Rin Nakai kept her undefeated record intact and became the inaugural Bantamweight Queen of Pancrase Champion tonight at Pancrase Progress Tour 14 in Tokyo, Japan. Nakai earned a competitive decision victory over Danielle “The Honey Badger” West in a rematch from September 2011.
West was unable to make weight at yesterday’s weigh-ins and was deemed ineligible to win the title if she defeated Nakai in the rematch. It was Nakai who walked away with the belt, however, as she displayed improved striking and controlled the ground battles to take the win on all three scorecards.
Nakai (13-0-1) and West (4-5-1) previously fought to a contentious Split Draw in a non-title fight 15 months ago, with many feeling that West had deserved to win the close fight. A dejected Nakai took a lengthy break from fighting following the first bout, but returned to action with two victories earlier this year to set up the title rematch tonight.
In the opening round, Nakai stayed on the outside early on as she avoided West’s jabs and punching combinations. Nakai eventually shot in for a takedown and got West down, but West was active from the bottom and postured for an armbar. Nakai defended and the fight returned to the feet. The fighters traded punches until Nakai secured another takedown late in the round. Two judges saw the first round even at 10-10, while a third had it 10-9 for Nakai.
Nakai clinched to defend against West’s punches in the second round and the referee soon intervened to break the fighters apart. Nakai jabbed and landed leg kicks, then took West back down to the mat. From the bottom, West trapped Nakai in a leg scissors choke, but Nakai pulled her head free and worked for a Kimura from North-South position. She was unable to secure the submission, but her ground control was enough to take the round 10-9 on two judges’ scorecards. A third had the middle stanza even at 10-10.
In the final round, Nakai stuck to her strategy of using jabs to set up takedown attempts, but West had much more success in defending and staying on her feet. Nakai was able to get West down very briefly, but West quickly returned to her feet and resumed chasing Nakai around the ring with punches. Nakai kept her distance and tried unsuccessfully for a takedown. West sprawled and remained the aggressor until the bell, but her efforts were only enough to take the round 10-9 on one judge’s scorecard. The remaining two saw the final round 10-10.
Despite a somewhat passive third round, Nakai’s takedowns and ground control in the opening two rounds were enough to take the victory and the title. She has won three straight fights this year and now holds the first official Pancrase women’s championship.
Winner: Rin Nakai by Unanimous Decision (30-30 [Must Decision - Nakai], 30-29, 29-28) after three rounds. She improves to 13-0-1 and becomes the first Bantamweight Queen of Pancrase Champion.
Go Yamamoto contributed to this report.
(Photo Credit: GBRing.com)