Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Breakdown of Hisaki Kato vs Joe Schilling at Bellator 139

Hisaki Kato was previously fighting for HEAT, which is a Japanese promotion based in Nagoya that is recognized as the top promotion in the region. Recently, the talent level in HEAT has increased. HEAT sent Kiichi Kunimoto to the UFC and Kunimoto built up a winning streak in the UFC that people never expected. I named Kato in this year’s list of Japanese MMA fighters to watch, and after that Bellator picked him up. That was a pleasant surprise because HEAT isn’t well-recognized in the Western world. I think that the vicious outcome of Kato vs. Yuki Niimura convinced Bellator to sign him.

Hisaki Kato vs. Yuki Niimura

I felt a bit nervous about Kato’s American debut, thinking about how my list can affect him being signed (I was the first person to give Kato attention in English). I mostly cover Japanese MMA in Tokyo, and therefore had not seen Kato compete outside of three local fight videos from Nagoya.

Kato is a Daidojuku champion. Daidojuku is a martial art separated from Kyokushin Karate that was formed when Takashi Azuma added grappling elements to karate. Daidojuku uses “Super Safe,” which protects the head and face from damage. Therefore, Daidojuku fighters train at close range with barrages of strong strikes to stop opponents.

Super Safe

Kato said that he would not fight at Schilling’s length. Indeed, he did not.

In round one, Kato did not fight in Schilling’s punching range. He avoided trading punches against the kickboxing champion and threw kicks while watching Schilling’s movement. One of Schilling’s most dangerous strikes is his counterpunch, and Kato’s reach is shorter. So Kato moved forward and used barrages of punches (I think that his Daidojuku background benefited him here) and then immediately worked for takedowns. That means that he never gave Schilling any time to throw a counter.

Kato’s gym is known for BJJ. Alive produced Hatsu Hioki. Kato’s BJJ isn't on Hioki’s level, but he improved his position against Schilling  who has less ground experience and ground-and-pounded him.

When Schilling succeeded at standing up from mount, Kato threw a flurry of punches at close range until the bell rang. This means that he still never allowed Schilling to strike from his preferred punching length.

The second round began and Schilling slowed down because of damage that he had incurred. He chose to attack with kicks. Schilling may have thought that kicking length was okay for him since he is a kickboxing champion, but Kato had not taken any damage and his faster speed allowed him to score a savage Superman punch KO from a distance.

During the fight, Kato never allowed Schilling to fight at his preferred punching or kicking length. In close, Kato threw volume punches for a short time period and went for takedowns immediately after. At last, he landed the Superman punch from a long distance.

Finish scene

In conclusion, MMA fighters are not obligated to trade strikes like they are in boxing or kickboxing, but they can still can sculpt fights with strikes that lead to savage KO wins like Kato did. Of course, Daidojuku and Kudo benefit Kato, and particularly when he is throwing close-range volume punches. I'm looking forward to seeing what he and his Daidojuku background can do in his next fight.

Kudo (Daidojuku) official website

Big thanks to Robert Sargent  (MMA Rising) for English editing.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015


Fighters' trash talk before fights and ambitious comments afterwards are often easy subjects for media when creating articles. I don't think that's wrong, and I don't want MMA to become a sport where the loser gets more attention.

Most fighters have losses on their records and there is nothing wrong with fighters having no words when they lose. They don't plan to lose, but I want to bring some attention to fighters who talk about and analyze their losses.

Losing gives a sense of reflection to fighters and I feel that some fighters reflect with dignity rather than with ambition.

I have heard losers talk about how they will erase their faults and/or evolve their strongpoints. These fighters' trial-and-error approach is a lot like MMA itself and its evolution, but this does not get the attention that it deserves.

MMA is about violence, but I think that people underrate intelligence and the importance of reflection in MMA. I must point out that there are fighters who have a sense of reflection when winning, and not just after defeats.

In Japan, fans and media refer to some fighters as philosophers. That does not mean that the fighter is similar to a true philosopher, but it does mean that opponents must watch out for his or her ability to reflect and adapt.

