Final Valkyrie Featherweight Champion “V.V” Mei Yamaguchi put herself in contention for a new title with a key victory today at Jewels: “20th Ring” in Tokyo, Japan. Yamaguchi defeated Emi Tomimatsu for a second time and now hopes to challenge for the Jewels Lightweight Queen Championship.
Top Jewels star Shizuka Sugiyama made a successful return to action after a lengthy layoff while training abroad, but she had a much tougher fight on her hands than many had anticipated. Sugiyama earned a Split Decision victory over MMA pioneer Megumi Yabushita in a featured main card bout.
Yamaguchi (10-4-1) and Tomimatsu (5-5-0) were dead even through round one of today’s main event matchup. The opening five minutes were contested primarily in the clinch, where neither fighter could obtain a clear advantage. Yamaguchi landed short punches and scored brief takedowns, but Tomimatsu countered with knees in close.
In the second round, Yamaguchi began to take control. She scored more takedowns and landed a nice combination near the midway point of the round. After another takedown, Yamaguchi worked to secure an armbar and nearly got it, but Tomimatsu powered out and took top position. Yamaguchi stood and the fighters traded punches to close out the fight.
Judges Yoshinori Umeki, Ryogaku Wada and Akira Yamazaki were united in their verdict and all three awarded the fight to Yamaguchi, who earned her second decision win over Tomimatsu.
After the fight, Yamaguchi stated that she had planned to stand and trade strikes more frequently with Tomimatsu to better entertain the crowd, but she was unable to do so today.
“I’ve trained with [Tomimatsu] before, so I could expect what she would try to do, but there were some things I didn’t see coming,” Yamaguchi said. “Next, I want to take the [Jewels Lightweight Queen Championship]. I don’t know when, because the schedule is so uncertain, but I hope it’s as soon as possible.”
Earlier on the card, Sugiyama (7-3-0) took a hotly-contested Split Decision over Yabushita (19-20-0) in a surprisingly competitive bout. Sugiyama controlled the striking in round one with kicks, punches and knees, but her veteran foe was effective with takedowns and throws. Yabushita tried for a guillotine choke and an armbar before the end of round one and Sugiyama had to act quickly to escape.
Round two was more of the same and the fighters once again battled back and forth on the ground. Sugiyama again held the edge early on and this time she tried for submissions of her own, but Yabushita defended well. She twice threw Sugiyama to the mat in the later stages and worked for an ankle lock, but Sugiyama was able to scramble out and took Yabushita down in the final seconds.
Judge Umeki sided with Yabushita, but he was overruled by Yamazaki and Kenichi Serizawa, who both scored the bout in favour of Sugiyama. The fight was Sugiyama’s first since a December 2010 defeat at Jewels: “11th Ring.”
In other pro MMA action today, final Valkyrie Flyweight Champion Yasuko “Ikuko” Tamada (13-8-3) put an emphatic end to her four-fight losing streak by defeating Naoko Omuro (13-9-4) in the pair’s third meeting. Tamada also became the first woman to ever finish Omuro in the process.
Tamada controlled much of round one in the clinch and on the ground, where she tried to take Omuro’s back to set up a submission. Omuro battled back to her feet each time and landed a nice knee before the bell, but the opening round clearly belonged to Tamada. She continued her dominance with an early takedown in round two and transitioned to Omuro’s back. From there, Tamada set up an armbar and wrenched back until referee Ryogaku Wada called a stop to the fight. The technical submission victory came at 1:05 of the second stanza.
Elsewhere, Club Barbarian prospect Satomi Takano (1-0-0) made a successful pro debut by upsetting 2010 Rough Stone Grand Prix finalist Yukiko Seki (11-22-0) via lopsided Unanimous Decision. Takano scored numerous takedowns and attempted a series of submissions throughout the fight. Despite a late striking rally from Seki, judges Umeki, Yamazaki and Wada all scored the fight for Takano, who appears to be a new star on the Jewels roster.
Full play-by-play for the remaining bouts on the “20th Ring” card can be found here.
Backstage, Jewels producer Yasuko Mogi discussed today’s event and the lightweight title picture, as well as the future of Jewels and its ongoing partnership with Invicta Fighting Championships.
“I want to put on more events, but unfortunately we can’t,” she said. “We had planned a 52-kilogram tournament but can’t find enough fighters. If it happens, it will be in December. For [Ayaka] Hamasaki’s [lightweight queen] title picture, Yamaguchi, [Emi] Fujino and [Mika] Nagano are all in interesting positions. For the December event, I want it to be in a cage, but it’s still undecided.
“We’re definitely interested in getting [Invicta FC] fighters over here, but for now we’re only sending fighters,” Mogi added.
Jewels will stage its next event, “21st Ring,” on September 22nd at Shin-Kiba 1st Ring in Tokyo. Matchups will be announced for the card in the coming weeks.
(Photo Credit: GBRing.com)