Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Japanese MMA Fighters To Watch Out For In 2024

 This annual Japanese prospects list for 2024 includes four fighters from DEEP, DEEP JEWELS, Pancrase and Shooto.

Arisa Matsuda  (4-0-0)

Arisa is a former professional baseball player who is now known for her undefeated MMA record. She first brought attention to herself when she defeated Mika Nagano in 2022. Arisa’s sprawl allowed her to stop Mika’s takedowns and she was effective with her own ground and pound when she got Mika down.

In 2023, Arisa fought Machi Fukuda for the DEEP JEWELS interim strawweight title. Arisa sprawled well in the first two rounds and bloodied Machi’s nose with punches. Machi won the third round with her grappling, but Arisa took a split decision for the belt. She will gain more attention with her title this year.

Tokitaka Nakanishi  (10-2-0)

Tokitaka is known for being a former featherweight King of Pancrase champion. He dropped down a division in 2023 and faced Yasuhiro Kawamura at Pancrase 340. Tokitaka escaped from a leg scissors choke from Yasuhiro and finished him with an arm-triangle choke to become bantamweight King of Pancrase.

Yannick Yuji Ephoeviga  (6-0-0)

We first featured Yuji in last year’s prospects list. He received an opportunity to fight for Combate Global with Abema TV support, which is a rare opportunity abroad for a Japanese fighter early in their career. Yuji TKOed Geralbert Castillo in that fight and finished 4-0 overall in 2023.

Kyoma Akimoto  (4-0-0)

Kyoma is only 17, but he has already scored two knockouts as a pro fighter. The DEEP flyweight division has many talented fighters, and Kyoma is still young in his career and life, but he plans to win the DEEP title before he turns 20. He is from the same gym as Hiromasa Ougikubo and Rei Tsuruya.

Thursday, January 26, 2023

Japanese MMA Fighters To Watch Out For In 2023

This is the annual prospect list series for 2023. This edition has six prospects from Shooto, Pancrase, DEEP and Fighting Nexus.

Current Japanese MMA organizations can offer direct communication to fans with fight videos. This has especially been true with Mikuru Asakura's YouTube popularity, so this is the best time to enjoy a Japanese MMA rookie’s videos.

Rei Tsuruya  (6-0-0)

Rei was included in last year’s list, but he has not yet been picked up by a major organization. He chose Pancrase to build his career because he wanted stronger opponents, and he beat Satoru Enomoto to win the flyweight King of Pancrase title. Rei has become one of the faces of Pancrase, but he will surely land himself a spot in a major organization soon. His hope is to sign with the UFC, but he also has an interest in facing John Dodson, who fought at Rizin's NYE event.

Wataru Yamauchi  (5-0-0)

Wataru's 2022 ended with a TKO win against Kiyotaka Shimizu. That fight impressed me. Kiyotaka is a veteran who has had many fights against big name flyweights. Wataru's TKO of him was only Kiyotaka’s second KO/TKO loss in his long career. Defeating Kiyotaka at such a young age automatically placed Wataru on my rookie list.

Takeji Yokoyama  (4-0-0)

Takeji was known from the grappling scene where he was a rival of Kleber Koike (Kleber was the winner of this rivalry, though). This year, he beat Sora Yamamoto, who is one of the young up-and-comers in Rizin. The win earned Takeji the Fighting Nexus featherweight title. Takeji’s main focus is on jiu-jitsu, and I am curious whether he may have better jiu-jitsu than Rizin’s featherweight roster (except Kleber).

Hiroto Gomyo  (3-0-0)

Hiroto has a Shotokan Karate background. He was the 2019 All-Japan Karatedo Champion. Hiroto is a gym mate of Japanese MMA star Mikuru Asakura, and he has adapted takedowns well. He can choose to strike or take opponents down, and has clever distance making and counterattacks. Hiroto will next fight Kouya Kanda for the DEEP interim featherweight title.

Ayaka Watanabe  (2-1-0)

Ayaka is from the Japanese MMA gym AACC, which has a reputation for training and developing female fighters. She surprised many audience members at Shooto’s first event in 2023 when she KOed durable former champion Mina Kurobe, who had only been stopped by strikes once before this during her 25-fight career. Ayaka has taken on the hardest route for her career. Her second fight was against Emi Fujino, which is Ayaka’s only loss, and then she got her biggest win in only her third pro fight. I think she will have more big fights soon in her career.