Some fighters like Fedor Emelianenko and Lyoto Machida have fanatic supporters, but that does not mean that fans like them because they are mysterious. Fans see a sense of intelligence and reflection with dignity.

When I form interview questions, there is always one common theme despite the fact that the questions are different. I ask fighters whether their training and game plans for fights actually work out in the fights themselves.

With that question, I think that fighters generally show personality when answering, and that provides an interesting insight into their intelligence and reflection.

Big thanks to Robert Sargent  (MMA Rising) for English editing.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Breakdown of Donald Cerrone vs Eddie Alvarez at UFC 178

What reminds you the most about Muay Thai use in MMA? I think the most remembered moment is when Anderson Silva broke Rich Franklin's nose at UFC 64. Back then, there were fighters who still didn't know about the Thai clinch.

Today, no elite fighters are unaware of the Thai clinch, but Muay Thai is not only about clinching. Let's think about a fighter's style and how it incorporates Muay Thai.

At UFC 178, Donald Cerrone faced Eddie Alvarez in the co-main event. Alvarez had a shorter reach and his striking style relied heavily on boxing. Therefore, he needed to step in and out when striking.

Alvarez used that step-in movement well early on and he landed a high volume of punches in the clinch. He took the first round as a result, but don't forget that Cerrone had already started to punish Alvarez's body with knees.

Since Alvarez had to step forward when punching because of his reach disadvantage, Cerrone's knees worked well as counters.

In the second round, Cerrone's counterattacks with knees dealt more damage to Alvarez's body, and this damage left Alvarez unable to fight in the clinch.

When clinches did happen, Cerrone's knees stopped Alvarez from dirty boxing. When fighting from a distance, Cerrone's low kicks hurt Alvarez's leg and that slowed him down.

This made it easier for Cerrone to continuously attack Alvarez's leg. I also point out that Alvarez's step-in punches became ineffective with his leg damaged.

This fight was largely about which fighting length was better for each fighter. The competition mostly took place at a short length, and Cerrone held an advantage due to body and leg damage that allowed him to win.

          Cerrone talk about fight.

Muay Thai (and kickboxing) is about creating attacks from several different lengths and finding the most preferred and successful length in order to win a fight.

Cerrone's skill at doing this showed in his fight with Alvarez. He succeeded with Muay Thai without relying entirely on the Thai clinch, but rather by relying upon other important and lesser-known parts of Muay Thai.

We should think more about how fighters try to get better at using length and angles against each other.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Japanese MMA Fighters to Watch Out 2015

Here is the 2015 edition of Fighters to Watch For. Michinori Tanaka and Uruka Sasaki landed themselves a spot in a major organization (UFC) last year. There is, of course, a few new faces this time around and we have more fighters with clean records. How I evaluate is based upon who won against whom, but if a specific performance convinced me, I’ve done a more risky pick. I hope that, with this list, hardcore MMA fans will take note of who are JMMA's up-and-comers.

Motoya's 2014 was an active one and perfect for what he wanted. He avenged a loss against Tatsumitsu Wada and won his first international fight against former RFA champ Matt Manzanares. He used a variety of kicks to make his movements harder to read and his front kicks stopped Manzanares's pressure. Motoya is the most highly-touted rookie who remains in local Japanese promotions and he will soon move on to fight in a major organization.

Wada lost his DEEP flyweight strap against Motoya this past year, but his year-end performance against Ryuichi Miki defined him as a top-three Japanese flyweight. Wada is known for his boxing skills and often continuously jabs his opponents. Not only that, he avoided Miki's strike-takedown combinations and finished Miki with a rear-naked choke.

Ogikubo's year was all about winning the VTJ flyweight tournament. He had a competitive fight against Takeshi Kasugai, but after that he choked out Kana Hyatt and showed positional grappling superiority against Czar Sklavos. Ogikubo asked for a fight against Yuki Motoya, but his injury prevented the fight.

