Koubousen Companion: Fukuda Returns

By Jordan Breen Sep 13, 2007
On tap this weekend is Elite XC's potent offering in Hawaii, which features one of Japan's best young prospects, Riki Fukuda (Pictures), taking a major step up in competition.

Joey Villasenor (Pictures) will provide Fukuda with the stiffest test of his young pro career. Moreover, with a 185-pound title bout between Murilo "Ninja" Rua and Robbie Lawler (Pictures) headlining the bill, the Fukuda-Villasenor bout may take on championship-contender implications.

Over the past few years, Fukuda has been considered one of Japan's best prospects in the heavier weight classes. A strong collegiate grappler in Japan, he took third at the 2000 All Japan collegiate wrestling championships in the 187-pound Greco-Roman class, and he took second at the 2002 collegiate championships in the 211-pound freestyle class.

To make the transition from wrestling to fighting, Fukuda chose to train at Killer Bee, which Norifumi Yamamoto (Pictures) leads and which houses many strong former college wrestlers. Additionally, Fukuda's maturation from wrestler to consummate fighter has been further aided by his training stateside at American Kickboxing Academy, where former wrestling studs such as Josh Koscheck (Pictures) and Jon Fitch (Pictures) have been molded into fantastic pro fighters.

Fukuda debuted in Elite XC in February, easily running over late-replacement Chris Gates (Pictures). He also saw action in Pancrase in July, where he steamrolled resident eccentric Hikaru Sato (Pictures) in the first round, forcing Sato to be carried from the ring on a stretcher.

Fukuda is also no stranger to Hawaii. The 26 year old has competed there twice. He actually began his pro MMA career in Honolulu in April 2004 against Joe Doerksen (Pictures). Fukuda fought gamely against the vastly more experienced Canadian, pushing the Super Brawl bout to the final bell before he lost a decision.

Shoujou-Ikoma to top third SHOOTING DISCO

A 123-pound clash between veteran Junji Ikoma (Pictures) and upstart Yuki Shoujou (Pictures) will headline the Oct. 20 Shooting Disco 3 card, Shooto sources have confirmed to Sherdog.com.

In March the 26-year-old Shoujou secured his promotion to Class A Shooto with a spectacular highlight-reel knockout of "Gozo" Ayumu Shioda. Then, in July, he pulled off a major upset, submitting No. 1-ranked Masatoshi Abe (Pictures) with a guillotine choke.

Meanwhile, Ikoma has not competed since his controversial split-decision win in March over up-and-comer Toshimichi Akagi (Pictures). At 37 years old, all of Ikoma's bouts have a certain urgency because he's striving for a Shooto world title before he retires.

The Shoujou-Ikoma main event, along with the rest of the Oct. 20 fight card, are expected to be made official later this week.

Shooto's 123-pound division has been perhaps its most contentious and intriguing weight class lately. At this point all bantamweight Class A bouts are important as fighters jockey for top position in a weight division that is definitely in flux.

Another interesting bout will pit Mamoru Yamaguchi (Pictures) against Yasuhiro Urushitani (Pictures) on Sept. 22 to determine the next challenger to champion "BJ" Shinichi Kojima (Pictures).

Abe returns to tournament

Shooto 115-pound rookie Hiroyuki Abe is getting a second chance.

He was bounced from the Shooto 115-pound rookie tournament on June 30 due to a cut across his right eyelid suffered in his bout against "Shinpei" Noboru Tahara. However, Abe petitioned Shooto officials, stating that the cut was not from an intentional strike, and thus the bout should have gone to the judges.

Shooto officials agreed. Then, after reviewing the scorecards, they reversed the original verdict and awarded Abe a technical decision.

The 30-year-old fighter had been seen as the frontrunner in the 115-pound rookie tournament. Abe had a sensational amateur Shooto career, which concluded with him dominating the 2006 All Japan amateur Shooto championships and earning his professional promotion to Class B Shooto.

As a result of his technical decision over Tahara, Abe advances to the semifinals to meet Tomohiko Yoshida. Yoshida moved forward in the tournament on a bye after his opponent, Masashi Nishizaki, was injured in training. The semifinal bout will likely take place in October.

Kitaoka set for cage clash

Pancrase stalwart Satoru Kitaoka (Pictures) will compete at Greatest Common Multiple's Cage Force tournament finale card on Dec. 1 in Tokyo, Pancrase and GCM officials have confirmed.

Kitaoka competed most recently on Pancrase's Sept. 5 Rising Tour stop at Korakuen Hall in Tokyo, where he took a hard-fought, narrow decision over IFL veteran Jason Palacios (Pictures).

A training partner of Shinya Aoki (Pictures) and Masakazu Imanari (Pictures), Kitaoka is largely a Pancrase mainstay, but the organization has served as his managerial representation and allowed him to compete in other shows.

