expected she would be her best, she was schooled.

Watanabe secured a triangle from her back on the Smackgirl champion, transitioned to armbar and then to an omoplata. Though Shinashi escaped, she fell into the armbar again moments later.

Shinashi survived the technique and both women returned to their feet. It was here, at the 3:54 mark of the first, that Watanabe absolutely nailed Shinashi with a clean right hand to the chin.

This one really hit the mark and Shinashi was out cold, falling into the lower rope face-first with her hands down at her sides.

It took some time to revive Shinashi, and with the knockout victory Hisae Watanabe is DEEP’s first women’s lightweight champion.

A strong feeling of déjà vu permeated throughout Korakuen Hall just minutes into Ryuta Sakurai (Pictures)’s fight with Xavier Foupa-Pokam (Pictures). After a slobberknocker of a start and an armbar-to-heelhook transition for the Japanese fighter, Sakurai began to bleed profusely from the nose. This was exactly what happened when the R-Blood fighter faced Ryo Chonan (Pictures) last February, forcing doctors to stop the fight early and award Sakurai’s middleweight championship to his opponent.

The crowd nervously waited while doctors attended to Sakurai’s nose, but after a few tense moments the Japanese fighter emerged from his corner to restart the match.

The injury seemed like it took a bit of wind out of Sakurai’s sails, and the Japanese fighter may just as well have painted a bull’s eye on his nose. It was now exactly the spot where his French opponent, circling the ring and landing several stiff jabs in hopes to get the blood flowing again, was aiming for.

Despite eating several shots, Sakurai eventually caught up to Fokam and scored a takedown at the ropes, where he rained down punches from the guard.

The Frenchman escaped a heelhook, but the Japanese fighter once again got the takedown and this time scored the mount. From here Sakurai applied the armbar and fully extended the technique on the Cage Rage veteran.

How Fokam didn’t tap out at this point I will never know — Sakurai almost had his arm bent backwards. Despite holding on the referee eventually had seen enough and called a justified end to the contest at the 4:47 mark of the first.

The Masakazu Imanari (Pictures) who fought Fredson Paixao (Pictures) tonight did not look like the Imanari who won the DEEP featherweight championship last December. Paixao seemed like Imanari’s poison, largely negating the wild theatrics and unorthodox game that fans have become accustomed to seeing from the Team Roken fighter.

For the most part, Imanari didn’t attempt his “Karate Kid” kicks or the corkscrew-baseball-slide takedowns. Paixao defended very well against the leglocks and heelhooks that the Japanese fighter threw at him, and inflicted a sizable amount of damage with strikes from in the guard.

By the end of this non-title bout, Imanari looked completely gassed, the fight went to the judges and Paixao took the majority decision. This now sets up the Gracie Barra fighter for a title bout with Imanari.

DEEP welterweight ace Jutaro Nakao (Pictures) played his classic game of standing still and waiting in his bout against Pancrase veteran Kousei Kubota (Pictures). When standing in guard, Nakao used the wrestling shoes that Kubota wore to control his opponent’s legs.

After a takedown at the ropes early in the second, the patient Nakao connected with two hard punches to Kubota’s chin, sending the PANCRASEism fighter to the mat. Kubota turtled to all fours, but Nakao followed up with soccer kicks to his downed opponent’s head. The referee came in to stop the action at the 2:08 mark.

After nearly a year and a half off due to medical reasons, PANCRASEism fighter Daisuke Ishii (Pictures) stepped back into the DEEP ring to face off against Brazilian Top Team’s Roan Carneiro (Pictures).

This was a really gutsy, hard-fought match. The thing that really impressed was Ishii’s solid takedown defense. He had a good sprawl, and even when Carneiro did put him to the ground, the Pancrase veteran was always able to get back to his feet.

A lot of this contest took place at the corners and the ropes, with the fighters locked in the clinch. The Brazilian scurried to his opponent’s back several times while standing, and tagged the Japanese fighter with some hard uppercuts.

Ishii got the yellow card in the third for charging in with his head down, opening a cut around Carneiro’s right eye thanks to a headbutt. The fight continued to be an up-down, back-and-forth affair all the way to the final bell.

The fight went to the judges and Carneiro got the unanimous victory.

Before leaving the ring, Carneiro took the microphone and called out DEEP middleweight champion Ryo Chonan (Pictures), then sadly, Ishii told the crowd that this was his last fight and that he would be retiring.

A seemingly benign up-kick from a downed Hidehiko Hasegawa (Pictures) really took Ryan Bow (Pictures) out of his game for a while in the first, sending the American fighter to the corner as Hasegawa got up and chased after him. The Japanese fighter opened up a hellacious flurry on the American, but Bow weathered the storm and finished out the rest of the round.

The second went much better for Bow, who scored takedowns and inflicted damage with strikes from the top. Hasegawa went for armbars and kneebars from his back, but the American defended well.

The fight went the distance and was ruled a draw.

Grabaka jiu-jitsu ace Takeshi Yamazaki (Pictures) put on a grappling clinic in his bout against Team Roken fighter Isamu Sugiuchi, scoring takedowns at will and exerting dominate ground control.

Sugiuchi will now have to be known as the Harry Houdini of MMA, because how he was able to escape the fully extended armbars of Yamazaki I will never know. The fight went the distance and Yamazaki took the unanimous decision.
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