Yoshihiro Koyama barely hung onto his Pacific Rim title Friday night in Tokyo. | Photo: Taro Irei
TOKYO -- Yoshihiro Koyama defended his 154-pound Shooto Pacific Rim title against Kenichiro Togashi on Friday at “ Shootor's Legacy 4,” but it took some shaky judging for Koyama to leave Korakuen Hall with his belt.
Both men started the bout conservatively, firing off single punches before a right hook from the always-tough Togashi caused the champion to stumble to the canvas off of the recoil. Koyama quickly got to his feet, whereupon both fighters traded punches, particularly from the single collar tie, a la Don Frye-Yoshihiro Takayama.
Though he got in his fair share of punches, Koyama quickly realized the challenger’s striking would continue to be sharper and greater in volume by comparison. As such, the champion began pressing for the takedown in the clinch in the second period but was largely foiled by Togashi’s more-than-adequate defense; it allowed him to pancake or stuff the attempts outright while continuing to rack up punches. When he was not defending against the ropes, Togashi was making it clear he would outbox Koyama to the decision, as he had done in so many upsets before.
“In the first round, I wanted to strike and go for takedowns. I wasn’t too worried that I couldn’t finish them because there were more rounds left in the fight. In the third, though, I felt I was behind, so I tried harder to take him down,” said Koyama, now 16-5-1.
Desperate for some significant offense in the last stanza, the champion winged more shots and pushed harder for takedowns, eventually putting Togashi on his posterior in the final minute. Consumed with the prospect of at least putting the challenger on his back to seal one solid takedown, Koyama fought for the moral victory until the final bell.
Despite the fighters’ mutual opinion by that point that Togashi had likely won the bout, two of the judges had different opinions, as Tadashi Yokoyama and Hiroyuki Kanno gave the bout 29-28 to Koyama. Only referee and in-ring judge Toshiharu Suzuki saw the bout 29-28 for the challenger. Sherdog.com saw the bout 30-28 for Togashi, with an even first frame.
“I thought I’d lost,” admitted a humble Pacific Rim champion. “He put more punches on me and his connection rate was higher, though I didn’t take much damage. I could feel the distance that was between us, as he was outboxing me. There aren’t many guys like him out there.”
“I also felt I won,” Togashi said in agreement. “The first two rounds were definitely mine, with the last maybe going to Koyama.”
The true surprise happening at the event came at 168 pounds, as Pacific Rim champion Akihiro Murayama earned the biggest win of his career and pulled out an unexpected-but-electrifying upset submission win over UFC, Dream and Sengoku veteran Keita Nakamura.
While Murayama chopped away with low kicks, “K-Taro” took a relaxed stance, lobbing measuring jabs at his opponent. When he went for a leg, however, Murayama launched a knee to Nakamura’s face, bloodying his nose. Murayama threw another knee to the face of the wobbly-legged Nakamura, sending him to the floor, where he latched on a rear-naked choke from the crucifix, much like Nakamura’s training partner Hideki Kadowaki’s “Kadowaki Special.”
With blood bubbling from the nose of a panicked Nakamura, the UFC and Dream vet had no choice but to tap out at the 2:30 mark. The win moves the 31-year-old Muryama to 12-5-6 in his MMA career, while Nakamura falls to 21-5-2.
“I can’t be by myself right now,” stuttered an ecstatic Murayama to raucous applause and laughter from the crowd. “His head was just in front of my knee and so I hit him. K-Taro said he’d beat me by choke, so I’m glad I won by rear-naked choke instead. Since I beat K-Taro, I’d like to fight for the Shooto world title next.”
One of Japan’s brightest up-and-comers, 2010 Shooto Rookie MVP Kyoji Horiguchi, of Krazy Bee, continued to steamroll the opposition, this time putting away the scrappy Naohiro Mizuno in the second round of their 132-pound contest.
With his right shoulder extensively taped, Mizuno was tentative, keeping his distance from the Krazy Bee product while trying to catch Horiguchi in the clinch or to take him down by catching Horiguchi’s heavy body kicks.
He was unsuccessful. With his foe offering virtually no offense to the rookie MVP, Horiguchi eventually became comfortable enough to charge forward and put Mizuno out of his misery with a two-hook combo. Mizuno turtled and covered up, as Horiguchi proceeded to drop vicious punches from riding time position until referee Suzuki called the stop at 3:28 of the second frame. Horiguchi, just 20 years old, is now 6-0 in his young career, with his last five wins all by way of knockout.
Fellow 2010 rookie champion Yuta Sasaki was not as fortunate as Horiguchi, as he tasted defeat for the first time in his nine-fight career, falling to gritty Hawaii transplant Guy Delumeau via unanimous decision: 29-28, 29-27 and 29-27.
Though Delumeau appeared to have difficulty with “Uruka’s” rangy southpaw jab and body kicks in the opening round, his tenacious wrestling instincts won him rounds in the later frames. In the second and third periods, the former Pacific University wrestler put Sasaki on his back, where he administered a generous amount of ground-and-pound from back position.
Delameau’s control was even complete enough for him to attempt two twisters on the Shinya Aoki training partner in the latter two stanzas, surprising the proficient grappler, as well as the crowd in attendance.
Flyweights Haruo Ochi and Ryuichi Miki fought a close, competitive bout in which Ochi scraped by on the judges’ cards. While Miki threw sharp combinations punctuated with kicks at all levels, Ochi’s short hook counters blasted his opponent’s chin on more than a few occasions. Miki got one more takedown than his opponent, but Ochi’s stiffer and more aggressive striking impressed judges Kanno and Suzuki to give the bout to him, 20-18; only judge Yokoyama dissented with a 20-19 card for Miki, preferring his combinations and takedown attempts.
In another 154-pound tilt, Shin Kochiwa took the better part of two rounds to warm up before turning it on against grappling standout Shinji Sasaki. After 10 conservative minutes of single strikes, Kochiwa overwhelmed Sasaki with windmills in the third, dropping him with two big hooks. Sasaki reverted to his rubber guard as he attempted to recover under fire but was unable to lock up the gogoplata he sought, resulting in 29-28 cards across the board for Kochiwa.
Tough 20-year-old Kosuke Kindaichi earned a second-round submission over Kazuhiro Ito in their featherweight contest, grounding Ito and showing the ground specialist his own skills, earning the tapout via kimura at 3:49 of the second round.
Lightweight Koji Nishioka dominated Fumihiko Kawamura with his superior wrestling and positional grappling, earning 20-18 scores across the board.
At 168 pounds, veteran Hirosumi Sugiura forced the tap from Tetsuo Seto in the final seconds of their bout, putting him away at the 4:47 mark with the rear-naked choke.