The biggest fight in Asian MMA this month is taking place in the main event of Vale Tudo Japan (VTJ) on Saturday night when top Japanese bantamweights Shintaro Ishiwatari and Kyoji Horiguchi go head to head in Tokyo.
Ishiwatari (15-4-4) is the current bantamweight King of Pancrase, while Horiguchi (10-1) is the reigning Shooto featherweight (132-pound) champion, a belt he won by submitting Hiromasa Ogikubo in March.
Horiguchi comes from a Karate background and fights with his hands hanging low, but he is well rounded and aggressive with solid wrestling and submission skills. Ishiwatari is a southpaw with a dangerous left kick, but both love to let their hands go which should make for some entertaining exchanges.
The card also features 38-year-old Caol Uno (27-16-5) who has gone 2-3 since his second stint in the UFC ended in 2010. He is campaigning at 145 pounds these days and will need to roll back the years and rediscover the sort of form which made him a two-time UFC title challenger if he is to overcome American Anthony Avila (10-1).
Two more Japanese veterans will take on American opponents when Hideo Tokoro (31-25-1) faces Taylor McCorriston (8-4) in a bantamweight bout and reigning Dream 145-pound champion Hiroyuki Takaya (17-10-1) goes up against Daniel Romero (7-4) in a featherweight contest.
Shooto flyweight (115-pound) champion Mikihito Yamagami (8-2) will be moving up in weight to take on Mamoru Yamaguchi (26-7-3), who has held Shooto titles in two different divisions in the past and will be hoping to arrest a two-fight losing skid against an opponent 10 years his junior.
The first ever VTJ event took place in 1994 when Rickson Gracie beat three separate opponents in a single night. After a 10-year hiatus, the promotion was briefly resurrected in 2009 for a one-off show, but appears set to become a mainstay of Japanese MMA after relaunching last year.
Saturday night’s event will be the third to take place under the VTJ banner in the last year with all being held inside a cage, something to which many of the Japanese fighters are still not accustomed.