Yannick Yuji Ephoeviga  (3-0-0)

Yuji scored a TKO win against Tatsuya Tanaka in just 80 seconds at Shooto’s first event of this year. He won the 2022 Shooto Rookie tournament at welterweight with that victory. Yuji declared that he will drop to lightweight, He already showed TKO power at 170, but dropping down a division will create more of a power advantage and more violence for sure.

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

Monday, August 8, 2022

Japanese MMA Event List at 2022

I made Japanese MMA event list at 2009. At 2022 some event born and some are not active now.I feel I need update.I hope you follow those organization with SNS and watching event with PPV. That's why I made this. 

Rizin official (English)
Rizin official youtube channel
Rizin Confessions (Documentary series with English subtitle)
Rizin official English twitter
Rizin official Facebook
JMOC (Rizin, Shooto, DEEP, DEEP Jewels officiation organization) 
Rizin match maker Shingo Kashiwagi interview by me (Sherdog)
Rizin wikipedia entry

Shooto official
Shooto official youtube channel
Shooto official twitter
Japan Shooto Association
Shooto wikipedia entry

Shooto Niigata brand Echigo Fujin Matsuri

Shooto Kansai brand Border official facebook
Border youtube channel

Shooto Chugoku and Shikoku Bland Torao official facebook
Torao's youtube channel

Shooto Okinawa blog
Shooto Okinawa youtube channel
Shooto Okinawa twitter

DEEP official (English)
DEEP official
DEEP Jewels official
DEEP official youtube channel
DEEP official youtube channel 2
SPWN (DEEP and DEEP Jewels PPV Web)
DEEP / DEEP Jewels official twitter
DEEP Jewels official twitter
DEEP official facebook
DEEP wikipedia entry

Kobudo Fight official facebook (smaller event for Nagoya region)

Kobudo Fight official blog
Kobudo Fight youtube channel

Pancrase official
Pancrase official youtube channel
Tiget (Pancrase's PPV web)
Pancrase official twitter
Pancrase official facebook
Pancrase official news blog
JMMAF (development program)
Pancrase wikipedia entry

LDH Martial Arts
Poundstorm official (MMA and Music live mix event)
EX Fight (development program)


Japanese Region

HEAT official
HEAT's official youtube channel
HEAT's official twitter
HEAT's official facebook

Grachan official
Grachan official youtube channel
Grachan official twitter
Grachan official facebook
Grachan monthly subscription program

Fighting Nexus
Fighting Nexus official
Fighting Nexus official youtube channel
Fighting Nexus official twitter
Fighting Nexus official youtube

Gladiator official
Gladiator official youtube
Gladiator official twitter
Gladiator official facebook

PFC official
PFC official youtube channel
PFC official twitter
PFC official facebook

Wardog official
Wardog official youtube channel
Wardog official twitter
Wardog official facebook

TENKAICHI fight official
TENKAICHI fight official youtube


Japanese gangsta fight

OUTSIDER official
OUTSIDER'S youtube channel
Rings twitter (organizer for Outsider)

SKILL MMA Japanese  MMA Event List at 2009

Wednesday, February 9, 2022

Japanese MMA Fighters To Watch Out For In 2022

Like every year, I am dropping my Japanese prospects series to highlight fighters who are not yet signed by major promotions.
I wrote this last year, but Covid-19 is still a danger for the public health and Rizin mostly cannot use foreign fighters due to the closed border. So, many prospects have recently been picked up by Rizin, but fortunately this year I have found six interesting prospects who've not yet fought for a major organization. That is a pleasant surprise. Please check out these fighters below and enjoy their careers.

Rinya Nakamura (3-0-0)
Nakamura won the U23 World Wrestling Championships in freestyle, but he lost to future Tokyo Olympic gold medalist Takuto Otoguro and could not make it to the Olympics himself. Nakamura retired from wrestling in 2020 and began MMA training. Last year, the Internet TV streaming website AbemaTV debuted an MMA audition program called "Kakuto Dreamers", and the program's purpose was to identify fighters who deserved a management contract with popular music production company LDH's martial arts department. Nakamura participated in the program even though he had a contract already, and he won that audition and retained his contract. After that, he fought twice for Shooto and showed an impressive ability to finish fights with strikes despite having such a short career. We will soon see him in a major organization.