Kitaoka's opponent probably will not be named before late next month, due to GCM being forced to schedule an impromptu card in October to accommodate its 155-pound tournament semifinal between Tomonari Kanomata (Pictures) and Artur Oumakhanov (Pictures).

Your obligatory Yoshihiro Akiyama (Pictures) update

HERO'S hosts a huge card on Monday, and thus it is only appropriate to discuss the latest on Yoshihiro Akiyama (Pictures).

As has been well-publicized, Fight Entertainment Group -- parent company of HERO'S -- indefinitely suspended the 32-year-old judoka in January after he admitted to using a skin moisturizer before his New Year's Eve bout with Kazushi Sakuraba (Pictures).

At the July 16 HERO'S tournament opener in Yokohama, FEG introduced polling stations for fans to vote on whether Akiyama should be allowed to return to HERO'S. The results showed that 56 percent of those polled felt Akiyama should be allowed to compete in HERO'S again while 43 percent opposed his return. Four voters said they didn't care if he returned or not.

Afterward, FEG president Sadaharu Tanigawa began to tease fans with the possibility of Akiyama's return Sept. 17 in Yokohama, saying that the fighter's chances of competing were "50-50."

Of course Akiyama will not be on the Yokohama card. It is rumored that many of FEG's sponsors are still unreceptive to his return, but a potential comeback on New Year's Eve at K-1 Premium Dynamite has not been ruled out.

Additionally, HERO'S rule director Gen Isono has said that Akiyama formally apologized to the HERO'S refereeing staff for his actions and participated in a workshop with the rules committee. Although Isono said that as an official he could not express his opinion for or against Akiyama's return, he did note that Akiyama has acted appropriately and responsibly in his apologies.

The Akiyama affair has led to stricter regulations in HERO'S, including heavier surveillance in locker rooms and harsher penalties for the use of moisturizers and lubricants before a fight.

MMA goes to Mongolia

Led by Mongolian kickboxing standout and K-1 MAX regular "SHINOBU" Tsogto Amara, an event called IMPERIAL will debut Sept. 19 at the Ulan Bator Sumo Stadium in Ulan Bator, Mongolia.

The show, a kickboxing and MMA co-feature, will be the first of its kind in Mongolia. Amara said he hopes to use his promotion to build Mongolia into a strong fighting nation, as Genghis Khan did some 800 years ago.

The event will feature eight bouts -- six under kickboxing rules and two under MMA rules, with four Japanese fighters competing. The Japanese MMA fighters will be two Wajyutsu Keisyukai talents, Yukiya Naito (Pictures) and Wataru Miki (Pictures), sent by promoter Greatest Common Multiple to compete against Mongolians.

Naito is a GCM regular who has won five of his last six bouts. He is coming off a quick, easy win in May over Mako Dragon (Pictures) at Cage Force.

His Wajyutsu teammate, Wataru Miki (Pictures), has also had recent success, losing only once in his last eight bouts. In June, Miki dropped a narrow split decision to up-and-coming Russian Artur Oumakhanov (Pictures) in the 155-pound leg of the Cage Force tournament.

The event has already attracted attention from the Mongolian sports media, who have mentioned the possibility of Miki taking on Mongolian K-1 Max veteran Jadamba Narantungalag.

Narantungalag mostly competes in kickboxing, but he has fought an MMA bout against Japanese superstar Norifumi "Kid" Yamamoto and more recently against Purebred brawler Toshikazu Iseno (Pictures). He lost both fights.

DEEP on tour

DEEP is set to launch an exhaustive tour through the final quarter of 2007.

The promotion will host the next edition of Club DEEP this Saturday in Tokyo at Shinjuku FACE. The main event will pit Ryuhei Sato (Pictures), a pupil of Ryuta Sakurai (Pictures), against longtime journeyman Kousei Kubota (Pictures).

Kubota scored a much-needed win in July over Doo Won Seo at the second annual DEEP CMA Festival, giving him his second victory in his last 14 bouts. Sato has not competed since October 2006, when he lost in the semifinals of the MARS 183-pound tournament to eventual winner Daniel Tabera (Pictures).

The event's other feature bout will see another student of Ryuta Sakurai (Pictures), Kosuto Umeda (Pictures), go head-to-head with heavy-hitting Takahiro Kajita. Umeda was smashed at Club DEEP in June courtesy of a vicious kick from LUIZ. Kajita is also looking to rebound after he was quickly dispatched in July by sterling South Korean prospect Un Sik Song.

Future King Tournament selections will begin as the promotion tours Japan. No less than 22 fighters at 143, 154, 168 and 181 pounds are scheduled to compete to earn spots in the 2008 DEEP Future King series.

Club DEEP will head to Yamaguchi on Sept. 23, to Osaka on Oct. 13, to Hamamatsu on Oct. 21 and to Sendai on Oct. 28. The Dec. 9 edition of Club DEEP is tentatively scheduled to take place in Kanazawa, but the show is currently without a venue.
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