Pancrase's July 24 card at Differ Ariake in Tokyo will feature a title doubleheader, albeit under unconventional circumstances.
The long-tenured Japanese promotion announced Monday that “Ultimate Fighter” Season 12 winner Jonathan Brookins will return to the promotion to challenge bantamweight King of Pancrase Shintaro Ishiwatari for the title in the main event of Pancrase 279. The 30-year-old Brookins made his promotional debut in November 2014, defeating Ishiwatari by unanimous decision in a three-round non-title affair and has not fought since. Despite not being listed in Pancrase's official rankings and not having fought for over 18 months, the previous win was enough to earn title bid for the yogi Brookins, who now trains out of Tristar Gym in Montreal.
The 31-year-old Ishiwatari, initially a Shooto mainstay in his early career, took the 135-pound King of Pancrase crown against Manabu Inoue in December 2011 and has defended it successfully three times since, most recently winning a 25-minute unanimous verdict over Josh Barnett pupil Victor Henry in December.
In the evening's other title contest, former Shooto world 123-pound champion Ryuichi Miki will look to add the vacant flyweight King of Pancrase to his trophy case when he takes on Yuki Yasunaga, however, the reasons for the title being vacated are curious.
In December, long-reigning Pancrase flyweight ace Kiyotaka Shimizu lost a three-round “champion's assessment bout” against Miki by unanimous decision, resulting in him being stripped of the title he won in February 2010 and had defended six times, a Pancrase record. The promotion ordered the bout due to Shimizu's losing three consecutive bouts outside of Pancrase, albeit all by split decision.
The July 24 bill will also include the promotional return of bantamweight Queen of Pancrase and UFC veteran Rin Nakai, who drops to 125 pounds to face Emiko Raika, as well as pro-wrestling and kickboxing star Syuri Kondo against a yet-to-be-named opponent at 115 pounds.