Yasuhiro Urushitani (right) is the world's top flyweight. | Taro Irei/Sherdog.com
1. Yasuhiro Urushitani (18-4-6)
It was a non-title fight, but in his Nov. 19 appearance against a tough Takuya Mori, Urushitani looked every bit the top 123-pounder in professional Shooto. Urushitani brutally bashed Mori in the first round, earning his first knockout in the Shooto ring in his decade-long career.
2. Mamoru Yamaguchi (25-5-3)
It seems like Shooto’s afroed ace has decided he likes fighting in America: after besting Greg Guzman in Highland, Calif. last August, Mamoru will return to action in the Golden State this spring. The former two-division Shooto world champ will step in for Alexis Vila to face John Dodson at Tachi Palace Fights 9 on May 5 in Lemoore, Calif.
3. Ian McCall (9-2)
Previously best known for a 1-2 WEC run at bantamweight, McCall showed his intentions at 125 pounds by handing top-ranked flyweight Jussier “Formiga” da Silva his first loss on Feb. 18. The man nicknamed “Uncle Creepy” will next meet unbeaten prospect Dustin Ortiz at Tachi Palace Fights 9 on May 5.
4. Jussier “Formiga” da Silva (9-1)
Following a successful December stateside debut against Danny Martinez, “Formiga” stepped into the Tachi Palace Fights cage with another WEC veteran, Ian McCall, on Feb. 18. While the early going mirrored the Martinez bout, with Da Silva taking McCall’s back, “Uncle Creepy” outworked the Brazilian down the stretch, stuffing takedowns and landing punches en route to a unanimous decision. There has been no word on when or where Da Silva will return following the first setback of his career.
5. Yuki Shojo (10-5-2)
Out of action for the past year, Shojo was set to make his return to Shooto against Noboru Tahara on March 12. That bout was postponed due to the massive earthquake which rocked Japan on March 11; the pair will now square off at Shooto’s April 29 disaster relief event in Tokyo.
6. Darrell Montague (9-1)
The “Mongoose” hardly looked an underdog in snatching the Tachi Palace Fights 125-pound belt from Ulysses Gomez on Feb. 18, battering “Useless” with crisp boxing for five rounds en route to a lopsided unanimous decision. The 23-year-old Montague has yet to be assigned his first title defense but should have no lack of challengers in the near future; three world-ranked flyweights -- Mamoru Yamaguchi, Ian McCall and John Dodson -- and one unbeaten prospect -- Dustin Ortiz -- are all set for action at TPF’s May 6 event.
7. Ryuichi Miki (10-4-3)
A third bout with Yasuhiro Urushitani was the chance of a lifetime for Miki, who had the opportunity to vie for the Shooto 123-pound world title. However, as in the pair’s first two encounters, it was Urushitani who walked out the victor and remained champion on May 30.
8. Kiyotaka Shimizu (7-3-2)
The flyweight “King of Pancrase” played a minor role in Japan’s New Year’s season festivities. Shimizu was a last-minute addition to the Sengoku Raiden Championship “Soul of Fight” card on Dec. 30, as he defeated Ichiro Sugita by split decision in a one-round, five-minute “jacket rules” bout.
9. Alexis Vila (8-0)
In front of a pro-Cuban crowd on Feb. 12 in Miami, Vila smashed out his ninth career win, putting away Lewis McKenzie in the second round under the Mixed Fighting Alliance banner. The question for the 1996 Olympic bronze medalist becomes a matter of when he steps into the cage with another Top 10 flyweight and faces the division’s best.
10. Fumihiro Kitahara (9-2-1)
Kitahara’s first bout against a true A-level flyweight did not go as he had hoped. The 2008 Shooto rookie champion took on former two-division Shooto world titleholder Mamoru Yamaguchi, who needed just over two minutes to put his shin on Kitahara’s head, leaving him flat on the mat.
Other contenders: John Dodson, Louis Gaudinot, Ulysses Gomez, Alexandre Pantoja, Mitsuhisa Sunabe.