Takafumi Otsuka (center) claimed his second Deep title Friday. | Photo: Taro Irei/Sherdog.com
TOKYO -- In his return to the Deep ring for the promotion’s “54 Impact” card, Dream veteran and former Deep featherweight kingpin Takafumi Otsuka fought tooth-and-nail with Hiroshi Nakamura to become the company’s second bantamweight titlist Friday at Korakuen Hall.
The men vied for the belt relinquished in May by Dream 2011 Japan bantamweight grand prix finalist Masakazu Imanari, who dropped a non-title decision to Nakamura at February’s “52 Impact.”
In a change from his recent Dream outings, the first frame saw a much more aggressive Otsuka hunt down Nakamura from the center of the ring. The former champion lunged with winging punches while “Iron” circled and aimed to land counter-shots. Otsuka did leave his mark, however, sucking Nakamura into the clinch to piston punch away with dirty-boxing right hands -- some of which wobbled Nakamura -- in between takedown attempts and effectively sealing the round.
Not to be outdone, Nakamura evened the cards in the second stanza, taking Otsuka down twice to mash with short punches from top in half-guard. Surprisingly, referee Samio Kimura opted to let Nakamura spend most of his time racking up points from the position, despite the promotion’s rules prompting quick standups, essentially allowing “Iron” to earn himself the round.
The final period saw Otsuka return with a vengeance to take the fight. After forcing Nakamura down against the ropes from the whizzer, Otsuka landed a snapping soccer kick to the head. This was followed by a blistering flurry minutes later which dropped Iron in a corner. Though the Abe Ani Combat Club product followed Nakamura down with punches, Otsuka was unable to finish. However, thanks to his overwhelming offense in the third round, judges Kenichi Serizawa, Yoshinori Umeki, Yuji Shimada, Akira Shoji, and Kimura voted unanimously for Otsuka.
“I trained real hard for the knockout, but couldn’t get it. I found my hands getting stuck by the ropes and just couldn’t finish,” said a humble Otsuka of the late knockdown. “If it was ‘Kid’ [Norifumi Yamamoto] or [Takanori] Gomi in my position, I’m sure they’d finish it. I’m just not there yet.”
Despite a commanding win over the last man to beat former champ Imanari, the newly crowned Otsuka was reserved regarding his return to Japan’s flagship MMA event, Dream. Given his recent unluckiness with decisions in the Dream ring, Otsuka dampened expectations that he’d make a quick return.
“People say they want to see me back in Dream, but because I lost continuously there, I don’t think I have the right. I think I’ll stay and defend my title in Deep for a bit, and will wait for the call back,” Otsuka said.
In the evening’s other title attraction, Deep light heavyweight champion Yoshiyuki Nakanishi successfully defended his belt for the first time against TV personality-turned-fighter Bernard Ackah.
Ackah antagonized with punches early, but was soon put on his back in a corner. Nakanishi quickly got to his feet, and before Ackah could follow, he ate a swift left kick to the face, courtesy of the champ. Ackah slumped in the corner, eating several more punches before referee Umeki stepped in for the save after just 67 seconds.
Prior to the double title tilts, Sengoku veteran and former Deep lightweight champion Kazunori Yokota took a lopsided decision over former lightweight King of Pancrase Shoji Maruyama. When he wasn’t tagging Maruyama with counterpunches and teep kicks to the face, Yokota was hitting takedowns on him for a rare showing of positional dominance on the canvas. Throughout all three rounds, it never dawned upon Maruyama to stay out of clinches or to explode from the bottom to reset on the feet. Yokota thus commanded on the feet and the canvas to earn the unanimous nod on judges Shoji, Kimura, and Serizawa’s cards.
After some initial trouble with stalwart wrestler Shigetoshi Iwase, UFC and Pride veteran Ryo Chonan made a resounding KO comeback late in the first frame.
The former Deep middleweight champ was sparked early with a counterpunch while winging punches of his own, which resulted in Chonan having his back taken for much of the first round. After a standup by referee Shimada, the “Piranha” got serious, landing a crushing left hook moments later. Stiff as a board, Iwase dropped straight backward into his corner at 4:45 of round one.
Georgian judo standout Levan Razmadze battered Seigo Mizuguchi to a TKO stoppage in the first round, winning the Annihilate openweight grand prix and a shot at Deep megaton champ Kazuhisa Tazawa. From the outset, Razmadze was clearly the faster and stronger fighter, plunking Mizuguchi with punches on the feet and on the ground. So ferocious were the blows that Mizuguchi eventually began to cower through the ropes rather than be hit. Not liking that sight at all, referee Serizawa soon called the bout at the 3:21 mark.
The surging A Sol Kwon outstruck Deep mainstay Yoshihiro Tomioka, landing flying knees, high kicks, and snapping punches to his face for the full ten minutes. While it was clear early on that the South Korean import was the superior striker, Tomioka hung tough, absorbing damage in the hopes of tiring Kwon out. Though Kwon never completely expended himself, Tomioka was able put some punches on his slowing foe before the second frame expired. It was too little in comparison to his opponent’s offense, however, resulting in scorecards for Kwon from judges Serizawa, Shimada, and Umeki.
Longtime Deep veteran Tomomi “Taisho” Iwama submitted Myung Sik Kwak with only seconds to spare in the first round. The come from behind submission surprisingly came after Taisho suffered two knockdowns while boxing with the Korean. Off of the second knockdown, Iwama quickly recovered his wits to grab for a heel hook, forcing the tap 4:53 into the fight.
Hideto Tatsumi ground out a unanimous decision over Pride and Rings vet Hiromitsu Kanehara with battering punches on the feet and short shots on the canvas. Outside of a few sneaky submission attempts and one reasonably close kimura in the first period, Kanehara had little for the superior striker and wrestler in Tatsumi.
Hirohide Fujinuma’s TKO victory over Kentaro Onishi was as simple in execution as it was quick. Starting with a takedown, Fujinuma passed to mount, whereupon he dropped punches until Onishi went fetal, prompting referee Shoji to call it at 1:26.
In classic Rock’em Sock’em Robots style, Yoshiki Harada and Toru Harai slammed each other with big punches until only one was left standing. That man was Harada, who dropped Harai like a sack of potatoes with a counter flurry at 2:53 of the first round.
Despite impressing with lunging knees and winging shots to the head and body in the first frame, Californian Alex Soto split his Deep debut in a two-round draw with Seiji Akao. What arguably made judges Shoji, Kimura and Shimada less certain of a clear victor was Akao’s ability to take Soto down and capture his back in the second period.
Yoshitomo Watanabe made short work of Go Sato -- brother of welterweight King of Pancrase Takenori Sato -- by utilizing his jab to set up swiping right hooks, beating Sato to all fours against the ropes for the TKO stop at the 3:20 mark.
In the night’s opener, Yasuhiro Kawasaki took a majority decision over Luiz Andrade I, arguably winning on account of a yellow card his opponent earned for low blows.