Jewels Lightweight Queen Champion Ayaka Hamasaki kept her unbeaten record intact and successfully retained her title tonight in the main event of Jewels: “22nd Ring” in Tokyo, Japan. The AACC fighter won a hard-fought Unanimous Decision over veteran contender Emi “Kamikaze Angel” Fujino.
Elsewhere on tonight’s Jewels main card, 18-year-old rising star Mizuki Inoue posted another impressive victory in her first fight inside a cage. The talented striker once again showcased her rapidly-developing ground skills by submitting South Korea’s Hyo Kyung Song midway through round two.
Hamasaki (9-0-0) had a tough fight on her hands right from the opening bell tonight. Fujino (11-6-0) was aggressive with punches right away and put the champion on the defensive in the first round. Hamasaki was able to secure takedowns and she landed some solid strikes from the top, but Fujino rallied back late in the round and wobbled Hamasaki with a right cross.
More big shots were exchanged in the second stanza and Hamasaki once again opted to take the fight to the mat. Fujino countered with a guillotine choke and Hamasaki was trapped in the hold for quite some time. She eventually freed herself and worked for a Kimura in the late stages of the round.
Fujino continued to score repeatedly with right hands in the final round and Hamasaki began to slow down. She weathered punches from Fujino and secured a takedown, then went to work with submission attempts and punches. She was unable to finish Fujino, but Hamasaki’s active end to the fight was enough to earn her the nod on all three judges’ scorecards.
With the Unanimous Decision victory, Hamasaki upped her record to a perfect 9-0 and retained the Jewels Lightweight Queen Championship. The main event was named Fight of the Night and drew loud applause from the fans in attendance, but Hamasaki was critical of her performance.
“I didn’t have an exciting fight today, but I will do my best to win against the world’s top fighters,” she said after the title bout. “Fujino was really strong. Mentally, I felt pressure from her strength. I stuck to takedowns, which is what I’m good at, and that opened a route to my win. I couldn’t take good positions because of the cage.
“[Fujino's choke] wasn’t effective, but I felt that her guillotine attempt in the second round left a bad impression for the judges, so I knew I needed to take the third round,” Hamasaki added. “I focused too much on takedowns and I think I need to improve my striking. My focus on takedowns made me too predictable.”
DEEP boss and Jewels advisor Shigeru Saeki discussed his thoughts on the first caged event in Jewels’ history following the main event title fight.
“I’ll think about doing another caged event again next year,” Saeki said. “Not many of our fighters can use the cage well, but we plan to send our fighters to Invicta next year and they need to have experience in the cage.”
In tonight’s co-main event, Inoue (4-1-0) made a successful cage debut with a slick submission victory over Song (0-2-0). It was Song who pressed the action with kicks and jabs early in round one, but Inoue blocked and parried the strikes and scored a quick takedown. She punished Song with hard punches on the ground and tried for a pair of armbars before the end of the round.
Song was aggressive again in round two, but Inoue wisely picked her shots and countered effectively. She threw Song to the mat and took her back, then transitioned to an armbar that forced Song to submit at the 2:14 mark of the second round.
Though best known for her stellar striking skills, all four of Inoue’s MMA victories have come by way of submission. The teen prodigy sports identical 4-1 records in kickboxing and shoot boxing and captured the Shoot Boxing Girls S-Cup 53.5kg title earlier this year.
The “22nd Ring” card also featured a pair of retirement bouts. In one, Mika “Future Princess” Nagano (11-8-0) secured her third victory over AACC’s Rina Tomita (3-8-0), who was competing for the final time. Nagano was able to score a takedown in the early stages of the opening round and she wasted no time in working for an armbar on the ground. Tomita did her best to defend, but Nagano wrenched back on the arm and Tomita tapped out at the 2:12 mark of round one.
Naoko Omuro (13-9-4) also competed for the final time tonight following a career spanning close to 11 years. Omuro faced former DEEP Women’s Lightweight Champion Hisae Watanabe (19-6-0) in an exhibition match on tonight’s card and defeated Watanabe with an armbar late in the one-round bout. The fighters did trade some hard punches and submission attempts, but the exhibition ultimately served its purpose when Omuro locked on the fight-ending armbar for the Technical Submission victory.
Both Tomita and Omuro were awarded gifts and had retirement ceremonies following their fights.
American high school wrestling champion Jade Marie Anderson (1-0-0) made a successful MMA debut by outpointing Megumi Yabushita (19-21-0) after two rounds. Anderson was able to score takedowns throughout the fight and she kept Yabushita pinned down whenever possible. Yabushita had moments of brilliance and threatened with submission attempts on the ground, and also landed a spinning backfist in round one, but Anderson’s positional dominance was enough to earn her the Unanimous Decision win on the scorecards.
Former Valkyrie Flyweight Champion Yasuko “Ikuko” Tamada (14-8-3) continued her climb back into Jewels title contention with her second straight win over a top-ranked opponent. After defeating Naoko Omuro in July, Tamada picked up a Unanimous Decision victory over the previously unbeaten Satomi Takano (2-1-0) tonight in one of her most impressive performances to date. Tamada was able to control the fight on the ground with submission attempts and also showed off some decent striking as well en route to the well-earned victory.
Strawweight standout Kikuyo Ishikawa (8-3-0) had a much more challenging fight tonight than many had anticipated. The Okinawa native eked out a close Unanimous Decision win over Tomo Maesawa (0-2-0), who kept Ishikawa on the defensive at times with takedown attempts and submissions. Ishikawa held the edge in the standup, but Maesawa was surprisingly effective on the ground and she attacked with armbars. Ishikawa closed out the fight strong and earned a competitive decision win as a result.
Rounding out the MMA bouts on the card, Keiko Tomita (1-1-0) dominated Jewels producer and former Valkyrie leader Yasuko “Pink Spider” Mogi (3-7-0) on the feet en route to a TKO stoppage victory at the 20-second mark of round two. Celine Haga (3-11-0) posted another big win by defeating one-time Jewels contender Miyoko Kusaka (3-5-1) via Unanimous Decision.
Mina Kurobe (1-0-0) defeated fellow professional debutant Naomi Taniyama (0-1-0) by rear-naked choke submission at the 1:55 mark of round two. Yurika Tanaka (1-1-0) submitted Rie Fukui (0-1-0) with a forearm choke at the 1:22 mark of the second round.
Full play-by-play and results for all fights on tonight’s Jewels: “22nd Ring” card can be found here.
(Photo Credit: Jewels blog)