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Wednesday, May 25, 2022
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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 to 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 Tsuruyawho 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

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 do not think 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.





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