Mizuto Hirota bullied Katsunori Kikuno at Deep "55 Impact." | Photo: Taro Irei
TOKYO -- Mizuto Hirota is back.
In his first bout since suffering a gruesome arm break at the hands of Dream lightweight champion Shinya Aoki 20 months ago in 2009's K-1 Dynamite, the former Sengoku Raiden Championship and Cage Force lightweight champion rebounded with a gutsy unanimous decision victory and toppled reigning Deep lightweight champion Katsunori Kikuno in the main event of Deep "55 Impact" on Friday at Korakuen Hall.
"I'm good at fighting as the underdog and beating the favorite," quipped the 30-year-old Hirota after the fight, subtly referencing his previous overthrow of SRC's inaugural lightweight champ, Satoru Kitaoka, in August 2009.
Hirota made his game plan clear from the opening bell. Simple but ultimately effective, Hirota blitzed the champion with a barrage of punches until careening into him to clinch against the ropes, where he bullied Kikuno, widely seen as one of Japan's best lightweights, in the corner.
"Kikuno's body lock is strong, so I knew I had to beat him to it by locking up the body first to be effective," said Hirota of his tactics. "I also didn't want a fight with kicks, so I pushed forward with punches. When it comes to punching speed, I've got more over Kikuno."
These simple decisions neutralized the deadly karateka's attempts to plant himself in a stance and fire off his patented crescent kicks, as well as the "tsuki" punching techniques he was reportedly picking up in training prior to this bout.
Both fighters dropped each other to a knee in the course of the first frame, thanks to mutual right hands across the jaw, but it was Hirota's overwhelming pressure that ultimately sealed the round for him. The second and third periods further proved dominant for the challenger, as he continued to bully Kikuno with Superman punches and flurries, pushing him into the corners where he mashed the champ into the ropes from the clinch.
With three rounds of walking fearlessly through fire to rough up the champ, all five judges -- Koichi Takemura, Yoshinori Umeki, Samio Kimura, Kenichi Serizawa and Akira Shoji -- appeared to have little choice but to give the bout and the title to Hirota. No scores were announced.
Despite just winning the lightweight strap, it appears as though Hirota may be targeting another weight class in the near future. "I'm one of the only Japanese fighters that want to stay in Japan, but as my popularity is still somewhat small here, I want to fight at featherweight," said Hirota.
Matsumoto Defends His Title To the End, Razmadze Takes Megaton Crown
Second in the evening's triple crown headliner, Deep featherweight champion Koichiro Matsumoto successfully defended his strap in his final MMA bout against Yoshida Dojo hitter Tatsunao Nagakura.
There was not much to write home about in the first frame, as both men tentatively circled, feinted and clinched, prompting referee Yoshinori Umeki to issue warnings for inactivity. The action started to pick up in the second, though, as both men wobbled each other with haymakers.
Smiling and realizing that they were not long for this bout, both men traded a quick hand shake before continuing to trade fists.
With Nagakura swinging on wobbly legs in the corner, however, Matsumoto appeared closest to sealing the fight. Nagakura's corner made this official when it threw in the towel to save its fighter at the 2:48 mark of the second round.
For the finish, Matsumoto was awarded the evening's MVP bonus, pocketing an additional 30,000 yen, or just over $400.
“I love Deep and MMA, and so I won't say that I'll never come back to fighting. However, I do want to come back to Deep in another capacity,” said Matsumoto post-fight, subtly referencing Deep's in-house comedian and ring announcer “Omiyamanomatsu” Masaru Sato as his intended returning role. “You only live once, and my dream is to become a comedian. Please watch out for me, and thanks again for all your support over the course of my MMA career.”
If it is the 25-year-old Matsumoto's last bout, he retires with a 13-3 MMA mark in his four-plus-year career.
Defending Deep megaton champion Kazuhisa Tazawa appeared to be doomed from the opening bell, as the vastly larger and more powerful Levan Razmadze, a Georgian-born judoka now training with the Yoshida Dojo, blitzed him with a barrage of winging punches.
Tazawa doubled over and was promptly chucked between the ring ropes by the judoka-turned-fighter. Upon resuming, Razmadze continued the punishment, taking it to the floor to lay on punches from side control until he locked the kimura for the tap at 1:29 of the first.
The unbeaten Razmadze,25, is now 4-0 in his seventh-month MMA campaign.
Wada Goes Life-or-Death With 'DJ Taiki,' Sakurai Smashes Shibata
In a rollicking back-and-forth fight that earned both participants the "Best Bout" award, Tatsumitsu Wada earned a thrilling majority decision over Dream veteran Daiki Hata.
The first frame saw Wada taking a big lead after smashing a number of right hands and knees into Hata's face, sending him to a knee. “DJ Taiki” held on to see a second period but was still largely foiled by Wada's wrestling. In a resounding comeback, the third round swung heavily back in Hata's favor after he floored Wada with vicious knees to the ribs and sternum, finishing the round on Wada's back.
Despite the last-round surge, it was too little to late for Hata, as judges Shoji and Serizawa gave their votes for Wada. Only judge Kimura saw the bout even. Post-fight, Wada entreated Shigeru Saeki for a shot at bantamweight champ Takafumi Otsuka next; the Deep boss appeared to agree it was in order.
Former Deep middleweight champ Ryuta Sakurai made things bloody against Katsuyori Shibata, opening a cut at the corner of the Dream veteran's eye with stiff jabs to start their bout. Sakurai dominated on top for the duration of the first round. A gory Shibata managed to hang on halfway through the second, but, again, Sakurai's takedowns and ground-and-pound proved effective, forcing referee Kimura to dive for the save at the 3:04 mark.
Things looked to be going well for Shuji Morikawa, who scored the takedown and back control early on Ryuta Noji. However an errant finger to Morikawa's left eye was followed by a bevy of Noji punches when the bout resumed. Morikawa's corner threw in the towel then, stopping the bout at 2:56 of the first.
Proving himself an apt student of superlative grappler Keita "K-Taro" Nakamura, Motoki Miyazawa dominated Yasushi Kitazaki on the mat, forcing him to succumb to the rear-naked choke at 3:36 of the second period.
In just 27 seconds, K-1 veteran Yuki Niimura blasted Shunsuke Inoue with a big right hook, sitting him right down in a daze and forcing referee Akira Shoji to stop the contest.
Masato Kamaya took a majority decision over Tomohiko Hori on the strength of his takedowns. As both men matched each other with wild blows on the feet, it was ultimately Kamaya's repeated takedowns that won him the scorecards from judges Yoshinori Umeki and Samio Kimura. Judge Kenichi Serizawa gave the lone dissenting draw card.
Last but not least, Amanda Lucas, daughter of “Star Wars” creator George Lucas, put a sustained hurting on Hikaru Shinohara in the evening's sole women's bout. From mount, Lucas laid the ground-and-pound on thick for the duration of the opening round until transitioning to the armbar in the final minute.
Though her arm was hyper-extended, Shinohara refused to tap, prompting her corner to throw in the towel at 4:37 for the stop. Visibly distraught, Shinohara then shoved referee Kimura and her cornermen in protest before storming out of the ring in tears.