SHOOTO preview: Flyweight title on the line for Nobita vs Ryuto Sawada

Courtesy tiketsuchiya Instagram

The historical Korakuen Hall will play host to two title fights on Sunday afternoon in Tokyo when Professional Shooto returns on July, featuring some of the promotion’s past and future stars.

Ryuto Sawada, the highly touted 19-year-old prospect from the AACC gym in Tokyo, will get his first chance at a world title, as he faces the 31-year-old flyweight champion, Yoshitaka “Nobita” Naito.

The Shooto Pacific Rim Welterweight title is on the line when current champion, Koshi Matsumoto, will look to hand Yuki Kawana the first loss of his career. Former Shooto World Welterweight champion Caol Uno will return to the Shooto ring after an upset loss at the hands of Hayato “Mach” Sakurai prospect, Yoshifumi Nakamura. The 40-year-old will be fighting former Sengoku prospect and Shooto mainstay, Shigeki Osawa.

Yoshitaka Naito vs Ryuto Sawada

The champion, from Paraestra Matsudo, took the slow and steady route to the title, defeating every opponent put in front of him on his way to the shot at the title. The winner of the 2012 rookie MVP award, Naito compounded his case for a title shot with wins over divisional mainstays like “ATCH Anarchy”, Takeshi “HEAT” Sato and Yuki Shojo.

Naito found himself in trouble in the first two rounds of his fight with Shinya Murofushi, getting his back taken and controlled for extended periods of time. Naito continued to defend the submission attempts and fought his way back into the fight, dominating the wrestling with an aggressive approach in the later rounds of the fight. Naito exhibited a strong gas tank, continuing to look for the finish, attempting multiple guillotine chokes and one very deep armbar attempt that had Murofushi all over the ring trying to defend. Naito would take Murofushi’s back late and work his way around the neck of the champion, finishing with a rear naked choke with just three seconds left in the fight.

Ryuto Sawada broke onto the scene as a highly touted prospect from the Abe Ani Combat Club in Tokyo. A Fightland feature on Sawada when he was 17-years-old put high expectations on the career of the high school student. Ryuto would win his first fight with an armlock at Vale Tudo Japan 2 and would continue to win until he fought another young prospect, Ryohei Kurosawa, in a close, two-round decison loss. Ryuto Sawada returned with a quick armbar win over Masayoshi Kato in the first round, but Sawada really shined against veteran Yuki Shojo in his next bout. Ryuto Sawada put a relentless pace on the perennial contender, finishing him with machine gun-like ground and pound in the third round, cementing his shot at the title.

Both fighters employ a similar style, both men are high pressure grapplers with heavy top control. Both men are on the smaller end of the division, but the skill level on the mat makes up for the difference in size, a factor neither man should have to worry about in this fight. There will be a height advantage in favor of the champion, but Naito does’t look to fight from the outside while on the feet.

Naito likes to move laterally, moving his head off the center line, but can tend to go straight in and out, which would put him in danger against a strong striker. Ryuto Sawada is comfortable getting hit, but much more comfortable moving forward and transitioning from striking to wrestling. This fight will come down to who wins the battle for top position, in scrambles, during the wrestling exchanges and against the ropes.

Shooto Pacific Rim Welterweight Championship: Koshi Matsumoto vs Yuki Kawana

The current champion began his career with a Shooto Rookie Tournament title in 2009. A move to Pacific Xtreme Combat after a tough stretch in Shooto in 2012 led to a resurgence, and move to other promotions where Matsumoto built his record. Two key knockouts in 2014 lead to a return to the Shooto 70kg ranks, where Matsumoto won his return bout and title challenge over current “Road to UFC: Japan” member Nobumitsu “Tyson” Osawa.

Yuki Kawana began his career with the ZST promotion to mixed results, but has since gone on a five fight winning streak since joining Shooto. Kawana won the 2013 Welterweight rookie tournament after a submission over then undefeated prospect, Akira Toritani. Kawana followed the performance with wins over Koji Nishioka and Yu Fujimaki to earn the Shooto Pacific Rim title shot.

Caol Uno vs Shigeki Osawa

The 40-year-old Caol Uno has fought all over the world and at the highest level for many years. Multiple runs in the UFC are highlighted by a five-round title fight draw with one of the best lightweight fighters of all-time, BJ Penn. Caol came back to Japan to fight in 2010, his most recent run began in 2013, a run that included wins over prospects Anthony Avila, Daniel Romero and Taiki Tsuchiya.

Shigeki Osawa has had an up and down career since leaving Sengoku, winning against the fighters he should beat and losing to the top tier fighters. A recent win over Keiji Sakuta won Shigeki the GRACHAN Featherweight title, a win that moved Shigeki into a fight with top Shooto featherweight, Wataru Miki. Caol Uno is solid in every facet of the game. He boxes well, has a solid arsenal of kicks and is an excellent grappler and more importantly, fight finisher. Shigeki Osawa will have a size advantage, a key area in the fight will be the wrestling exchanges. Caol Uno has the ability to keep the fight where he wants it, which could be the deciding factor in the fight.

The Rest of the Card

Yosuke Saruta has changed gyms and dropped his former nickname, but he is favored to get back in the win column against the 32-year-old Taku Kajikawa. Yosuke has won at all levels of competition, winning the All-Japan Amateur Championships in 2007, the 2009 Shooto rookie tournament and the 2012 Infinity series.

The 2008 Shooto Rookie MVP, Fumihiro Kitahara, will look to win two fights in a row for the first time in five years against 2009 All-Japan Amateur featherweight champion, Hiroshi Osato. Fumihiro was once one of the top prospects in Shooto, but has since shown weaknesses in his striking defense that Hiroshi is looking to exploit.

2008 Pancrase Neo-Blood lightweight tournament runner-up, Hiroki “AB” Aoki, will make his Shooto debut after fighting for Pancrase and DEEP for seven years. “AB” will face the fight finishing Kazumasa “Bunta” Sugawara, a 23-year-old welterweight training out of Master Japan.

Sho “Show” Nishida and Tateo Iino will fight at a contracted weight of 54kg, as Atsushi “ATCH Anarchy” Takeuchi had to pull out of the fight. Both men will enter the bout on winning streaks, Show has won six straight, while Tateo has not been defeated in four fights.

Two 2015 Shooto Rookie tournament bouts start off the night as featherweights, Ushigoro Yamada and Yusuke Matsushita, and lightweights, Kei Iwaki and Kazuya Yukawa, will battle for a place in the second round.

For the full fight card:

Yoshitaka Naito vs Ryuto Sawada
Koshi Matsumoto vs Yuki Kawana
Caol Uno vs Shigeki Osawa
Yosuke Saruta vs Taku Kajikawa
Fumihiro Kitahara vs Hiroshi Osato
Tyson Naito vs Hitoshi Ogasawara
Ushigoro Yamada vs Yusuke Matsushita
Kazumasa Sugawara vs Hiroki “AB” Aoki
Kazuya Yukawa vs Kei Iwaki
Kazuhide Shirota vs Hideto Okada
Sho Nishida vs Tateo Iino