Satoru Kitaoka file photo: Sherdog.com
TOKYO -- Former Sengoku lightweight champion Satoru Kitaoka bested current Cage Force lightweight ace Kuniyoshi Hironaka on Sunday’s Pancrase Passion Tour 9 at Differ Ariake.
The latest in Pancrase’s recent series of cross-promotional bouts, the Kitaoka-Hironaka tilt seemed a significant affair for both fighters. With setbacks in larger Japanese promotions -- Kitaoka losing his lightweight title to Mizuto Hirota in Sengoku, and Hironaka being knocked out by Deep lightweight champ Katsunori Kikuno in Dream -- both men entered the ring with the understanding that the fight was a do-or-die proposition.
“If I lost this fight, I would have begun thinking about retirement,” said Kitaoka, after the fight. “I think Hironaka might have been thinking the same thing.”
Fans were thus treated to an aggressive Kitaoka, who deviated from his typical modus operandi of shooting for takedowns to look for submissions with his crushing top game. The southpaw Kitaoka attacked primarily with high kicks and swiping right hooks which, though often blocked, forced Hironaka to fight defensively. Hironaka popped off unchecked low kicks and stiff jabs, one of which eventually opened a cut over Kitaoka's right eye.
Given Kitaoka's history of deteriorating in fights that go beyond the first round, Hironaka's early defensiveness seemed to indicate that he would counter-strike his way to a decision victory. The Cage Force champ even managed to steal top position off of two rebuffed takedown attempts by Kitaoka. It was during one of these botched attempts in the second period that Kitaoka gave up his back to Hironaka, although the former Sengoku champ swiftly reversed the position and applied a foot lock. Hironaka escaped, but soon found himself contending with another of Kitaoka's specialities in the guillotine choke.
Hironaka fought the choke, but it was locked in too tightly to be denied. Kicking his legs in the throes of the submission, Hironaka was forced to tap out at 4:22 of the second round.
After the fight, an emotional Kitaoka expressed his gratitude for Don Quijote owner Takao Yasuda, Pancrase promoter Yasushi Sakamoto, and J-Rock president and former World Victory Road head Takahiro Kokuho, all of whom Kitaoka credited with supporting him following his losses in Sengoku.
This was followed by Kitaoka's surprising declaration that he was “done with Pancrase.” In a post-fight interview, Kitaoka expressed that he felt he had done all that he could in the promotion, though there was still more to do in MMA. While he does not know where he will go next, Kitaoka asserted hopes to fight again on New Year's Eve.
When pressed as to where he would like to fight, Kitaoka said, “I can't talk about that now.”
Elsewhere on the card, Sengoku Raiden Championship-sponsored prospect Shigeki Osawa made quick work of Masaomi Saito, putting the Takada Dojo product away with a first-round TKO. From the opening bell, Osawa repeatedly teased the takedown by reaching out to paw Saito's lead leg -- a pattern to which Saito caught on and almost put a finish to with a knee to Osawa's face. Despite the risks, Osawa continued to tease the takedown in an apparent attempt to lull Saito into complacency. The tactic worked, as Osawa lunged immediately after a knee, pawing with a big overhand left.
Taking the punch on the ear, Saito dropped to all fours and turtled up. Osawa promptly lunged to finish his prone opponent with a barrage of punches before referee Kenji Kosuge jumped in for the save at 1:42 of the first round.
After the bout, Osawa expressed a desire to fight for the Pancrase featherweight title, held currently by Marlon Sandro. As a relative newcomer to the promotion however, Osawa acknowledged that he must fight a Pancrase-ranked opponent before challenging for the title.
In a lightweight attraction, Takafumi Ito made quick work of Romanian kempo champion Sabou Miruchya. After escaping a Miruchya guillotine early in round one, the longtime Pancrase veteran racked up some ground and pound from guard before scrambling to take his opponent's back and sinking in a rear-naked choke. Miruchya fought the submission by prying Ito's arms away, but the dogged Pancrasist would not be denied, reapplying the choke until Miruchya tapped at the 3:19 mark of the first period.
In other Pancrase news, the promotion announced bouts for its Dec. 5 card, which will feature triple championship fights. Former Pancrase flyweight champion Mitsuhisa Sunabe will rematch current title-holder Kiyotaka Shimizu, who took the belt from him in their second meeting this past February. Having already defeated Yuki Kondo at Sept. 26's Cage Force 19, Rikuhei Fujii will attempt to do so again for Kondo's middleweight King of Pancrase title. Yuji Sakuragi will similarly attempt to take Ryo Kawamura's light heavyweight crown after pounding Kawamura out in a September non-title affair. Also slated for the card is a women's bout pitting “Windy” Tomomi Sunaba against Akiko Naito.
Takenori Sato def Yuta Nakamura -- Submission (kimura) 0:34 R2
Hiroki Nagaoka def Ryosuke Togashi -- Unan Dec 5:00 R2
Yusuke Kawanago def Masaki Yanagisawa -- KO (Soccer kick) 0:51 R2
Katsuhiko Nomura def Kenichi Ogura -- Tech Sub (Armbar) 0:53 R1
Chikara Shimabukuro def. Tsukasa Arai -- Submission (Triangle) 4:49 R1
Sotaro Kojima draws Takamasa Kiuchi -- Time Limit Draw 5:00 R2