Kazuhisa Tazawa became Deep's second megaton king Friday in Tokyo. | Taro Irei/Sherdog.com
TOKYO -- Deep's Megaton heavyweight division is oft-mocked, but Friday at Korakuen Hall, Kazuhisa Tazawa was undeterred, as he submitted Yuji Sakuragi to become the second Megaton champion in the headliner of Deep's "52 Impact."
Since its inception in 2008, the Deep Megaton class has been an MMA cult favorite. Devised by corpulent Deep boss Shigeru Saeki, the Megaton division has pit the largest Japanese fighters against one another, regardless of weight, fitness and sometimes even experience, all for the sake of displaying the thrills of fleshy goliaths pummeling one another.
As Sakuragi has been known for devastating strikes, felling the likes of light heavyweight King of Pancrase Ryo Kawamura, Tazawa wisely took the karateka down to terrorize him on the floor. Tazawa captured Sakuragi's back, whereupon he flattened him out to wail away with hooks to the sides of the head. Sakuragi made little effort to escape and what few instances he did try were woefully ineffective. He covered up well, however, absorbing Tazawa's punches on his arms and hands.
Tazawa thus tired himself and it appeared as if he was done for with the resurgent Sakuragi coming into the second round. Two sloppy takedown attempts later, however, Tazawa quickly stole back mount again and cinched the choke for a quick tap at a mere 54 seconds in, moving to 7-1-1 in his career, with six stoppages.
"My dad had a birthday recently. It's a bit late, but, happy birthday; I got a belt for you," said a breathless but elated Tazawa.
In the post-fight, Tazawa paid mind to former Megaton champion Yusuke Kawaguchi, who he was previously scheduled to meet before an undisclosed injury forced Kawaguchi to vacate his title.
"For my next fight, if I were to face Kawaguchi, I'm confident that I would defeat him," Tazawa added.
Deep 137-pound champion Masakazu Imanari's title was not on the line against Hiroshi Nakamura, but that did not stop "Iron" from employing a flawless game plan to take a unanimous decision upset over the leglock master.
Nakamura played with fire by starting off with hard low kicks, perhaps baiting Imanari to drop for a leglock. Imanari did not take the bait until late in the first round and in the second, but Nakamura's kicks were surprisingly effective, reddening and weakening Imanari's legs.
Cognizant he had dropped the first two frames, Imanari started the third with a flying leg scissors takedown, from which he scrambled for the armbar. Nakamura spun out three times before taking top position and unleashing brutal hammerfists. Nakamura grinded out Imanari the rest of the way, taking a unanimous decision from judges Akira Shoji, Kenichi Serizawa and Yoshinori Umeki. No scores were announced.
"I felt the fight went the way everyone saw it: that I was implementing my game plan, and that it worked," said a jubilant Nakamura after the bout. "I watched a lot of video on Imanari, so I pretty much knew everything he would throw at me. Nothing really surprised me."
The non-title loss is Imanari's second as a Deep champion. In August 2006, he fell to UFC veteran Fredson Paixao via unanimous decision while reigning as Deep's featherweight champ.
With the victory over the "Ashikan Judan," one would expect the 30-year-old Nakamura -- beaten just once in his last 14 fights -- to be afforded a title rematch with Imanari, provided he is not longing to try his hand at fighting abroad, like stablemate Yoshiyuki Yoshida.
"I've never had the experience of winning or defending a belt, and I don't know if I'd stay in Japan or fight abroad in the near future," he said. "Imanari was a name fighter here, and I just hope my next opponent has a name, too."
In 115-pound women's action, Jewels poster girl Saori Ishioka's spirited effort was insufficient to top Korean kickboxing ace Seo Hee Ham.
Ishioka tried unsuccessfully to replicate the success of Ayaka Hamasaki, who defeated Ham in December on the strength of her lead hook. Ham's early counterstriking was surgical, as she landed barrages of left crosses, body kicks and head kicks. Ishioka absorbed the damage, eating two or three blows just to return the one punch or kick that connected cleanly. Ham, 23, easily took a unanimous verdict after two lopsided rounds.
In a messy but crowd-rousing middleweight affair, former Deep middleweight Ryuta Sakurai dug deep to put away Yoshiyuki Nakanishi with a late submission. Entering the bout two pounds overweight, Nakanishi had Sakurai's number early, wobbling him on the feet. Sakurai took over in the third round, however, taking down Nakanishi and mashing with short punches before wrenching out the armbar for the tap at 3:48.
Featherweights Shoji Maruyama and Tomoya Kato were set to slug it out. However, the fight ended on a sour note when a wild exchange in which Maruyama dropped Kato to a knee opened a fight-ending cut over Kato's right eye. It led to a doctor stoppage just 87 seconds into the bout.
Veteran Shigetoshi Iwase made quick work of welterweight Yoshitomo Watanabe, landing a right hand that put the AACC fighter flat on his back at 2:42 of the first round.
An avid armbar finisher, Takeshi Yamazaki did not disappoint his fans, taking Katsunori Tsuda's left arm just 93 seconds into their featherweight fight. Rather than take the easy way out, Tsuda hung on through a hyper-extended arm until his corner threw in the towel.
In bantamweight action, Tatsumitsu Wada slid by on the judges' cards against Sakae Kasuya with a two-round unanimous decision, while Masato Kobayashi fought conservatively against Ryo Masuda, until bloodying him with wild punches in the bout's final moments en route to taking a unanimous decision.
Heavyweight Ken Hasegawa gave his best Shinya Aoki impression in dispatching Noriaki Oshida, quickly twisting Oshida's right arm behind his back for a tap-inducing hammerlock just 75 seconds into the first round.
Kicking off the show, lightweight Yoshihiro Tomioka used the time-honored tactic of absorbing his opponent's offense to tire him out, taking down an exhausted Luiz Andrade I and punching him out at 4:56 of round two.