After thrice coming up short in Smackgirl and Jewels title bouts, Seo Hee Ham captured her first major MMA title tonight at Jewels: “24th Ring” in Tokyo, Japan. Ham earned a Unanimous Decision win over Naho “Sugi Rock” Sugiyama to become Jewels Featherweight Queen Champion.
In the co-main event tonight, final Valkyrie Featherweight Champion “V.V” Mei Yamaguchi made short work of Seo Ye Jung. Mika “Future Princess” Nagano picked up her third straight win with a quick submission of Takumi Umehara and Yurika Nakakura upset prospect Jade Marie Anderson.
Ham (11-5-0) landed jabs and a leg kick early in the “24th Ring” main event. Sugiyama (8-3-0) answered back with a hard left hook, but Ham recovered and found a home for her left cross. She landed body kicks, but Sugiyama clinched and managed to get Ham down to the ground. The fighters were stood up and Ham mixed up her strikes with punches, kicks and knees.
Sugiyama tried for a takedown in round two, but Ham stuffed it and the fighters traded punches. Ham got the better of the exchange and Sugiyama took her down. She fought off a Ham triangle choke attempt and moved to North-South position. Ham countered with an inverted triangle from the bottom, but Sugiyama pulled her head free and landed punches before the bell.
As the close fight entered round three, Ham jumped guard and secured a triangle choke, but Sugiyama worked her way free and briefly passed to mount. Ham got back to half-guard, but she ate punches for her efforts. Ham eventually reversed into top position and she took Sugiyama’s back in a scramble. Sugiyama shrugged her off and Ham closed out the fight on top in her opponent’s guard.
All three judges scored the bout for Ham, who took home a Unanimous Decision win and the Jewels Featherweight Queen Championship. The main event was deemed Fight of the Night and Ham was named the MVP of the card. She has won eight of her past ten fights, with both defeats coming against Jewels Lightweight Queen Champion Ayaka Hamasaki. Ham also holds the CMA/KPW Women’s Lightweight Championship, which she defends in the Gladiator promotion.
“It was my fourth time fighting for a [major] MMA belt, but it’s the first time that I’ve won one, so it’s very special to me,” Ham said after tonight’s fight. “I’m glad I got the belt, but it was a tough fight. I studied Sugiyama’s style, but I couldn’t adjust well. I still need to work on my ground game. Today, Japan and Korea are having some political problems, so I thought there might be [more] problems if I took this belt, but I’m very happy.”
In one of many last-minute additions to the card, Yamaguchi (11-5-1) proved that she was the superior fighter by easily dispatching of Jung (0-2-0) with a first-round armbar. Yamaguchi opened the action with a body kick and Jung replied with stiff jabs. Yamaguchi took her less experienced opponent down and landed in mount. She transitioned to back control and secured a belly-down armbar that forced Jung to submit at the 1:55 mark of round one.
Top Jewels star Nagano (13-8-0) was equally impressive in her swift victory over Umehara (1-1-0) in a featured main card bout. Nagano was on the receiving end of early combinations from Umehara, but she backed Umehara into a corner and landed some big knees to the body. From there, Nagano scored a takedown and moved to back control. She locked on a rear-naked choke and Umehara tapped out at the 1:42 mark of round one.
The fourth and final MMA bout on tonight’s card saw Nakakura (2-1-0) score a big win over powerful wrestler Anderson (2-1-0). Despite giving up a size advantage to her opponent, Nakakura was in control of the majority of the two-round bout on the feet and on the ground. She landed some nice combinations and took Anderson down on multiple occasions. Anderson was able to secure back control before the end of round one, but Nakakura came on strong again in the second round with one-twos and more takedowns. All three judges scored the fight for Nakakura, who took the Unanimous Decision win.
Earlier on the card, Emi Tomimatsu showed off her slick ground skills by taking a Unanimous Decision win over the returning Masako Yoshida in a grappling match. Tomimatsu threatened with an armbar and two rear-naked chokes in round one. She was aggressive again in round two and effortlessly passed Yoshida’s guard. Save for a Yoshida kneebar attempt, Tomimatsu was never in any danger and she cruised to a one-sided victory.
In another grappling match, Madoka Ebihara picked up her second win of the night by defeating Yukiko Seki via Unanimous Decision. The opening round was close and both fighters had their moments with takedowns and submission attempts. Ebihara attempted an armbar in round two and her positional control proved to be enough to take a hard-fought victory.
Prospect Satomi Takano and Kaoru Chatani engaged in a closely-contested, action-packed kickboxing match that ended in a Unanimous Draw after three rounds. Takano was the more active fighter and Chatani noticeably slowed down as the fight progressed, but she landed the more damaging strikes. The ringside judges were unable to determine a winner and all three scored the bout 29-29.
Tonight’s event began with three BJJ matches on the preliminary card. Aya Abe defeated Yukiko Seki by a score of 5-0. Ayaka Miura defeated Harumi Todate 3-0 on points and, in their second appearances on the card, Madoka Ebihara defeated Aya Abe with a score of 2-0.
Full play-by-play for all fights on tonight’s Jewels card can be found here.