Yoshiro Maeda | Daniel Herbertson/Sherdog.com
Masanori Kanehara vs. Yoshiro Maeda
Kanehara was one of the breakout stars of 2009, winning the Sengoku featherweight grand prix and beating a trio of later Zuffa-signed fighters in “Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung, Michihiro Omigawa and Norifumi Yamamoto. After spending the first six years of his career in relative obscurity, fighting almost exclusively in Tokyo-based feeder promotion Zst, his title run was nothing short of spectacular. However, after missing out on a spring fight due to injury, Kanehara returned to action in June and was knocked out by Marlon Sandro in 38 seconds, losing the SRC title.
Maeda was the first ever featherweight King of Pancrase, and is one of the most experienced and successful Japanese fighters, having competed in Pancrase, Deep, Pride, WEC and Dream. He holds notable wins over Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioner Fredson Paixao, former WEC bantamweight champion Chase Beebe, and, most recently, former Deep featherweight champ Takafumi Otsuka. During his runs in WEC and Dream, Maeda fought at 135 and 139 pounds, respectively, so the clash with Kanehara will be his first featherweight fight in over three years.
This bout is as evenly-matched as they come. Even though Kanehara is billed as a jiu-jitsu fighter and Maeda as a striker, Kanehara has his fair share of clean knockouts using both his fists and knees, while Maeda has some slick offensive grappling as well. Kanehara, who has the better size for a featherweight, holds a significant reach advantage, which may prompt Maeda either to play on the ground more than usual, or take more risks in the standup portions of the bout.
Prediction: Despite his amazing 2009 run, Kanehara continues to fly under the radar as a top-level threat in the featherweight division. While he may not change that notion completely with a win over Maeda, a victory over the man from the port city of Takamatsu would be a clear sign that what happened last year was no fluke. Kanehara should be awarded a close fight on points.
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