Rinya Nakamura and Sho Usami's most recent fight

Usami won the Seidokaikan junior title twice and had six boxing titles while still in high school. He also participated in "Kakuto Dreamers" and won his audition match. After that, he fought for Shooto and VTJ and scored two finishes with strikes like his teammate Nakamura. I am curious about his skills on the ground, but I have a feeling that he will perform well in a major organization.

Yuto Uda (5-0-1)
Uda trains under Naohiro "Chokugeki Gamon" Mizuno in Uwajima city, and he is a rare example of a prospect who has developed from the Shikoku island region where there is a smaller population. He beat Kiyotaka Shimizu by decision after scoring a knockdown. Tatsuro Taira, who also beat Shimizu, was just signed by the UFC. So I wonder what will happen in Uda's future.

Rei Tsuruya (3-0-0) 
Tsuruya is the son of Hiroshi Tsuruya, who developed the Paraestra Chiba network that produced talents like Hiromasa Ougikubo. He won the Abu Dhabi world pro jiu-jitsu championship while still in primary school, and he placed second in Junior Olympic wrestling during high school. Tsuruya fights for DEEP, and he has yet to meet a challenging opponent, but his talent is obvious in my eyes. He will go on to a major organization at some point in the future.

Hiroshi Tsuruya vs Kenta Kubo

 Saika challenged Takasuke Kume for the King of Pancrase lightweight title in December. He knocked Kume down with a right uppercut and almost finished him with hammerfists, but Kume survived and he submitted Saika with an armbar in the second round. Despite the loss, I think that Saika showed in that match that he is capable of fighting his way to Rizin.

Takasuke Kume vs Tatsuya Saika documentary

Yamato Nishikawa (18-3-6)   

 Nishikawa's recent choices in a fight posed a challenge for me and how I view MMA because he attacked from bottom position and still managed to win an important match. Nishikawa fought Shooto champ Yuki Kawana, and he scored a TKO by continuously punching from the bottom. That goes completely against the current MMA trends and strategies. After that fight, Shinya Aoki critiqued Nishikawa's choice to fight from the bottom. Nishikawa's next fight was against Kazumasa Sugawara. Nishikawa took Sugawara's back and won with a rear-naked choke, but his right eyelid was swelling up and it closed. After that fight, Nishikawa apologized for his performance but also challenged Shinya Aoki. That made Aoki angry, who threw an elbow to Nishikawa like a pro wrestling stunt.

Yamato Nishikawa vs Kazumasa Sugawara

I think that, if Nishikawa fights against Aoki, his attacks from the bottom will be tested. While I don't think that he would be favored against Aoki, I admit that he broke the stereotype that I had in my mind for how a style could be used to win a fight in MMA. So, there is a possibility that he would still fight with that kind of imagination. Also, his win against Kawana was for the Shooto lightweight title, making Nishikawa the youngest Shooto champ ever at age 18 (now 19).
Big thanks to Robert Sargent  (MMA Rising) for English editing.

Saturday, January 9, 2021

Japanese MMA Fighters to Watch Out 2021

 This annual series looking at Japanese MMA prospects is back. With the Covid-19 situation, Rizin could not use foreign fighters and so Japanese prospects were easily picked up by the promotion. However, some others still remain, and they are waiting on fans like you to confirm their talents and to enjoy watching their careers develop. As always, I have excluded fighters who moved on to the UFC, Bellator, Rizin and One.

Tatsuro Taira (7-0)

Ryota Matsune’s student at Paraestra Okinawa, Tatsuro Taira, has recently shown significant improvement in his career. In November, he defeated Kiyotaka Shimizu, who is known as a good veteran fighter. Taira was not only better at grappling but also won in striking, which is normally Shimizu's strongest area. Okinawa rarely produces well-known MMA fighters, aside from Matsune and Mitsuhisa Sunabe. Now that Matsune and Sunabe are back there and have started a gym, that trend should change. Taira has declared that he wants to go to the world's top promotion, the UFC. However, during this pandemic situation, going to Rizin first could be a wise choice.

