At 39 years of age, Deep Jewels veteran Mina Kurobe captured her first MMA title tonight at Deep Jewels 15 in Tokyo, Japan. Kurobe avenged a past loss and defeated Naho “Sugi Rock” Sugiyama in tonight’s main event rematch to become the new Deep Jewels Atomweight Champion.
With her title win tonight, Kurobe has now posted five straight victories since suffering a one-sided decision loss to Sugiyama in the pair’s first meeting at Deep Jewels 10. In tonight’s co-main event, Shizuka Sugiyama made a successful return by edging out prospect Yukari Nabe at 130 pounds.
Kurobe (10-2-0) scored with punch-kick combos early in the fight and she was able to briefly take Sugiyama’s (12-5-0) back on the feet. Sugiyama broke free, but Kurobe continued to find success with combinations and straight right hands that kept Sugiyama on the defensive. Kurobe finished the round strong with a series of knees in the clinch, but Sugiyama rallied back with aggressive striking in round two. Kurobe countered with more knees, but Sugiyama landed some of her best punches of the fight and she was especially effective with quick left hooks.
The competitive bout appeared to be very much up for grabs heading into the third and final round, and both women attempted takedowns in the opening minute. Kurobe was able to reverse one into Sugiyama’s guard, which allowed Kurobe to take her back and land numerous hammerfists from the top. Sugiyama defended well against Kurobe’s rear-naked choke attempts, but Kurobe continued to batter her with hammerfists until the end of the entertaining title fight.
Judges Masato Fukuda, Hidenobu Koike and Yoshinori Umeki all scored the fight in favour of Kurobe, who took home a Unanimous Decision win and also the Deep Jewels Atomweight Championship.
“I was afraid of this fight because I got beat up in the last bout against Naho,” Kurobe admitted backstage after her victory, “but I am almost 40 and I am still improving. I will continue my career and I would like to thank my teammates and fans for their support.
“I felt good during the first two rounds, but I was not convinced that I had won both of them,” Kurobe added. “So I went hard in the third round and convinced myself to really take the fight to her. After the fight, Naho said that it’s not easy for older fighters like us. Even though I am older, I want to fight a current or former Invicta FC champion. I want to take on the world’s best.”
Following a layoff of more than two years after giving birth to her first child, Shizuka Sugiyama (14-4-1) did enough in her return bout tonight to edge out a close Split Decision win over Nabe (1-1-0) in a 130-pound catchweight contest.
Sugiyama opened the action with stiff jabs and she repeatedly thwarted Nabe’s takedown attempts. The fighters traded knees to the body and Sugiyama landed some nice punches in close while fending off Nabe’s relentless takedowns. In round two, Nabe attempted a series of harai goshi throws, but Sugiyama got caught in the ropes and Nabe was not able to get her down until her third try. Sugiyama regained half-guard shortly before the bell and the back-and-forth fight went to the scorecards.
Judge Hidenobu Koike saw the fight in favour of Nabe, but judges Kenichi Serizawa and Yoshinori Umeki both had it for the returning Sugiyama, who prevailed via Split Decision. Sugiyama has won three straight bouts since falling to Takayo Hashi in a May 2014 Deep Jewels title fight.
“I still need to improve, but I am glad that I won and I still enjoy fighting,” Sugiyama stated backstage after the fight. “After giving birth, I was not sure whether I would be able to get back into fighting shape again, but I did it and I’m back. My son gives me power and I want to fight for as long as possible. I want a [championship] belt, but my goal is to continue to compete and I would like to fight for Rizin if there is an opportunity.”
Former boxing champion Emiko “Fujin” Raika (4-4-0, 1 NC) earned her second straight win under the Deep Jewels banner by defeating newcomer Satsuki “Komachi Karate” Kodama (0-1-0) in a 126-pound bout tonight.
Raika avoided Kodama’s early striking combinations and took her down into back control. Kodama battled back to her feet, only to be taken down again. Raika passed straight to mount and took Kodama’s back once again, and she remained there until the bell. The second round was more of the same and Raika scored another takedown into back control. She used hammerfists to set up a rear-naked choke attempt, but Kodama held on for a stalemate and the fighters were stood up. Raika caught a head kick and slammed Kodama down, then finished the round with more hammerfists.
Judges Kenichi Serizawa, Yoshinori Umeki and Masato Fukuda all scored the fight in favour of Raika, who took the Unanimous Decision victory. She previously posted a decision win at Deep Jewels 14.
