King Of The Cage Japan: "Toryumon" PreviewKing of the Cage will begin 2010 in a big way on January 30th when the promotion travels to the island of Okinawa, Japan for KOTC: “Toryumon.” The impressive event is headlined by a KOTC Junior Flyweight (125-Pound) Championship clash between former two-division Shooto champ Mamoru Yamaguchi and undefeated challenger Frank Baca.

In a featured women’s bout, Roxanne Modafferi will represent her adopted home of Japan when she battles Molly “The Maulinator” Helsel of the United States. previews the Japan vs USA “Toryumon” card.

The main event of the evening pits former Shooto Welterweight and Bantamweight Champion Mamoru Yamaguchi (22-5-3) against undefeated submission specialist Frank Baca (6-0-0) in a battle for the vacant King of the Cage Junior Flyweight (125-Pound) Championship.

Yamaguchi will make his KOTC debut in the fight, which marks only the third time that the Shooto legend will compete outside of a Shooto ring. He has lost just three times in his last 19 fights and two of those defeats came against former #1-ranked flyweight Shinichi “BJ” Kojima. Sidelined for over a year, Yamaguchi returned to action at Vale Tudo Japan 2009 on October 30th and stopped Jesse Taitano with punches in the first round. He picked up a second win less than one month later at Shooto: “Revolutionary Exchanges 3.” The talented striker will look to hand Baca his first loss.

Baca does not possess the legendary status that Yamaguchi holds in Japan, but he brings an undefeated record and an impressive submission game to the table in this title bid. The New Mexico native made his promotional debut at KOTC: “Horsepower” on November 28th and submitted Joe Salazar in just 54 seconds. Baca had previously competed for Freestyle Cage Fighting, where he defeated Airyn Burr. He will take a huge step up in competition when he squares off with Yamaguchi, but a victory would immediately solidify Baca’s place among the top flyweights in the sport.


The co-main event of the evening will see former Shooto Pacific Rim Welterweight Champion Kotetsu Boku (15-6-2) take on former KOTC Lightweight Champion Tony “Lionheart” Hervey (11-6-0), who will look to rebound after losing his title in December.

Boku will no longer have the chance to challenge for the KOTC title that Hervey lost, but that will not stop the Shooto and Cage Force veteran from setting up a future title shot at Hervey’s expense. Boku holds notable victories over Hermes Franca, Alexandre Franca “Pequeno” Nogueira and Eiji Mitsuoka, and he took former DREAM Lightweight Champion Joachim “Hellboy” Hansen the distance at Dream.1. He most recently knocked out Yukio Sakaguchi with a single counterpunch at Shooto: “Revolutionary Exchanges 3” in one of the best comeback performances of 2009.

Hervey will not step into the cage wearing his now-lost title, but an impressive victory over the veteran Boku would allow Hervey to position himself for a rematch with current KOTC Lightweight Champion David Shepherd. With all 11 of his wins coming by knockout or submission, Hervey is a proven finisher and will look to test Boku’s chin, which failed the Japanese star early in his bout with Sakaguchi. Many of Hervey’s victories have come early in the first round, including a 12-second knockout of UFC veteran Alberto Crane, and a brawl is all but assured against Boku.


In another featured bout on the card, Pancrase standout Kiichi “Strasser” Kunimoto (8-3-0, 1 NC) will face 2009 Submission of the Year winner Toby Imada (22-13-0), who will aim to follow up on his breakout performance last year with a solid win to begin 2010.

Kunimoto remains relatively unknown in North America, but he rebounded after a shaky 2008 campaign with three straight wins last year. With well-rounded skills in striking and submissions, Kunimoto has finished five of his opponents thus far and is no stranger to facing American opposition. He picked up a pair of submission victories in the Wisconson-based Freestyle Combat Challenge promotion in 2007 and a win over the perennial underdog Imada would keep Kunimoto’s perfect record against American foes intact.

Imada toiled in small promotions for well over ten years before he received a call to compete in Bellator Fighting Championships last year. Entering the promotion’s lightweight tournament, Imada dispatched of Alonzo Martinez in the opening round. One month later, Imada became an instant overnight sensation when he choked out highly-regarded Jorge “Gamebred” Masvidal with a flying inverted triangle choke that has since become a staple of highlight reels. While his tournament run came to an end at the hands of Eddie Alvarez, Imada will look to rebound with a big win over Kunimoto.


The lone women’s bout on the “Toryumon” card pits bantamweight standout Roxanne Modafferi (13-5-0) against tough veteran Molly “The Maulinator” Helsel (8-8-1) in a pivotal battle that may shape the direction of each woman’s career.

Modafferi, a champion in many promotions who remains as the only woman to have ever defeated women’s MMA pioneer Jennifer Howe, captured the K-GRACE tournament championship with a trio of victories in 2007. She defeated Marloes Coenen in the final and later became the first woman to stop Vanessa Porto. Riding a six-fight winning streak, Modafferi came up in weight and made her Strikeforce debut on very short notice at Strikeforce: “Fedor vs Rogers” in a rematch with Coenen. Though she was defeated, Modafferi has used the loss as motivation and will be hungry for a big win on January 30th.

Helsel is no stranger to rebounding from tough losses, either. The 2005 HOOKnSHOOT Women’s Grand Prix Finalist lost her first two MMA bouts, but came back strong with four straight victories and was narrowly denied the HOOKnSHOOT title in a Split Decision loss to Julie Kedzie. She has won four of her last six fights, with the lone defeats coming against Sarah Kaufman and Alexis Davis. Always a tough challenge for any opponent, Helsel’s biggest victory came in a 2005 bout with Lisa Ward. She will look to change all of that when she squares off with the highly-ranked Modafferi in Japan.


Undercard Fights:

Tatsuya Sou (4-3-1) will take on the debuting Shigeki Matsuda (0-0-0) in a bantamweight bout.

Koji Kanechika (4-2-0) will clash with “Scary” Jerry Vrbanovic (6-6-1) in heavyweight action.

Leandro Cussano (3-1-0) faces Christian Vargas (4-3-0) in a lightweight contest.

Shinya Kumazawa (3-6-0) battles Steve Hecht (4-1-0) in a featherweight showdown.

Tsuyoshi Tamaki (2-0-0) meets Bryon Schnell (0-1-0) in the lightweight opener.


King of the Cage: “Toryumon” takes place on January 30th at the Okinawa Convention Center in Ginowan, Okinawa, Japan. For more information on the event, check out