Junji Ito (center) challenges 115-pound ace Rambaa Somdet (right) March 12 | Paul Benjamin/Sherdog.com
TOKYO -- The strawweight division's affable-but-brutal ruler is back to defend his throne.
Shooto 115-pound world champion Rambaa "M-16" Somdet will make the second defense of his title against heavy-hitting dynamo Junji "Sarumaru" Ito at "Shootor's Legacy 2" on March 12 at Korakuen Hall in Tokyo. Leading Shooto promoter Sustain announced the bout during its Jan. 10 "Shootor's Legacy 1" card, also at Korakuen Hall.
While "Sarumaru" offered up familiar platitudes about the "strength of the champ" and the March bout being his one and only shot at greatness, Somdet charmed the crowd at Korakuen with his rambunctious enthusiasm.
"Happy New Year! Thank you for supporting me in renewing my visa. I love my belt, so I want to keep it," the Thai champion enthused in his rehearsed but charmingly broken Japanese monologue.
Somdet, 36, fought just once in 2010, successfully defending his title against Hiroyuki Abe in July, when the ringside doctor halted Abe in the first round due to damage to his left eye. Somdet's inactivity was in large part due to his visa struggles as a Thai national. However, after gathering 1,252 signatures in support of him staying in the country, Somdet's visa has now been renewed indefinitely by the Immigration Bureau of Japan.
A winner of seven straight, Somdet is unbeaten since his return to MMA action in 2007, which followed a four-and-a-half-year competitive hiatus.
The 115-pound division's most potent finisher, the 24-year-old Ito has won five straight. On Dec. 18, he blasted tough veteran Atsushi Takeuchi, a frequent training partner of Somdet's, in the first round.
The March 12 bill will also feature many of the 2010 Shooto rookie champions in action, including standouts Yuta "Uruka" Sasaki, Kyoji Horiguchi, and Kosuke "Rambo" Suzuki against yet-to-be-named opponents. 2009 rookie champ Yusuke Yachi is also scheduled to compete.