by Al Yu & Ricardo Mendoza – MMAWeekly.com

Shooto – Back to our Roots

Counterpoint Preview


Official bout order:

Takeya Mizugaki vs. Atsushi Yamamoto
Koutetsu Boku vs. Kenichiro Togashi
Yusuke Endo vs. Ganjo Tentsuku
“Lion” Takeshi Inoue vs. Hiroyuki Abe

Shooto Pacific Rim Lightweight Championship Match (Vacant):

Tenkei Fujimiya vs. Akitoshi Tamura


Shooto Pacific Rim Welterweight Championship Match (Vacant):
Mizuto Hirota vs. Takashi Nakakura


Shooto Middleweight Championship Match:

Shinya Aoki vs. Akira Kikuchi



Shooto goes back to their roots with one of the biggest shows of the year. The anticipated February 17th card will take place at the Pacifico Yokohama National Convention Center. The fight card is headlined by a rematch between current Shooto 167-pound Champion Shinya Aoki (currently ranked #6 in the MMAWeekly.com lightweight rankings) and Akira Kikuchi (currently ranked #8 in the MMAWeekly.com welterweight rankings).


MMAWeekly.com’s Al Yu and Ricardo Mendoza take a look at the fight card in this special Counterpoint Preview.



Takeya Mizugaki vs. Atsushi Yamamoto

Ricardo Mendoza: This is an interesting opener.


Al Yu: Yamamoto is making his Shooto debut and it will be his second fight at featherweight. He defeated Shooto veteran So Tazawa by decision at the first Cage Force show back in November.


RM: Mizugaki is coming off a devastating knockout loss to Kenji Osawa back in November. The 2005 Shooto Featherweight Rookie Champion fought former Shooto Featherweight Champion Ryota Matsune to a draw back in July.


AY: Yamamoto is the 2004 Pancrase Neo Blood Tournament Champion. The Killer Bee fighter trains with the likes of Akira Kikuchi and Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto. Atsushi is a solid wrestler and holds wins over So Tazawa and Katsuya Toida. It’ll be interesting to see how he deals with Mizugaki’s heavy hands.


RM: Yamamoto’s Shooto debut is going to be an unsuccessful one. Mizugaki has some power in his hands and I think he’ll get the knockout in the first round.


AY: I foresee Mizugaki winning by strikes in the second. Win or lose, Yamamoto’s shorts are still ugly.



Koutetsu Boku vs. Kenichiro Togashi

AY: I’m really glad to see Boku back in action.


RM: This will be Boku’s first appearance in Shooto since he became the first ever Shooto Pacific Rim Welterweight Champion back in early 2005. Togashi last fought exactly one year ago, when he failed in his attempt to become the Shooto Pacific Rim Welterweight Champion, losing a decision to Mitsuhiro Ishida.


AY: Since his loss to Togashi, Boku has put together a string of six wins, including notable victories over Hermes Franca and Alexandre Franca “Pequeno” Nogueira.


RM: This one has fight of the night written all over it. Both guys are willing to stand and trade on the feet. In the end, Boku should win a decision because he is the more polished striker and if he gets in trouble he can always take it to the ground.


AY: Boku has been working on his grappling game. However, his strong point is his striking. If Boku can keep the fight standing, he will revenge his loss. I say Boku by decision.



Yusuke Endo vs. Ganjo Tentsuku


AY: I’m picking Ganjo but my heart says Endo. Yusuke has improved a lot since their first fight and I expect a very competitive rematch.


RM: Tentsuku is coming off a very entertaining draw against Takashi Nakakura at the Shooto – Champion Carnival. Since losing to Tentsuku, Endo has gone 4-0 including a submission victory over UFC fighter Clay Guida back in July.


AY: Ganjo has gone 3-0-1 since first meeting and doing so against lesser competition.


RM: I think this one will be closer then their first encounter but I still see Ganjo taking this one by decision once again.


AY: I had a hard time picking a winner on this one. I really want Endo to win but I’m going to go with Ganjo by decision. Tentsuku has a very good chin and he is going to push the pace and it’ll be interesting to see if Endo can take advantage of his improvements.


“Lion” Takeshi Inoue vs. Hiroyuki Abe

RM: Man, Shooto really knows how to disappoint a fan don’t they?


AY: It is a little disappointing to see this fight but I could think of a lot worse match-ups. Poor Abe, “Lion” will prove to be too much for the veteran. This could be a very entertaining fight though as Abe won’t be hesitant to trade with the Shooto Lightweight Champion.


RM: “Lion” captured the Shooto Lightweight title after beating Antonio Carvalho into the canvas back in May. Since then “Lion” has gone 2-0, winning a close decision over American Cole Miller and submitting Navid Yousefi. Abe is coming off a rather dull draw against Naoki Matsushita at Pride Bushido 12. Abe’s last win was in Shooto back in May when he submitted Hawaiian fighter David Padilla.


