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.