Ando signed with One FC and his wins against Rafael Nunes and Zorobabel Moreira both ended with finishes but in different ways. He choked Nunes and tapped him out, then fought a striking battle against the huge-framed Moreira. Ando forced Zoro to fight passively after pressuring him and, with Zoro’s mind weakened, Ando finished him with a body shot.

Nakahara's 2014 did not go well because he did not have an opportunity to fight. He was supposed to face Honggang Yao, but the fight was scrapped because Yao missed weight. When I think about Nakahara’s record and improvement curve, he remains here on this list.

Hisaki Kato vs Yuki Niimura

Kato is not yet well-known, but he is the current HEAT middleweight champion and also a Daidojuku champion. HEAT is a Nagoya-based organization, so I haven't watched his fights yet, but from his record and quick finishing times he should be seen as at least a top-three Japanese middleweight. Another reason why I am interested in him is his Daidojuku skill. The first Japanese fighter in the UFC was Minoki Ichihara and he had no solution against Royce Gracie's grappling, but after all of these years of MMA evolution, perhaps Daidojuku can contribute to major MMA's style diversity? That's not a pure fighter evaluation, but I am interested in him for such a reason, too.

Ayaka's 2014 was about testing herself in a new division. She dominated former Jewels featherweight champ Naho Sugiyama in striking and on the ground, then fought and defeated Mei Yamaguchi. We can expect that she will soon fight in the U.S. since she did not participate in the DEEP Jewels featherweight GP, which is being held in her new division.

Mizuki's 2014 did not go how she had wanted. She missed weight in the finals of the DEEP Jewels lightweight GP and lost by DQ even though she submitted Emi Tomimatsu. She avenged her “loss” against Tomimatsu in her next fight to become Deep Jewels featherweight champion. Mizuki next fought Karolina Kowalkiewicz at Invicta FC 9, but her precision striking was not favored against Karolina's volume of strikes. She will begin 2015 against Alexa Grasso at Invicta FC 11. Mizuki is still only 20 years old, but she needs to develop more physical strength to give her precision striking more value.

Kento Kanbe vs Suguru Hayakawa fight from 10:10

Kanbe may not be expected to be on this list because he is so early in his career at 18 years old, but his dominance over opponents with his grappling made me convinced that he needed to be included here. Kanbe trains at Alliance Square and is a grappling-based prospect at the moment. His strong point is obviously his ground game, but we know that current fighters in major promotions can't rely too much upon grappling. Alliance Square’s coach, Tsuyoshi Kosaka, knows how to build MMA talent, so I think that Kanbe will develop considerable striking skills but I don't know how far he can go. I think we will someday see him challenge for a Pancrase title.

Ryohei Kurosawa vs Tateo Iino

Ryohei “Ken Asuka”  Kurosawa

Kanbe is Pancrase's lightest weight prospect. I don't know if he will fight in the upper divisions in the future, but Shooto's lightest prospect is Ryohei Kurosawa. His nickname, “Ken Asuka,” is from Karate Manga. His style is karate, which he began training at age six, but what impressed me most was his sprawl against the takedowns of Ryuto Sawada, who is a top prospect.

Ando's career is too short yet, with only three fights so far, but he was a top-three wrestler in college. In his third bout, he beat Takahiro Ashida, who has 16 fights on his record and fought to a split decision against Miguel Torres. It shows Ando’s potential and what kind of athlete he is.

Ryuto Sawada vs Masayoshi Kato

Ryuto Sawada

Sawada had a breakout performance after his loss against Kurosawa. He outpaced and outwrestled Yuki Shojo for the entire fight and ground-and-pound KOed him. That was surprising for me since Ryuto is small for Shooto’s flyweight division. He displayed big KO power against Shojo, who only had one prior TKO loss in his career. Sawada is expected to face champion Yoshitaka Naito next year.

Big thanks to Robert Sargent  (MMA Rising) for English editing.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Patricio “Pitbull” Freire interview

Patricio “Pitbull” Freire is of course the Bellator MMA featherweight champion. He is known for his knockout power, but his last fight against Daniel Straus played out in an unexpected way. While Straus showed improvements in his striking and enjoyed a reach advantage, “Pitbull” displayed his superior skills on the ground and submitted Straus. I had expected the opposite from both fighters before the fight happened. Such a fight only happens when both fighters have drastically improved.

