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A bowling shoe ugly UFC slobberknocker in Saitama

By Zach Arnold | September 26, 2015

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Main card results from the UFC Fight Night show at Saitama Super Arena:

The Sunday afternoon Dentsu-promoted UFC card in Japan gave some momentary glimpses of the glory days of Japanese MMA in terms of emotion and fun. I miss it very much. I still believe that MMA can be a viable sport in Japan but it’s entirely dependent on professional wrestling star power and New Japan is the only major player in Japanese professional wrestling.

I’ve long been a crusader again yakuza influence in Japanese combat sports and believe it’s the right position. However, I cannot and will not deny the crippling impact that the yakuza crackdown over the last decade in Japan has had on combat sports. Once the dark money vanished, then sponsors & television networks became reticent. It’s easy to push the cash flow when there’s already another source of cash flow being piped in. Once the dark money dried up, so did national interest. Without the criminal syndicates using old-school pro-wrestling extortion tactics to buy tickets at discounts from event promoters in order to push other businesses into buying tickets from the gangs, it became a lot harder to promote events on a regular basis.

The challenge for someone like Nobuyuki Sakakibara to make a second run in Japan is enormous. Let’s assume that his new money marks are foreigners and have a lot of cash to burn. Let’s say that he is able to buy TV access on Fuji TV or other television networks. That still doesn’t address what he’s going to do about attracting Dentsu-level sponsors. It still doesn’t address what he’s going to do about building real Japanese mainstream stars. It doesn’t address the fact that Sakakibara is a marked man in Japan who has as many powerful enemies as he has as powerful friends. The scandal that brought down PRIDE was a national disgrace that played out in Shukan Gendai magazine and amongst Fuji TV stockholders. It was a scandal that involved police investigators from the country’s largest Metropolitan police force.

Color me skeptical that the return of PRIDE is coming any time soon. I would love to see a new boom period in Japan but the ingredients that made combat sports successful in Japan do not exist right now and may not exist in the future.

As for UFC’s efforts with the sold show Dentsu affair in Saitama, it was a delightfully polite & respectful audience. Takeya Mizugaki went emo. Josh Barnett’s mic performance, Rusher Kimura-style, was more pleasing than watching his five-round gutty & grizzly unanimous decision win over Roy Nelson. To Josh’s credit, I was utterly dumbfounded by two judges scoring the fight 48-47. I had it comfortably 50-45 even though Nelson absorbed some savage rib roasters in the process.

I loved the reaction from the Japanese fans on the Mousasi/Hall fight. Mousasi was viewed as a legitimate home town star. They were intensely focused on his ground game, which looked excellent. And then Hall blew up the proceedings with a picture perfect back kick and a flying knee that should have stretchered the poor guy out of the arena.

And then there was Ishihara and Hirota. They fought to a majority draw. Hirota drew laughs for talking about a crooked tooth. They went to the hospital together and were both given “six-figure UFC contracts.” If only there was a sudden victory sudden death round PRIDE-style…

Topics: Japan, MMA, Media, UFC, Zach Arnold | 8 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

8 Responses to “A bowling shoe ugly UFC slobberknocker in Saitama”

  1. rst says:

    I took a look at Halls record, I dont know much about him, but I didn’t see anything that would have made me expect that. As far as his record at least, I haven’t watched his fights.

    Thats an unfortunate dichotomy about JMMA.
    If you didn’t know anything about it (I dont), you might think that when UFC bought out Pride that was an opportunity to replace Yakuza money with foreign investment, but they dont trust foreigners. It seems like one of those things that just has to happen naturally at the right time under the right circumstances. If national interest ever rises to the point of profitability again, they’ll figure out a way.

  2. david m says:

    I love watching Josh Barnett. Even at this age, he is still a legitimate threat to beat anyone. He puts together his combos beautifully, has good head movement, and is tough as hell. Speaking of tough, I have no idea how Roy took all those shots and didn’t die. Man, what a brutal beating.

    • rst says:

      Roy has only ever been finished by 2 guys.

      Its kind of a shame about Roy though.
      His hardheaded attitude is part of his charm IMO.
      But it seems like it has also lead to a lack of flexibility and self awareness.
      He slowly and deliberately explained and demonstrated the overhand behind the ear right on one of those UFC backstage things 5-6 years ago, everybody is aware of it. Now instead of defying expectations he has reduced his entire arsenal just to what people have grown to expect for far too long.

      But like you said, he’s still tough enough to weed out the unworthy with that chin and that one punch.
      But I guess thats all he plans on doing now is being a tough guy gate keeper.

      • david m says:

        A tough gatekeeper isn’t exactly easy to find at HW in mma. Most HWs don’t have great chins or stamina. In a way, Roy kind of reminds me of a slower, less agile Chuck Liddell, only with a much smaller arsenal of tools in his tool belt. They both have that thudding power, hard heads, and that odd build. Like Liddell I always cheer for Roy; he is a true fighter.

        I would say that Roy showed some improvement last night; he landed a leg kick or two, a body kick, threw a head kick, got a few takedowns (and was stood up or broken from the clinch two separate times when he was in favorable positions), and again showed great chin and heart. Josh fucking killed him in the clinch though. Man.

        If I recall correctly, one of the 2 guys who finished Roy was Arlovski, and that fight had a horrible stand-up in which Roy was in half guard or something; an absolute crime. Anyway, it seemed that the big problem for Roy is his workrate; he carries so much weight on that frame that he just can’t move his body quickly enough. I don’t understand why he doesn’t just go on a fucking diet; he could have all the same power at 240, and would be quicker and have more cardio. Barnett looked good physically last night; it is impressive for a 240 pound 37-year-old to go five rounds of constant clinch fighting and striking.

  3. Liger05 says:

    I remember when people claimed MMA in Japan wasnt reliant on the pro wrestling business.

    Hypothetically if a MMA did come back who is the pro wrestling star they would look at? Nakamura. Shensuke sure has charisma, star power and seems like the guy right now.

  4. Safari_Punch says:

    Looking like Rizin is bringing in talent from all over. Almost like an MMA version of the NWA. May be as close as we get to pro wrestling.

    Looking forward to this heavyweight tournament. I wonder if it will feature a mix of prospects and journeymen or if it will be all prospects? $500K to the winner is a big payday.

  5. Liger05 says:

    Who could he mean outside New Japan?

    Takashi Suguira?

    Daichi Hashimoto?


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