Preview: Shooto 'Tradition 5'

Boku vs. Endo

By Jordan Breen Jan 17, 2009
Curiously enough for such an acclaimed institution, promoter Sustain has never opened a new year in style for the Shooto world.

Imagine if Roger Goodell and Co. pitted the Bears against the Browns in the Thursday night doubleheader that kicked off the NFL season. It’s not so awful that you can feel outrage but also not so enticing that you can get genuinely excited. Instead, you’re likely only intrigued by the possible faces Eric Mangini may make after Braylon Edwards drops a surefire touchdown with no one around him for 10 yards.

While Sunday’s Shooto “Tradition 5” at the always-hip Differ Ariake in Tokyo may not add any Aoki-on-Wisniewski or Murahama-on-Brennan moments to the scrapbook of January Shooto cards, there’s one overwhelming -- if not utterly orgasmic -- thing for which to be excited about this card. It may have taken two decades, but the rotten, awful, horrible, no good, very bad knockdown rule is now only an artifact of history.

Yes, after 24 years as a concept and entering its 20th year of professional prizefights, the Shooto world has said goodbye to the archaic and ridiculous knockdown rule, which consistently sullied otherwise fantastic fights for years. Now if only it could do something about those giant Socker Boppers it calls gloves.

Kotetsu Boku vs. Yusuke Endo

Here’s a testament to the true depth of the lightweight class. Despite the UFC, Dream and Sengoku having snapped up the vast majority of the division’s elite, Sustain still offers a fantastic pairing of sterling fighters in the division. Logically, a victory is either fighter’s likely ticket to a bigger payday elsewhere.

For Boku, that would be a return ticket, as he has ridden his allegiance with superstar Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto to appearances in both Hero’s and Dream. However, do not misinterpret Boku’s big-fight appearances as the product of cronyism. Boku, 31, is an underappreciated fighter who has been serially overlooked, not just by fans but by the promoters who have used him sparsely and the judges who have taken deserved victories from him.

Equally unsung is the 25-year-old Endo. The Masaru Gokita student has lost just once in the last three years -- a unanimous verdict to current Shooto world champion Takashi Nakakura in November 2007. Yet, despite his successes, he has remained consigned to the Shooto ring and meager purses, his name only invoked when fans glance down the resume of UFC workload wiz Clay Guida and wonder how “The Carpenter” lost to some guy about whom they have never heard.

The bout is imbued with a do-or-die ultimatum for both fighters. If Boku plans to prove he belongs in a major promotion, earning major purses and meeting major lightweights, a win over Endo is imperative. If Endo wants to leave behind the world of being a part-time noodle chef, part-time fighter and show that he’s ready for marquee fighters in the lightweight division, a win over Boku is essential.

The tactical onus falls on Endo. He’s heavy handed with a predilection for punching, but in Boku, he faces one of the division’s best technical strikers. Boku’s beautiful jab, punch combinations and expert body shots are rarities to be relished in a sport that’s still often reduced to blind swinging, even at the elite level. When he scores liberally with his hands, Boku can integrate leg kicks and knees to great success.

However, despite his technical supremacy, Boku is far more of a singles hitter in a home run-dominated sport. The blueprint for Endo to score on the feet was perhaps best laid by Joachim Hansen in the opening round of Dream’s lightweight tournament in March. The enormous disparity in power allowed Hansen to wade through Boku’s strikes and crush the figurative long ball, dropping Boku twice and at one point actually propelling him upward into the air like Mortal Kombat incarnate.

While Endo lacks a dynamite double-leg, he’s a capable wrestler who can take down Boku as long as he closes the distance. On his back, Boku will look only to stall or stand, and Endo, who excels in the scramble, can afford to be more aggressive if and when he gets top position. In fact, the only real potential for this fight being finished is if Endo is submits Boku, either by taking the back or catching him in transition.

Boku’s footwork and technical striking should allow him to keep Endo out of range, where he does not have the Sherkesque shot or Hansenesque barbarism to make up for it. Instead, Endo will do his best to lob punches at Boku, only to be expertly pity-patted in combination for 15 minutes. If MMA was like “Highlander” and Boku could have absorbed Hermes Franca’s naturally titanic power when he beat him in 2005, there would be reason to be hopeful for his future.
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