King of Pancrase at the lightweight division, ISAO Kobayashi, is going to take on a fighter who is currently ranked fourth Shooto's world ranking.
Well, that is the way most Japanese media is writing about this fight between a 24-year old champ from Sakaguchi Dojo and Kenichiro Togashi.
And that's partly because of the other so-called "Pancrase vs Shooto" fight took place on September 30th in the Shooto show. That fight between Shintaro Ishiwatari vs Caol Uno turned out to be one of the best bouts of the year. Which means it make sense to ride on the trend and heat created in this fight.
In addition, in the Japanese MMA, there have been always about "promotion vs promotion." Which is the trend inherited from the Japanese pro-wrestling. And way back in the early 90's Shooto actually criticized Pancrase for doing worked fights so these two promotions were not supposed to mix. However, in year 2012, the situation is totally different. Most MMA fans in the land of rising sun probably don't even know what happened back when Bas Rutten used to fight for Pancrase or maybe not even during the era when SEGA Sammy was the main sponsor of Pancrase. The time has changed however besides talking about ranking and this "Pancrase vs Shooto" there isn't much to discuss in regards to this fight.
Well, maybe not.
ISAO is the reigning King of Pancrase at 155 lbs but this is going go be his two consecutive non-title fight.
This is going to be a three-rounder so what is the reason for not putting the belt on the line? No media in Japan is really mentioning about this issue. Some Japanese media is writing about how ISAO's master Yukio Sakaguchi fought in the Shooto show three years ago but lost to Kotetsu Boku so this is "a chance for revenge". Its not just about "Pancrase vs Shooto" but also seems like its about "Sakaguchi Dojo vs Shooto" as well.
ISAO is young and good looking champ. He should be defending his title especially if he is fighting in a three-round bout against an established veteran with an experience of fighting in three Shooto's world championship fights. Sure if Togashi is not ranked in Pancrase ranking then under the Pancrase rules he shouldn't get a title shot but then why does he get a chance to fight the champ? Seems like no one really cares about this and that means the value of King of Pancrase championship is not too high among the fans and the media anymore.
ISAO has an impressive pro MMA record of 12-1 and its good for him to fight a solid veteran like Togashi without a risk of losing title. In the usual case of the Japanese MMA, if Togashi wins this fight, then there is a high possibility of ISAO getting a rematch with Togashi immediately. Pancrase would be force to offer Togashi a rematch, and of course, in this case, this next fight is definitely going to be a title fight.
Which means, for the promoter, it does make sense to make this a non-title fight because the champ is fighting a newcomer from another promotion so why not make sure to secure the condition and environment where your own champs is getting a second chance if he screws up the first one.
Pancrase may didn't ink any multi-fight deal with Togashi to secure this scenario but in the world of Japanese MMA, even under the hand shake deal, this is what happened most of the time when champ did a non-title fight.
PANCRASE 2012 PROGRESS TOUR
At Differ Ariake, Tokyo, Japan
Saturday, December 1st, 2012
Doors Open - 14:45 / Fight Starts - 15:30
Confirmed Cards (Subject to Change):
Super-Flyweight King of Pancrase Title Match 5 min / 3R
Kiyotaka Shimizu (Japan / TRIBE TOKYO M.M.A.) vs Yuki Yasunaga (Japan / Tokyo Yellow Man's)
Featherweight Bout 5 min / 3R
Jon Shores (USA / Rodeo Style) vs Koji Oishi (Japan / Pancrase-ism)
Bantamweight Bout 5 min / 3R
Yuta Numakura (Japan / TRIAL) vs Tatsuya So (Japan / Toushin)
Lightweight Bout 5 min / 3R
ISAO Kobayashi (Japan / Sakaguchi Dojo) vs Kenichiro Togashi (Japan / Paraestra Hiroshima)
Bantamweight Bout 5 min / 2R
"Hanare-me" Monjiro TK (MMA Dojo Cobra-kai) vs Yuki Baba (Japan / Rodeo Drive)
Featherweight Bout 5 min / 2R
Nao KING (Japan / CORE) vs Hideki Nishino (Japan / CORE)
PANCRASE vs Team Krush Bantamweight Bout 5 min / 2R
CORO (Japan / Wajiutsu TLIVE) vs "Rambo" (Japan / Team Rambo)
Super-flyweight Bout 5 min / 2R
Riki Shimabukuro (Japan / Wajiutsu TLIVE) vs Yusuke Kitago (Japan / Wajiutsu Keishukai Yokohama Dojo)
VIP - 12,000 yen / SS - 10,000 yen / A - 8,000 yen / B - 6,000 yen
*500 yen more at the door.
Report by Shu Hirata
Photo courtesy of Bout Review (boutreview.com)