Yuka Tsuji To Face Saori Ishioka At Jewels: "15th Ring"Former Smackgirl and Valkyrie champion Yuka “Vale Tudo Queen” Tsuji will return to action against Jewels postergirl Saori “Shooting Star” Ishioka at Jewels: “15th Ring” on July 9th in Tokyo, Japan. The fight, which will be Tsuji’s first in nearly 17 months, was officially announced today.

Tsuji has not fought since losing her Valkyrie Featherweight Championship to “V.V” Mei Yamaguchi on February 11, 2010. She had surgery to correct shoulder and knee injuries during her time away from competition and will now return to face Ishioka, who campaigned for the fight with Tsuji.

Tsuji (22-2-0) won eight straight fights to open her career before suffering her first defeat against Ana Michelle Tavares in her lone appearance for the DEEP promotion in July 2003. On June 28, 2005, Tsuji became the first and only Smackgirl Lightweight Champion when she submitted future DEEP champion Hisae Watanabe with a first-round armbar. Tsuji would go on to avenge her loss to Tavares via knockout in September of 2007, and successfully defended her title until Smackgirl folded in 2008.

Following Smackgirl’s demise, two new factions rose from the former promotion’s ashes, in the form of Jewels and Valkyrie. Tsuji opted to join the upstart Valkyrie promotion, which used a cage for its events and allowed for strikes to the face on the ground. At Valkyrie 1, Tsuji defeated Mei Yamaguchi by three-round decision. She then became the first Valkyrie Featherweight Champion at Valkyrie 2 when she submitted Kate Martinez, but lost the title in just 76 seconds in her rematch with Yamaguchi.

Ishioka (11-6-0) began her career in Smackgirl in 2007 and posted a 3-3 record inside the promotion. She later moved on to Jewels and has become one of the group’s top stars, though she has struggled with consistency and was unable to advance beyond the quarterfinals of last year’s Jewels Lightweight Queen tournament. Ishioka’s most recent MMA bout was a February defeat against Seo Hee Ham in the pair’s rematch from 2008. However, she fared well in a grappling match against Jewels Lightweight Queen Champion Ayaka Hamasaki at “14th Ring” and lost a razor-thin Split Decision.

With both fighters possessing solid ground skills, a grappling battle may be likely when the two face off in July. Of Tsuji’s 22 wins, 15 have come by submission, while Ishioka has earned five submission wins to date. Tsuji will enter the fight as a significant favourite, but Ishioka proved at “14th Ring” that she is capable of competing among the best on the ground.

Jewels: “15th Ring” takes place on July 9th at Shinjuku FACE in Tokyo, Japan. The bout between Tsuji and Ishioka will be contested at 52kg under Jewels Special Rules, which permit ground and pound.



(Photo Credit: Sherdog.com)