Highly-touted 19-year-old atomweight prospect Kanna Asakura (6-2-0) bounced back from a tough loss on New Year’s Eve by steamrolling an overmatched Natsuki Shimomakise (0-4-0) tonight.
Asakura opened the action with a front kick and a right hook, and she quickly took Shimomakise down after avoiding her wild punches. Asakura landed hammerfists from the top in side control and Shimomakise was forced to give up her back. Asakura seized the opportunity and locked on a tight rear-naked choke that forced Shimomakise to submit at the 2:29 mark of round one.
“Finally, I feel good again after New Year’s Eve,” Asakura said after the fight. “I focused too much on takedowns in the NYE fight [against Alyssa Garcia], so I tried to strike more in this fight. It did make me nervous, but I am glad that I won and I want to fight for Rizin again. After April, I will be finished school and I will train solely as a fighter.”
In the biggest upset on tonight’s card, “King” Reina Miura (2-0-0) showcased her formidable grappling skills en route to a close Unanimous Decision victory over UFC veteran and MMA pioneer Shayna “The Queen of Spades” Baszler (15-11-0) in a lightweight matchup.
Baszler reversed a takedown in the opening round and landed hammerfists after taking Miura’s back on the ground. Miura secured a sweep into top position, where she landed hammerfists of her own, and the fighters continued to battle back and forth for position while also attacking with leglocks. Baszler briefly held back control once more before the end of the spirited round. Miura rallied in a big way in round two, which began with her taking Baszler down and striking from the top. She maintained top position and used hammerfists to set up an armbar attempt. Late in the round, Miura mounted Baszler and she threatened with one final armbar that left a lasting impression upon the judges.
The bout went to the scorecards and judges Masato Fukuda, Yoshinori Umeki and Hidenobu Koike all saw it in favour of Miura. The Unanimous Decision victory was unquestionably the biggest of Miura’s young MMA career and she showed great potential in her performance against the much more experienced Baszler.
“[Baszler] is not as good as I had thought, but I feel that we had the best fight on the card tonight,” Miura stated bluntly backstage.
Former Deep Jewels Interim Strawweight Champion and recent atomweight title challenger Emi Tomimatsu (12-12-0) halted a two-fight losing skid with a Unanimous Decision victory tonight. Tomimatsu defeated Pan “Kai” Hui (3-2-0) in an atomweight bout.
Hui fought off Tomimatsu’s takedown attempts throughout the opening round until Tomimatsu was finally able to secure a leg-sweep trip after setting it up with a hook to the body. She moved straight to mount on the ground and attacked with a rear-naked choke, but Hui shook her off before the bell. Tomimatsu landed a nice right hook in the second stanza that was answered by a flurry of punches from Hui, who stuffed a takedown. The fighters continued to trade punches on the feet and Tomimatsu tried unsuccessfully for another takedown before the end of the fight.
Judges Yoshinori Umeki, Kenichi Serizawa and Hidenobu Koike all scored the bout for Tomimatsu, whose Unanimous Decision win got her back on track after a submission loss in November.
Opening up the card tonight, long-time Deep Jewels atomweight contender Satomi “Sarami” Takano (9-8-0) made quick work of 18-year-old South Korean Ye Jin Jung (0-2-0) in a one-sided contest.
The fighters circled each other in the opening minute until Takano floored Jung with a right hook. She immediately mounted Jung on the mat and secured a top-side guillotine choke. Jung managed to scramble into top position, but that allowed Takano to further tighten the choke and Jung was forced to tap out at the 1:38 mark of the opening round.
“I feel that female fighters gained more attention tonight,” Deep boss Shigeru Saeki said after the event. “Kurobe showed that older fighters can still win title belts, and Miura surprised us tonight by defeating a former UFC fighter in spite of having such a short career. It is rare for a fighter to be this successful so early in their career and at that weight, and [Rizin founder Nobuyuki] Sakakibara is interested in her. Some of tonight’s fighters will compete for Rizin.
“Takano can finish opponents now,” Saeki added, “and I think about how she and my other fighters would do in Rizin, Invicta FC and the UFC. I will go to Road FC’s event with our female fighters. [Seo Hee] Ham was also released by the UFC recently, but her fight salary is too high for us right now.”
Full play-by-play for all bouts on tonight’s Deep Jewels 15 card can be found here.
(Photo Credit: Deep Jewels)