Top Contenders:

Takayo Hashi (12-1-0): Having already avenged her lone career defeat to Hitomi Akano, Hashi has quickly become a force to be reckoned with in Japan. She opened many eyes with a victory over formerly #2-ranked female Amanda Buckner in April of 2008, and recently returned to competition with a submission win over Chisa Yonezawa at Valkyrie 2.

Hashi is also a veteran of the Abu Dhabi Combat Club, but has surprisingly only picked up four career wins by submission thus far. She has already proven that she can compete with the best, and the coming year should feature her in more solid fights. Valkyrie will likely showcase Hashi in a title bout in the near future.

 

Roxanne Modafferi (13-4-0): 2008 was good to Modafferi, as the Japanese-trained American picked up two victories in two tries. Originally scheduled to rematch Tara LaRosa in the American Fight League, Modafferi instead busied herself with fights against Vanessa Porto and Chisa Yonezawa after the AFL’s plans stalled. The fight with Yonezawa took place at the debut Valkyrie event, but it is currently unclear whether Modafferi will continue to compete in Japan or look to return to action in the States.

Modafferi has publicly stated her wishes to rematch Shayna Baszler in the future, and a possible fight with current Strikeforce standout Sarah Kaufman has also been brought up. Wherever she ends up, rest assured that Modafferi will be a tough test for anyone in her way.

 

Amanda Buckner (11-5-1): Once the #2-ranked female fighter in the world, behind only Tara LaRosa, Buckner has struggled since her demoralising loss to LaRosa in 2006 and has not competed since her defeat at the hands of Takayo Hashi on April 3rd, 2008. Buckner was arguably winning the fight with LaRosa, but was trapped in a choke late in the third round and was forced to submit.

She came back strong with victories over Julie Kedzie and Hitomi Akano, but the loss to Hashi might have been the beginning of the end for Buckner as a top fighter. Buckner is a former Ring of Fire Women’s Lightweight Champion and SmackGIRL Open-Weight Champion, but only time will tell if she can return to past glory.

 

Marloes Coenen (19-3-0): Coenen has experienced a rather turbulent period in her career over the past 15 months. The Golden Glory standout rebounded after her close decision loss to Roxanne Modafferi by picking up three wins in 2008, but two of those were against a 16-year-old opponent, France’s Asci Kubra, who has yet to attain a victory.

Coenen was set to debut in EliteXC late in the year, but the company’s collapse left her without a fight. Thus far, Coenen’s 2009 campaign has not been a good one, as she was defeated by the debuting Cindy “Battlecat” Dandois on January 24th and has not competed since. Coenen is a talented fighter who has won all but two of her fights by stoppage, but she needs a win against a quality opponent in order to regain her standing among the best.

 

Hisae Watanabe (19-6-0): Watanabe is a very rare exception among top Japanese female fighters. Whereas most are tacticians and prefer chokes and armbar submissions, Watanabe’s vicious punching power has resulted in a series of “KO (Punch)” victories. After beginning her career with a 4-2-0 record, Watanabe faced future DEEP Lightweight and Flyweight Champion Satoko Shinashi, but was submitted with a heel hook in the second round.

Watanabe then won 12 of her next 13 fights, with the lone defeat against current Valkyrie Featherweight Champion Yuka Tsuji, and got her rematch with Shinashi at DEEP: 25th Impact on August 4th, 2006. Dwarfing the much smaller Shinashi, Watanabe completely mauled her opponent and twice nearly finished the fight with deep armbars.

Seconds later, it was all over as Watanabe handed Shinashi her first loss with a brutal one-punch knockout to claim the DEEP Lightweight Championship. Watanabe could not keep up the momentum and lost her next fight to Seo Hee Ham, then lost her title to Miku Matsumoto at DEEP: 31st Impact.

She competed once more, submitting Genkaam Lookjuapoakum at DEEP: 33rd Impact on December 12th, 2007, but announced her retirement from competition soon after. However, Watanabe has since stated her intentions to return to action and remains as the most devastating Japanese female striker to date.