Tatsuro Taira vs Yamato Takagi

Tatsuya Saika (7-1)

This past year, Saika won the interim lightweight King of Pancrase title. Not only that, he finished opponent Genpei Hayashi with a scary one-shot uppercut. Saika wants to fight against Takasuke Kume, who is the King of Pancrase champion, but also declared that he would like to compete for Rizin.

Tatsuya "Yanbo" Saika vs Takaya Tsukuda


Seika Izawa (2-0)

Izawa has a strong background in wrestling and judo, but the fact that she beat DEEP Jewels champ Miki Motono in only her second MMA fight still shocked me. She landed right body kicks over and over against Motono and was able to control the distance well. By avoiding most of Motono's jabs and straight punches, Izawa showed how capable she is when it comes to MMA striking. Izawa stated that she wants a title rematch against Motono and plans to take the championship. Later on, she wants to be in the world's top organization, the UFC.

Seika Izawa vs Miki Motono

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

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Japanese MMA Fighters to Watch Out 2020

After one year's rest, the list is baaaaaack!! Due to Rizin and One signing up a lot of local talent, however, there is a smaller group of fighters to list this year. The purpose of this list is to identify and highlight Japanese talent that is not yet well-known, and so those who are fighting for the UFC, Bellator, Rizin, One or Invicta FC are excluded. Of course, people love fighters with flawless records, but I do regret that I did not previously include the Asakura brothers in my list after they had lost in Road FC. So don't give up on those who may not have the cleanest records here. 

If I was asked to name one fighter who had the biggest impact on the local MMA scene in Japan, Kazuma would be the strongest candidate. His most amazing performances are his endless suplexes against opponents. He can suplex and he can KO opponents with his fists. Kazuma is not the youngest at age 33, but if he can immobilise opponents and save power when needed, we will soon see him on the roster for a major promotion with one or two more wins.

Kazuma Kuramoto vs Kei Iwaki

Kazumasa is not a well-known MMA fighter due to coming from the rural Yamaguchi Prefecture. He is regarded for capturing the Rebel FC title by defeating Rodolfo Marques, but Rebel FC's notoriety in Japan is low. Most recently, he defeated Issei Tamura by submission. This grappler is worth checking out.

Kazumasa Majima vs Rodolfo Marques

Tatsuya, nicknamed as "Yanbo," is known for his street-style wild punching. While absent from this list until now, Tatsuya can follow the lead of the Asakura brothers by rising up from a small promotion to the top of JMMA. Tatsuya graduated from the regional promotion Fighting Nexus and people finally took note of him as a talented rookie when he defeated Tom Santos in Pancrase. I don't know how far this wild-swinging Filipino-Japanese fighter can go, but he will next fight Salimkhan Sadulloev - who is really tough - and the winner will likely move up to a major promotion.

Tatsuya Saika vs Young Uk Woo

Tamaru continued his winning streak in 2019 after losing to Riley Dutro the previous year. He next competes against Nobuki Fujii, who is always in search of takedowns while constantly moving forward. Tamaru is known for his grappling and it is not easy to keep him in bottom position. If he wins his fight against Nobuki Fujii, I want to see him competing on a larger stage.

Horie's brief UFC run came to an end when he was knocked out at UFC 240, but I see that there is still hope for him. He led the first round of his UFC 240 fight with quick footwork and punches. If he can continue to master his footwork through karate, with the same in-and-out movement that we have loved from Lyoto Machida and Kyoji Horiguchi, we will see him back in a major promotion within two years as he is still only 24 years old.

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

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Japanese MMA Fighters to Watch Out For in 2018

Since Hisaki Kato knocked out Joe Schilling, my list of Japanese rookies seemed to get quite a bit more attention. I unfortunately could not include Syuri Kondo and Daichi Abe in last year’s list due to their shorter careers. I could change the list structure to include such fighters, but it would mean that it is more of a gamble that they’ll be picked up by larger orgs. At the same time, you can still follow fighters’ improvement on UFC Fight Pass or DEEP Fight Global.