We asked “Pitbull” about his fight against Straus and about other topics including comparisons to UFC fighters and his personality outside of the cage.

-Your fight against Straus was not a fight that I had expected beforehand. I thought that you would try to strike at close distances while Straus would try to take you down.  Straus showed that his striking has improved, but did you expect that he would have improved that much?

I stood up with him, but I was hit, hurt. Took some eye pokes, low blows, head butt. It rendered a bit of my performance. But he was very good, I can't take his merit away. I thought I won rounds 1 and 2, he won the third and the beginning of the fourth was his, but I submitted him. I knew he would be very tough, although I didn't expect to be knocked down, but it happens in the fight. We can be surprised, but I was very well trained and was able to react to reverse the situation, which was what I did.

-Did you have a particular game plan for this fight? If so, how did it compare to the actual fight? If not, did you rely more upon what you train on a daily basis?

Yes, I have an strategy for all the fighters on the weightclass. I watch all fighters not only from Bellator, but the UFC, WSOF, I know everybody. I may not know everyone's names, but I know their styles and the strategy to face them. Every fighter that can offer me any form of danger I know the antidote. In a fight everything can happen, but I know how to act and with Straus it wasn't different. I studied him for months. I didn't bring Eric Albarracin (wrestling coach) to Natal just for show. Thank God I was able to bring the victory home. I was better than him on his best field and he was a worthy opponent at my biggest asset. It's been 4 years I wouldn't try to submit anyone, only get knock outs, and Straus was able to stand and strike with me the entire fight. There were a few different things I planned to do I ended up not doing, but I will strengthen those aspects of my game, practice them more and make automatic so I can show it in my next performances.

-You have shown considerable skill in grappling many times before, but because you often finish fights with huge knockouts, people have paid less attention to your grappling skills. You already showed your positional superiority against Straus in your first fight and also against Reis. This time, you submitted Straus, who won his Bellator title fight with grappling. Do you feel that your performance made a statement to the rest of the featherweight division?

I think the Featherweight division can't misjudge the kind of fighter I am. I'm a well rounded fighter. When I don't see a need to take my opponent down and use my jiu jitsu I don't do it. If I can take care of business standing I'll do it. On the day I face problems and get hurt like it happened with Straus, the third round I couldn't see anything. My strategy was based on closing in on him, my corner told me to do it but I had the opportunity to take him down as well. Eric told me that any time I wanted to take him down I would, so that's what I did. The division has to be worried, I'm the world champion and it's natural for me to be a complete fighter.

Patricio Pitbull Submits Daniel Straus

 -Did you see Georgi Karakhanyan's performance against Bubba Jenkins? If so, what was your impression? What can we expect from a rematch between you and Georgi?

I did. I thought it would be a tougher fight. He's a very tough opponent, very skilled on the stand up, has good transitions on the ground, his takedowns are ok. His ground game and takedowns were already good, but he improved on them a little bit. But I see myself as a much tougher fighter than him. I think I can take the fight wherever I want. If I want to stay standing I will do it, if I want to bring it to the ground I will do it. I don't see anyone in the weightclass able to beat me.

-You don't have an overly big frame for your weight class, but fighters like Frankie Edgar have gotten respect for fighting larger opponents. People rarely mention your frame disadvantage. How do you feel about it and how do you overcome it?

There are very few fighters than can hit me. I have a very good footwork, my boxing is at a high level. The guys that hit me were Straus, a southpaw who's very tall, but was unable to hit me the first time we fought, and Curran who was able to hit me both fights. But I was in their faces the entire time. If you see my first and second rounds with Straus the rounds were back and forth. I know I'm small for the weightclass, but I see guys fighting at Flyweight who are taller than me, at Bantamweight too, Lightweight too, so it's not like I can choose. I feel my advantage at Featherweight is that I'm a compact guy, maybe I'm stronger than the other guys. They beat me in width, but they can't beat me in speed or footwork and specially in strength. That's my differential, I can nullify the difference in height and width with it.