AY: I’m not sure what’s more unbearable, Abe’s uninspired draw with Matsushita or Inoue’s ‘lion stripe’.


RM: Come on now Al; don’t make fun of the man’s hair now…


AY: Sorry, couldn’t help myself.


RM: This one is too easy to pick, “Lion” by decision. He is going to outwork Abe both on the feet and on the ground.


AY: Decision? I have “Lion” winning by strikes in the second. Please Sustain, announce Takeshi Inoue vs. Hatsu Hioki later this year so I can die a happy man.



Shooto Pacific Rim Lightweight Championship Match (Vacant):

Tenkei Fujimiya vs. Akitoshi Tamura


RM: Fujimiya is the Shooto Lightweight 2005 Rookie Champion and is getting his second crack at winning the Shooto Pacific Rim Lightweight title after a disappointing draw against Katsuya Toida back in November. Tamura is coming off a win over Shooto Lightweight 2006 Rookie Champion “Wicky” Nishiura in December, who also happens to be Fujimiya’s teammate.


AY: Tenkei is being groomed for this title. Tamura is not deserving of fighting for the vacant belt as he was already knocked out by Tenkei in May of last year. Fujimiya was pretty lackluster in his last fight against Toida. Regardless, I foresee history repeating itself. Fujimiya is going KO Tamura again and claim the Pac-Rim belt. Looks like Shooting Gym Yokohama will have two 143-pound champions.


RM: I see the same result in this fight but I think that Tamura will make it a little more competitive then the first fight and make it into the second round before he gets knocked out again.




Shooto Pacific Rim Welterweight Championship Match (Vacant):
Mizuto Hirota vs. Takashi Nakakura


AY: This is going to be a good fight. Hirota is the 2005 Shooto Rookie Champion and has dominated all of his opponents in his young career. Nakakura is always a tough and should be a formidable challenge for Hirota. If Takashi comes to fight, this match could steal the show.


RM: This one is for the vacated Shooto Pacific Rim Welterweight title that was recently vacated by Mitsuhiro Ishida. Hirota is undefeated with a 6-0 record. Nakakura is coming off an entertaining draw against Ganjo Tentsuku and looks to build on the momentum here. Hirota hasn’t fought since May of last year, so ring rust might play a factor in this one.


AY: This will be a tough fight for Hirota but I see him taking a decision. I think Nakakura can withstand Hirota’s ground-n-pound but I don’t see him offering much otherwise. Nakakura needs to dictate the pace if he wants to win.


RM: This is a hard one to pick. This will prove to be Hirota’s toughest fight to date and it’s only more meaningful since there is a title on the line here. This one should go much like Nakakura’s fight with Tentsuku; only I see Hirota being more aggressive than Tentsuku and should come out on top with a decision.



Shooto Middleweight Championship Match:

Shinya Aoki vs. Akira Kikuchi


RM: Ok, onto the main event.


AY: I can’t wait for this fight. “Baka Survivor” has been playing on my iPod nonstop.


RM: I know this is the fight that you have been waiting for buddy.


AY: Did I mention I can’t wait for this fight?


RM: Are you wearing your yellow spandex pants?


AY: I made the whole family wear them.


RM: Since beating Kikuchi, Aoki has gone on to debut in Pride, winning all three of his appearances by submission. Who can forget Aoki’s impressive gogoplata victory over Joachim Hansen at Pride Shockwave 2006?


AY: I don’t think I can ever get sick of watching that fight. That gogoplata was absolutely a thing of beauty. People thought I was crazy when I predicted Aoki would submit Joachim Hansen.


RM: Thanks to “Kid” Yamamoto’s actions following their first match, all Killer Bee fighters were suspended from competing in Shooto until October. Kikuchi came back and submitted the always tough Ronald Jhun in the first round at the Shooto – Champion Carnival.


AY: I believe Kikuchi underestimated Aoki in their first fight. It’s going to be much tougher this time around because Kikuchi has had time to think about and improve on what he did wrong. Aoki is one of the most naturally gifted Japanese BJJ fighters I’ve seen in recent history. His use of the rubber guard is a beautiful thing.


RM: This one is going to way closer then the first fight. Kikuchi won’t underestimate Aoki like he did the first time and he won’t be so willing to go to the ground this time around. Aoki is still leagues better then Kikuchi on the ground but is still lacking in the stand-up, where Kikuchi will look to score his points.


AY: Aoki brings a lot of momentum with him into this fight. He isn’t known as a remarkable striker so he must continue to use his Judo background and excellent ground game to improve on his performance from their first fight.


RM: This is a tough one to call but Aoki should be able to get this on the ground but not without taking some shots on the way down. Aoki takes this one by split decision.


AY: Split, eh?


RM: Yes Al, I said split decision and no I’m not crazy….


AY: No, you’re not crazy at all. This will be a very close fight and a split decision wouldn’t surprise me. However, I see Aoki taking a unanimous decision. Kikuchi is very difficult to submit so Aoki will need to keep up a fast pace and get the fight on the ground.