Naoki Inoue was picked up by the UFC and he was included in last year’s list. Likewise, Shintaro Ishiwatari chose to sign with Rizin and he also came from this list in 2017. Many fighters that I have spotlighted in the past now belong to larger orgs. Still, I can bring attention to more names because this year Japanese MMA succeeded in building a new generation.

Takumi Tamaru

Tamaru became known as a promising rookie after finishing Yasuhiro Urushitani in the first round. He then drew with Hayato Ishii, who is Megumi Fujii’s prodigy. Tamaru was sidelined with an injury for the remainder of 2017 and he will face PXC champ Riley Dutro on January 28. If he passes that tough test, his improvement curve will be very high.

Hayato Ishii

Ishii represents BURST gym and his coaches are Megumi Fujii and Shinji Sasaki. He won a close decision against Yoshiro Maeda and fought a tough scramble fest against Takumi Tamaru that ended in a draw. Ishii did lose to Tadaaki “Onibozu” Yamamoto in a title eliminator bout, but this did not worry me very much since his coach is a legendary MMA fighter.

Yuya Wakamatsu

Wakamatsu is from Ryo Chonan’s Tribe Tokyo MMA and he has scored KO wins against some opponents whom I have previously rated highly. He will next meet Senzo Ikeda, a former pro boxer. Ikeda defeated Japanese pioneer Mamoru Yamaguchi, who is known for his masterful Muay Thai, in the striking battles. If Wakamatsu knocks out Ikeda, it would be a sensational statement for the prospect to make.

Kana Watanabe

Watanabe has already had one Rizin fight, but I want to highlight that she defeated Shizuka Sugiyama, who had 19 fights’ worth of experience and who previously fought for a Deep Jewels title. Prior to that, Watanabe had only had her debut fight. While I normally don’t get too excited about a fighter’s future during their debut, hers against Hikari Sato was different. She knocked Sato down in that fight, which is rare since judo convert fighters have a bad habit of moving their arm. Some judo fighters can never get past that, but Watanabe passed the test.

Takashi Sato

Sato is back from an injury absence. He avenged his lone loss to Kenta Takagi with takedowns and ground and pound, but his most significant win came against Akihiro Murayama. He won with his striking on the feet. When he first lost to Takagi, I worried about his striking, but he has improved. Perhaps his next fight (maybe against Hiromitsu Miura?) will define his career path.

Yoshiki Nakahara

Nakahara’s dominant win against Akitoshi Tamura was shocking since Tamura is known for being very tough to finish. His punches dealt a huge amount of damage. He also won against Hiroshige Tanaka in striking, which is Tanaka’s specialty. After that fight, Nakahara petitioned Sean Shelby for an opportunity to compete for the UFC.

Koyomi Matsushima

Matsushima struggled early in career with his striking. His move to PancraseISM Yokohama changed his career path. He can mix takedowns effectively with striking now due to coaching from Satoru Kitaoka, and Matsushima recently defeated former PXC champ Kyle Aguon.

Ryuichiro Sumimura

Last year, DEEP held a welterweight grand prix. Sumimura shocked fans by upsetting Ken Hasegawa. In the process, he spoiled Hasegawa’s planned UFC signing and was crowned as DEEP’s welterweight champ. Sumimura has since declared that he wants to fight for Rizin.

Makoto Takahashi

Takahashi is only 17 years old, but he won a competitive fight against Hiroki Yamashita. I can’t say too much yet since he is so young, but when thinking about how Paraestra Matsudo has recently produced champions (Kanna Asakura, Yoshitaka Naito), we better keep an eye on him.

Jin Aoi

Takashi Nakakura’s student, Jin Aoi, faced Shooto Pac-Rim champ Ryogo Takahashi. Aoi lost, but he made the fight competitive when many predicted that Takahashi would dominate. He tried unsuccessfully to counter Takahashi’s trademark low kicks and leglocks in the fight. Aoi is still young and he has plenty of time to develop his career.

Yoshinori Horie

Many Japanese fans took note of Horie’s striking and finishing ability, and Horie is this year’s best rookie in Pancrase. His karate swings are very wild and that makes it hard to predict their course. He is a part of the Pancrase featherweight division, which is the deepest in Japan. Therefore, he needs time before stepping up to major orgs, but he is young enough to wait.

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