-Bellator champions are always compared to UFC fighters. Of course, we can only imagine you versus UFC fighters for now, but how do you compare yourself with Aldo, Mendes, Edgar and McGregor?

I didn't know much about McGregor. I haven't seen too many fights of him. I've watched him for a little bit more than one year, he's a guy that talks a lot and got a title shot. He beat some weak guys and was able to promote himself well. He has expressive wins against guys that aren't convincing, so I can't imagine how good he would be against a top guy. I would need to see him versus a Chad Mendes, Frankie Edgar, someone tougher in the weight class. But everyone in Brazil asks me how would a fight between me and Aldo be. I already said it would be a very tough fight, Aldo is a calm and composed fighter, such as I am, he defended his belt 7 times which creates an extra pressure. I made my first defense, was knocked down for the first time in my career, but I was able to overcome the situation. It's positive to me. I never lost faith, always kept my confidence high. Only God can tell who would win a fight between us if it was to happen some day. A lot of people compare me to Aldo, but I have my doubts if his kicks are stronger than mine. I see he's faster than me, but I think I'm stronger. It's a curious fight, I think both would go out very hurt and the one with the stronger spirit would prevail. I admire him as a fighter and a person, it's a fight that makes sense. And about the weight class in general, I know I can beat any man.

-Conor McGregor is bringing a lot of attention to your weight class. How do you feel about his actual fighting skill and media tactics?

He needs to be tested. After he's tested I'll say more about him. Let's watch him versus Aldo, which is a fight I don't think he'll be able to survive the first round. Only after this fight we'll be able to say something about him. He's shown he's got a good boxing, good distance, kicks on the right time and is slick, but he did all that with weak guys, so I can't say much.

-Scott Coker becoming Bellator president may make a difference, but I thought during the Rebney era that Bellator failed to showcase non-American fighters’ personalities and relate them to the audience. How do you feel about how you are promoted by Bellator now (Coker) and then (Rebney)? Also, please tell me about your personality away from fighting. Which other sports do you like and which hobbies (music, movies, etc.) do you enjoy?

I think it's normal for Bellator to give me more exposure now, I am the champion. The champion is the best of the weight class, so that's natural. I would bring a lot of attention because of my knock outs, 4 years knocking out a lot of people, so my performances would showcase me by themselves. Today I can have a bigger exposure, Bellator is in a good TV channel in Brazil, a good tv channel in the US, they can have good ratings and better fighters and starts. People that can bring, as Scott Coker said, the casual audience. That's what Bellator is doing and I'm very happy with it.

And my hobbies, it's tough to say because I like to fight a lot. On my free time I like to train jiu jitsu, I'm going to start training Karate as well to loosen my mind a bit. But I like speed, I like cars, I like to run. I love to watch action movies, si-fi movies. There has to be a bit of lies (laughs), special effects, super powers, like Spider-Man, Thor, Iron-Man, among others.

-In Japan, Big Nog is major figure. In Brazil, he is known for supporting struggling Brazilian fighters. What has he meant to you? Has he been a teacher, supporter, idol, or a combination of all?

Rodrigo is a combination of all of it. Specially a friend. I've seen him support a lot of people. I've spent 3 and a half years as part of Team Nogueira and one of the people I saw him help was my brother who was going for a tough time without fights and not making money, Rodrigo would give him money monthly, that's something I will never forget. I see him as an older brother, an idol, several things. He doesn't need to prove anything to anyone, he inspired generations. Rodrigo Minotauro is synonymous with guts, overcoming adversities, champion. I only have good things to say about him.

-Please share a message for your fans about your fighting career and future.

