Jewels Lightweight Queen Champion Ayaka Hamasaki will make her first title defence against a familiar foe at Jewels: “17th Ring” on December 17th in Tokyo, Japan. Hamasaki will battle kickboxing ace Seo Hee Ham in a rematch from the pair’s hotly-contested tournament final last year.
Also announced was a bout between final Valkyrie Featherweight Champion “V.V” Mei Yamaguchi and Jewels postergirl Mika “Future Princess” Nagano. Another former Valkyrie champion, Yasuko “Ikuko” Tamada, will also be in action at 17th Ring when she takes on Sachiko “Sachi” Yamamoto.
Hamasaki (5-0-0) and Ham (9-4-0) first faced off in the finals of the inaugural Jewels Lightweight Queen tournament at Jewels: “11th Ring” last year after advancing to the final with victories earlier in the night. Surprising some, Hamasaki got the better of many of the striking exchanges and earned a Unanimous Decision victory to become the first Jewels Lightweight Queen Champion. Both fighters are undefeated since then and both are coming off of big wins in their most recent fights.
At “15th Ring” in July, Ham upset Yamaguchi with a convincing Unanimous Decision over the former Valkyrie titleholder. Two months later, Hamasaki held off the challenge of teen prodigy Mizuki Inoue and secured a Unanimous Decision victory of her own in a non-title bout with the talented youngster at “16th Ring.” Hamasaki and Ham will now collide for a second time, but without the injuries that plagued both during their tournament bouts in 2010.
In what could potentially serve as a top contender’s bout, Yamaguchi (8-3-1) faces Nagano (8-5-0) for a chance to take one step closer to the Lightweight Queen title currently held by Hamasaki. Yamaguchi had her six-fight unbeaten streak snapped at the hands of Ham in her Jewels debut in July, but the jiu-jitsu specialist should enter as a considerable favourite against Nagano, who has struggled in recent outings and needs a big win to get back into the title picture.
Nagano scored a quick submission victory in May, but is coming off of a lopsided decision defeat in a rematch with pound-for-pound standout Megumi “Mega Megu” Fujii. Nagano’s wrestling skills allowed her to control parts of her bout with Ham in the Jewels Lightweight Queen semi-finals last year, but she ultimately dropped a Split Decision after two hard-fought rounds. A victory for either fighter could set up a showdown with the winner of the Hamasaki-Ham bout, or a clash with another top contender such as Yuka “Vale Tudo Queen” Tsuji.
Also booked for the card was a bout between Tamada (12-6-3) and Yamamoto (8-6-1), two participants in the Jewels Featherweight Queen tournament who were upset in the opening round. Tamada, the first and only Valkyrie Flyweight Champion at 100 pounds, returned to Jewels in September after two and a half years away, but dropped a Unanimous Decision to rising star Kikuyo Ishikawa in a tournament quarterfinal. Yamamoto lost for the second straight time when she was defeated in her quarterfinal bout by Yukiko Seki.
With Tamada and Yamamoto now in must-win situations if they wish to get back in line for a title shot, a win for either will be crucial. The first Jewels Featherweight Queen Champion will be crowned later in the evening at “17th Ring” when the tournament semi-finals and final take place all in one night. Tamada and Yamamoto had their hopes of becoming the promotion’s first 48kg champion dashed last month, but could still compete for the belt in 2012 if they can get back into contendership.
Jewels: “17th Ring” takes place on December 17th at Shinjuku FACE in Tokyo, Japan. The event will crown the first Jewels Featherweight Queen Champion. Unbeaten prospect Naho “Sugi Rock” Sugiyama faces Kikuyo Ishikawa in one semi-final bout. Misaki Takimoto takes on Yukiko Seki in the other. The winners of the semi-finals will then face off in the tournament final to crown the first champion.