I write annual up and coming Japanese MMA fighters to stay on the look out for. Specifically I focus on those outside of the major MMA organizations.
Horiguchi went 3-1 in 2012, including his biggest win to date against Ian Loveland. His game is not without holes, however. When he's taken down, he normally tries to defend against submissions and works at his opponent's pace.He's a bantamweight with a flyweight frame, so it's harder for him to defend takedowns with a sprawl. He either has to control the distance completely or bank on his opponent having poor takedowns.
Michinori Tanaka Vs Russell Doane
From a grappling perspective, Tanaka is ahead of all other Japanese MMA rookies. His 2012 campaign saw him fight just two times, as many Shooto Class B opponents and even some Class A fighters did not want to fight him.Because of that, Tanaka and his management chose to sign with Pacific Xtreme Combat. Tanaka defeated Russell Doane with chain grappling in his PXC debut in November. He has power, but he needs to work on making fewer mistakes while he builds up cage experience. He'll next face Joe Taimanglo at PXC 35.
One of the most enjoyable local fights of the year took place in September when Ishiwatari faced veteran Caol Uno. Ishiwatari knew how to control the fight. His distance, takedowns and striking were all well-coordinated.Ishiwatari's style most closely resembles the current American fighting style. His gym, Cave, is worth checking out and is also home to standouts Mizuto Hirota and Ryuichi Miki.
Ayaka Hamasaki vs Lacey Schuckman
Hamasaki was active in 2012 and picked up a big win against legendary opponent Yuka Tsuji. While it is unfortunate that the fight happened so late in Tsuji's career, Hamasaki still dominated with better wrestling skills.Hamasaki was also successful in her cage debut at Invicta FC 2 in July. She tested herself in the cage environment and that was a smart decision. Previously, her career had been developed in Jewels, where a ring was used for all fights until very recently.
Hamasaki closed out the year with a win against Emi Fujino, who had more power than her, but Hamasaki showed a nice variety of wrestling and positional skills. She was able to counter Fujino's strikes with takedowns and controlled the grappling exchanges.After a strong 2012 campaign that included the two fights in a cage, it is likely that Hamasaki will continue to have a bright future in international competition.
Known for her sensational striking skills as a rookie, Mizuki Inoue had two MMA fights in 2012 and also won the 53.5 kg division of the Shoot Boxing Girls S-Cup. She is still best-known for her striking, but has also worked hard to improve her ground game.All of Inoue's MMA victories, including 2012 wins over Hyo Kyung Song and Alex Chambers, have come by way of armbar submission. Whether she stays in Japan to face the upper tier of Japanese female fighters - such as Mei Yamaguchi and Kyoko Takabayashi - or travels abroad, we will see interesting challenges ahead for her.
"Isao" debuted in 2008 and belongs to the Sakaguchi Dojo, which is led by Yukio Sakaguchi. Because Sakaguchi's father, Seiji, is a pro wrestler, fans were skeptical about how serious Yukio and his gym really were. After Yukio's hard-fought bout against Kotetsu Boku, however, the Sakaguchi Dojo attracted more attention.At the time, Pancrase had interesting lightweight prospects and they staged a grand prix for a lightweight title shot. Kobayashi won the tournament and went on to defeat champion Koji Oishi in a rematch, avenging his only loss in the process. He also holds a TKO win over Kazuki Tokudome, who will join the UFC this year.
The UFC offer to Tokudome first went to Isao, but Sakaguchi Dojo has a conservative plan for building Isao. Ideally, he will get more experience training and fighting in a cage if he chooses to maintain a conservative plan before joining a major promotion like the UFC.
DEEP Flyweights (photo is Tatsumitsu Wada)
Last year, flyweight Yuki Motoya was crowned as the youngest DEEP champion at 22 years of age, but he has tough oppositon ahead of him in the near future. DEEP bantamweight contender Tatsumitsu Wada has indicated that he plans to drop to flyweight and he has his sights set on the championship.As well, another bantamweight contender, Yusaku Nakamura, is also considering making the move down to flyweight. This means that there is a strong division developing. We must see where these flyweights become ranked on the regional scene, but it is shaping up to be quite interesting.
SKILL MMA : Japanese MMA scene Fighter to watch out 2012
Big thanks to Robert Sargent (MMA Rising) for English editing.