I use to say I don't have fans, I have friends. The people that follow my work and know of my dedication and my effort I'm able to be friends with. Fans to me are the people that root for you when you win and throws stones at you when you lose. So I don't have fans, I have friends. People that support me when I win and support me even more in the tough times. I use to create friendship with those people, I try to answer everyone on my fan page, instagram and twitter. I do it myself. I try to have friends and not fans, the word fan means a lot. We don't know who's a real fan or who's a fake. That fan that just supports you when you're winning you have to worry about. Specially in Brazil. The people support a lot who's the champion, but when you're in a tough spot they forget or criticize you. But there are those people who are truthful and to me they're not fans, they're friends.

About my career, please support me as I keep trying to write my name on the sport's history. I'm here for any challenges, I will fight any man. I want people to talk about me as the best fighter to ever grace this sport.

Patricio Freire Official Twitter

Patricio Freire Official Facebook

Big thanks to Matheus Aquino (Fort MMA) for coordinate and Robert Sargent  (MMA Rising) for English editing.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

It Takes a Muscle

Do you take note of what kind of shape a fighter has? I don’t mean whether they are ripped or soft, but rather how big their individual muscles are. Let me explain. Satoru Kitaoka and Rin Nakai have common features for me. Both have small frames. They have a disadvantage in striking reach due to being smaller than the division's average size, but they develop huge muscles in their shorter arms in order to grapple and submit opponents. Kitaoka is best known for his guillotine and Nakai often attempts kimuras. Both do so because of their strong arms.

Satoru Kitaoka

Of course, having a longer reach and bigger frame generally benefits a fighter, but when you watch fighters and guess how they build up their muscles, it makes MMA more interesting. Check out each fighter’s muscles because there is purpose and benefit to building up specific muscles in order to fit a fighter’s particular skill set. Also, while Joe Stevenson is very similar to Satoru Kitaoka in facial resemblance, I would also point out that their muscular builds are very similar as well since each one’s top move is the guillotine.

Big thanks to Robert Sargent  (MMA Rising) for English editing.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

DEEP 68 Impact to stream on international iPPV

DEEP 68 Impact iPPV official purchase web

DEEP 68 Impact iPPV offer biggest JMMA flyweight battle for late half of 2014. Yuki Motoya was not favorite when DEEP flyweight tournament which crown first DEEP flyweight champ. But he rapidly improve and won the belt.This tournament can watch stream when it happen and now upload to youtube.When he capture DEEP title, he is youngest fighter ever take DEEP belt.

Yuki Motoya vs Akito Sakimura

Yuki Motoya vsNaoyuki Kato

Yuki Motoya vs  Akira Kibe

Tatsumitsu Wada do not have attention at early stage of career.He have five losing streak till get first victory.But he change his career with his strike trainer Katsuhisa Tashiro.Tashiro, known by improve boxing for Yuki Kondo, Michihiro Omigawa HidehikoYoshida and many other MMA fighters.He did coach for Yoshida Dojo at that time. He had winning streak with improve strike skill but that was stopped by Bellator Veteran Hiroshi Nakamura.Nakamura succeed take down Wada and secure decision.After that fight he understand importance of sprawl. He succeed avoid Takafumi Otsuka's ground game.

Wada and Motoya's first match ups hold at DEEP 63 Impact. Wada succeed taking top with Judo throws and leg trips.But Motoya succeed scrambles and make fight close.But Wada have enough position control to get unanimous decision.

Both are known for striker but I interest how much Motoya can sprawl against Wada.Wada become more total fighter. At last fight Wada take down Haruo Ochi to avoid trade. At other side Motoya completely crushed Yoshiro Maeda at last fight. Maeda known for his inconsistency.But at that fight Motoya make it like not competitive fight.Maeda often suffer KO lose but during the strike fight he never look like dominate by opponent.That make Motoya's odds higher at before fight prediction.But I should remain the question about Motoya can solve his lose at positional grappling.

This is most competitive and high level flyweight JMMA fight for later half of 2014.I can't convince myself who is winner cause both improve rapidly but let's confirm this big local fight with us. Japanese side already access major organization's match maker for prepare after the fight situation.

DEEP 68 Impact will stream August 23 17:30 (Japanese time)