Pro Shooto crowned its 2011 crop of rookie champions at Shinjuku Face on Sunday. | Photo: Taro Irei
TOKYO -- Continuing the tradition that spawned promotional greats such as Tatsuya Kawajiri, Yasuhiro Urushitani and Takeya Mizugaki, Shooto crowned its 10th batch of rookie champions with Sunday’s 2011 rookie tournament finals at Shinjuku Face.
In a rollicking 132-pound tilt, Michinori Tanaka took both his division’s rookie crown and the 2011 rookie tournament MVP title with an impressive and controlling decision over Akihito Ishihara.
Despite his impressive technical abilities, it wasn’t all smooth sailing for the 21-year-old Reversal Gym Yokohama Ground Slam prospect. When Tanaka botched an attempted triangle choke from mount in the opening round, Ishihara quickly capitalized by taking his back. Tanaka escaped shortly afterward to reassert himself in side-control, where he dropped heavy hammerfists until the bell, stealing a round which could easily have gone Ishihara’s way.
“I don’t think I was calm enough in there. My corner was telling me to enjoy the fight,” said a reflective Tanaka to Sherdog.com. “It was a competitive fight, though. My hard training was what gave me the edge to push the fight in the end.”
The second frame was a more dominant one for Tanaka. After powering his way out from under Ishihara’s half-guard, he again captured the mount. Unable to finish with a guillotine attempt, Tanaka contented himself with dropping punches on the hapless Ishihara to the bell, thus securing lopsided 20-17 scorecards from judges Tomohiro Tanaka, Hiroyuki Kanno, and Toshiharu Suzuki.
“My fight went to the judges -- it wasn’t a knockout or a submission. I’m not sure I deserve the MVP title, but I’m thankful for it,” said a humble Tanaka. “I think I can fight stronger opponents in the future, so please continue to support me in my endeavors.”
The 154-pound rookie tournament final ended with a bit of a twist, as Yusuke Kasuya surged back to put away Nobumitsu Osawa away via submission.
After a crowd-pleasing exchange of heavy fire on the feet, an Osawa flurry sent a dizzied Kasuya to the canvas, allowing “Tyson” to lunge and take mount. Though by all appearances about to get his face smashed en route to a TKO loss, a desperate Kasuya bridged and exploded under the shellacking punches, escaping through the back door. Kasuya then quickly captured a foot and twisted, getting the toe-hold tap-out at 2:25 of the first round. For this thrilling comeback, the Akimoto Dojo Jungle Junction product was justly awarded this year’s rookie tournament “Fighting Spirit” award.
Equally impressive was Yuya “Monkey” Shibata, who lived up to his nickname in the 123-pound rookie tourney final by climbing his way to Hiroshi Osato’s back before cinching up a rear-naked choke. Rather than tap to the furry-shorted Shibata, the stubborn Osato slumped unconscious in his corner, prompting referee Suzuki to save him at the 4:12 mark. For his economical grappling and efficient finish, Shibata netted this year’s “Best Technique” award.
Murofushi Bros. Split Results, 2009 Rookie Champ Yachi Nets Decision
At 115 pounds, Shinya Murofushi handily dispatched 2010 rookie champ Masayoshi Kato by way of submission in the second round. While the fight stayed even on the feet in the bout’s opening moments, the younger of Shooto’s Murofushi brothers pulled ahead once he secured Kato’s back, where he threatened with rear-naked chokes and punches to the side of the head.
It was much the same story in the second until Murofushi attempted to finish with an armbar. Kato narrowly escaped and made his way into Murofushi’s guard, but this recovery was short-lived as the Shizuoka-based fighter scissored his legs around Kato’s body and wrenched his left arm behind his back. Kato tapped to the hammerlock at the 3:15 mark, signaling the first defeat of his career.
Immediately prior, Tadaaki Yamamoto and Katsuya Murofushi put on an explosive 115-pound tilt. The shorter Yamamoto was aggressive from the opening bell, pursuing the elder Murofushi with lunging low kicks and combinations, but Murofushi’s counterpunching served him well and twice dropped Yamamoto.
Regardless, the bloody-nosed Yamamoto was undaunted and pursued Murofushi with vicious intent until the bell. His speedy aggression paid off in the second stanza, when, after missing a flying knee, Yamamoto landed behind a ducking Murofushi. Taking opportunity of the position, “Onibozu” immediately leapt onto Murofushi's back and sunk the rear-naked choke, quickly rendering Murofushi unconscious and prompting referee Suzuki to peel Yamamoto off of at 0:25 of round two.
Yusuke Yachi, 2009 rookie tournament winner at 143 pounds, took a solid decision over 2007 rookie champ Kazuhiro Ito after two largely conservative rounds. Both fighters kept their distance in the first period, circling each other while throwing token single shots. While Yachi racked up low kicks to the inside of Ito’s lead leg, not much transpired in the initial five minutes.
Things picked up some in the second and final frame when, after a Yachi takedown, Ito failed a guillotine attempt, prompting his Krazy Bee-trained opponent to take side-control and drop blistering punches. Yachi took the fight with two 20-18 cards courtesy of judges Kanno and Suzuki, and a 20-17 card from judge Yokoyama.
Nakamura, ‘Jun Requiem’ Take Rookie Tourney Titles
In the year’s 143-pound tournament final, Yoshifumi Nakamura played the bull to Chuji Kato’s somewhat ineffectual matador. Over the course of two rounds, Nakamura charged Kato with wild punches, missing as often as he connected.
The rangy Kato played a conservative game, throwing jabs and kicks while circling away and locking up Nakamura in the clinch, but ultimately offered little offense from the position. While judges Tanaka and Suzuki ruled the fight a draw after two rounds -- with only judge Kanno submitting a 20-19 Kato card -- Nakamura was able to capitalize in the extension round, slapping an arm-triangle choke on the exhausted Kato at the 2:58 mark.
Jun “Requiem” Nakamura appeared intent on setting a new world record for most submissions attempted in his 115-pound rookie final against Akihito Sasao. After catching an early Sasao kick, Nakamura attempted heel hook after heel hook while eating his opponent’s defensive punches from bottom.
Nakamura’s sub attempts diminished some in the second period, but he nonetheless kept top position and dropped punches through Sasao’s guard, eventually taking a 20-19 card from judge Tanaka and a pair of 20-18s from judges Yokoyama and Suzuki.
Last but not least, in the 168-pound rookie final, Yuki Okano beat on Gota Yamashita for two rounds to take a well-earned decision. Though the fight started a wild slugfest on the feet, Okano eventually found his edge on the ground, where he pounded on Yamashita from guard and mount for a round and a half, taking 20-18 scorecards from judges Tanaka, Yokoyama and Suzuki.