Ayaka Hamasaki Retains, Naho Sugiyama Wins Jewels Grand PrixJewels Lightweight Queen Champion Ayaka Hamasaki made a successful defence of her title in the main event of Jewels: “17th Ring” tonight in Tokyo, Japan. Hamasaki defeated rival Seo Hee Ham after Ham was unable to continue following round one. The bout was a rematch from one year ago.

Elsewhere, Naho “Sugi Rock” Sugiyama kept her unbeaten record intact by winning twice in one night to become the first Jewels Featherweight Queen Champion. Sugiyama edged past fellow prospect Kikuyo Ishikawa in the semi-finals and finished Misaki Takimoto with an armbar to claim the title.

Hamasaki (6-0-0) and Ham (9-5-0) first faced off at Jewels: “11th Ring” in the finals of last year’s Jewels Lightweight Queen Grand Prix to crown the promotion’s first champion. Both fighters earned wins earlier in the night and battled injuries for their title bout. Hamasaki surprised many by outstriking Ham at times en route to a Unanimous Decision to win the title. Tonight at “17th Ring,” Hamasaki retained the belt with a second victory over Ham.

From the outset, Hamasaki immediately took Ham down to the mat and looked to keep her there for much of the opening round. Ham battled back to her feet, only to be taken down again. Later in the round, Ham stood and tried for a takedown of her own, but gave it up and fell back into a triangle choke attempt. During this time, her upper body slipped outside of the ring below the bottom rope, but she continued to try for the choke until the bell.

At the end of the round, Ham was unable to get to her feet as her cornermen applied ice to her back. The doctor came in to check on Ham, who was unfit to continue, and Ham’s corner threw in the towel on her behalf. The ending of the bout was disappointing to both fighters.

“The finish didn’t happen the way I wanted,” Hamasaki said while addressing the crowd in attendance. “As a champion, I want to get dominant wins, but in the end, I was in a situation where I was almost submitted. It’s not what I wanted. I want to give Seo Hee Ham a rematch. Thank you very much.”

Hamasaki later spoke with MMARising.com about her thoughts on the fight and future matchups.

“I went aggressive from the start of the fight and was aiming for the sub,” she said. “It’s such an unfortunate ending the way it all unfolded. I don’t think the triangle would have finished me, but it likely left a bad impression [that I could have been finished]. I wanted to buster [slam] her, but it was too close to the ropes so I couldn’t.

“I’m not happy with today’s performance,” Hamasaki added. “I really want to defend this belt. A lot of fights got cancelled in the past because of the earthquake and that really got my motivation down. For now, I want to aim for submission finishes in my fights because that’s what the audience wants. I definitely want to fight Yuka Tsuji because she has a rich history and is a legend in women’s MMA.”

Ham was helped from the arena and was not immediately available for comment. It is believed that her back injury occurred prior to the fight and was further aggravated during the bout itself.


In the co-main event, Sugiyama (7-0-0) finished Takimoto (15-13-4) with an armbar late in the first round to capture the Jewels Featherweight Queen Championship. Sugiyama had previously submitted Takimoto when the pair faced off at “14th Ring” in May. Sugiyama advanced to tonight’s final by earning a Split Decision victory over Kikuyo Ishikawa (6-3-0) in a highly competitive bout, while Takimoto survived a two-round war with veteran Yukiko Seki (10-21-0) to secure her spot in the tournament finale.

It was Takimoto who scored first in the bout tonight, as she landed a series of kicks before Sugiyama could close the distance and counter with punches. Sugiyama eventually got Takimoto down to the mat and moved to side control, where she looked to set up an armbar. Takimoto defended well by using her legs to scissor Sugiyama’s head, but Sugiyama freed herself and locked on the armbar. Takimoto’s corner threw in the towel just as referee Yoshinori Umeki stopped the fight. The technical submission came at 4:09 of round one.

“Thanks for cheering me on,” Sugiyama said after the fight. “I don’t know what to say. I’ve won all of my fights since my debut, but I still feel that I’m not as strong as I can be. I want to continue working hard to become a dominant fighter.”


Earlier, former Valkyrie Featherweight Champion “V.V” Mei Yamaguchi (9-3-1) won a contentious Split Decision over top Jewels star Mika “Future Princess” Nagano (8-6-0) after two rounds. Nagano appeared to be in complete control of the fight, but a failed takedown in the second round resulted in Yamaguchi taking mount and she scored with strikes from the top. The rally proved to be enough for two ringside judges, who awarded the victory to Yamaguchi as a disheartened Nagano looked on.

Full play-by-play for all fights on tonight’s Jewels: “17th Ring” card can be found here.


Jewels President Yuichi Ozono and DEEP boss Shigeru Saeki both commented to MMARising.com following the event and discussed the future of Jewels, including a new hire and the promotion’s first event of 2012.

“[Former Valkyrie leader] Yasuko Mogi has become our producer, like our PR face,” Ozono said. “The fighters all really like her and get along with her. There’s no such thing as Valkyire vs Jewels now. The next Jewels event [18th Ring] will be on March 3rd at Shin-Kiba. We’re going to do an event in Osaka next year. It should include Yuka Tsuji, and we’re hoping to match her up with Ayaka Hamasaki.”

“[Seo Hee] Ham hurt her lower back,” Saeki confirmed. “[DEEP fighter] Doo Ho Choi also hurt his lower back as well, actually. I heard about the injuries two weeks ago. Mika Nagano also had a neck injury, too. Those are such unfortunate occurrences, but losses are losses. How to train and stay healthy is a responsibility that’s up to them.

“Today had a lot of contentious decisions,” he added. “If there were more finishes, the impression of the event could be different. I was hoping for that.”

Lastly, Saeki spoke about future plans for Jewels, including a possible change away from the ring.

“We want Korakuen [Hall] for a New Year’s show next year, and a cage is possible in Jewels. Title fights [like tonight’s] will always be under special rules. They’ll always have ground and pound.”

Go Yamamoto contributed to this report.



(Photo Credit: GBRing.com)

  1. i didnt think the yamaguchi nagano decision was so contentious. a split decision either way was believable. yamaguchi had the choke, heel hold, armbar, and striking advantage. she also mounted nagano. nagano had the takedowns but didnt do anything besides the 1 armbar