Pancrase, one of the world’s longest running MMA promotions, returns to UFC Fight Pass on Sunday, Jan. 31, for Pancrase 275. The show at the Differ Ariake Arena in Tokyo is the first to be featured on the UFC’s streaming service in 2016. The 11-fight main card features the Pancrase debut of UFC veterans Hatsu Hioki and Rodolfo Rubio Perez.
In the main event, decorated Japanese featherweight Hioki returns from his eight-fight UFC stint to take on talented American prospect Kyosuke Yokoyama. Hioki, a Shooto vet, will be making his Pancrase debut against a fighter who has hit the hottest streak of his career. Hioki has lost five of his last six fights, making for two of the longest losing streaks of his storied career.
In the evening’s co-headliner, former PXC bantamweight champion Yusuke Yachi returns to Japan to defend his home country against The Ultimate Fighter: Latin America season one cast member Rodolfo Rubio Perez. Yachi is an exciting fighter who will bring the best out of Perez in the promotional debut for both fighters.
The rest of the UFC Fight Pass main card features battles between Japan and Russia, Japan and Mexico, and Japan and Brazil. The participants from four corners of the globe have come from championship pedigrees, are prospects waiting for their big shot, or are hoping for redemption in their return. The fight card features a bantamweight showdown between Japanese grappling great Masakatsu Ueda and young Mexican prospect Jose Alday. Kenta Takizawa, a 21-year-old Japanese prospect, takes on talented Japanese-Brazilian Alan Yoshihiro Yamaniha. Expect action from the bottom half of the main card in what should be an exciting night of fights.
FW: Hatsu Hioki (27-9-2) vs. Kyosuke Yokoyama (5-3)
Hioki is a 32-year-old Japanese featherweight training with the Alive MMA Dojo in Tokyo. He will be appearing in his first fight since being cut by the UFC after a loss in May 2015. He has never fought for Pancrase, instead fighting his way up the Shooto ranks, winning amateur and pro titles with victories over some of the sport’s top featherweights at the time. Hioki won the TKO featherweight title after defeating UFC veteran Mark Hominick twice in his home country of Canada. He kept his tradition of winning alive by running through the Sengoku featherweight tournament, where he defeated WEC veteran Chris Manuel, Bellator vet Ronnie Mann and current UFC fighter Masanori Kanehara to earn his place in the final opposite UFC vet Michihiro Omigawa. Hioki lost a highly controversial decision to Omigawa in an upset as the more than 5-to-1 favorite over his foe, who was under .500 at the time.
The loss didn’t push Hioki too far down the featherweight rankings, though, and he started a four-fight winning streak with victories over former Shooto champ Takeshi “Lion” Inoue and Sengoku featherweight kingpin Marlon Sandro. Hioki, then ranked as a top-10 featherweight, signed to compete in the UFC. He had mixed results with the promotion, winning three of his eight bouts and dropping close decisions to Ricardo Lamas and Clay Guida. After defeating Ivan Menjivar in a close fight in March 2014, Hioki dropped an exciting affair to Brazilian submission specialist Charles Oliveira, who became the first man to ever submit the Japanese fighter. New Zealand’s Daniel Hooker became the first man to stop Hioki via strikes in Hioki’s most recent fight at UFC Fight Night 65.
Yokoyama, 24, is a Japanese-American training out of the famed Krazy Bee gym. The young featherweight began his MMA career in the United States, where he lost in his first two professional bouts. The defeats came while he was training at Xtreme Couture in Las Vegas, prompting a switch to the gym operated by Japanese MMA legend Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto. The move paid off quickly. Yokoyama signed with Pancrase in 2013 and won his debut bout against Yutaka Shimamura. He was defeated by a much more experienced fighter in his next bout, a fight where Hidekazu Asakura stopped him in under two minutes with strikes. The loss is Yokoyama’s last. He began his four-fight winning streak in the 2015 Neo-Blood 66-kilogram tournament quarterfinals against Takahiro Ideta. Yokoyama took decisions over semifinal opponent Gaku Hirayama and prospect Yuki Nakahara in the tournament finals. He made a step up in competition in his most recent bout at Pancrase 271, where the talented youngster beat former Shooto champion Akitoshi Tamura by decision in November.
Yokoyama is a tough fighter with good athletic traits and a well-rounded style. Hioki brings a great overall skill set, but his bread-and-butter techniques are executed with his opponent on their back. Hioki is one of the best top-game grapplers in the division, mixing up consistent ground-and-pound with an effective submission offense that has earned him 12 career submission wins. Yokoyama will bring the fight to Hioki, but the veteran of 38 fights will return to his championship form and submit Yokoyama within two rounds.
FW: Yusuke Yachi (13-5) vs. Rodolfo Rubio Perez (14-8)
Perez is a 29-year-old veteran training out of the Entram gym in Tijuana, Mexico. The submission specialist fought his way through the budding Mexican regional fight scene after making his debut in 2009. “Fito” tested his skills outside of Mexico early in his career, traveling to Panama and Brazil to compete internationally. Perez had mixed success abroad, winning his bout against Darnelio Jimenez in Panama, but losing his contests in Brazil to Manuelo Morales and Felipe Douglas in the Jungle Fight and XFC International promotions, respectively. Perez was cast on the first season of TUF Latin America in 2014. He won his opening bout by armbar against Colombian wrestler Alexander Torres, but he lost to eventual winner Yair Rodriguez in his next fight. Perez fought in the UFC just once before getting axed. He suffered a decision loss to Diego Rivas at UFC Fight Night 56. Perez has won two of his three bouts since leaving the organization, most recently claiming the WCF featherweight title with a submission of Alejandro Garcia at 73 seconds into the first frame.
Yachi, 25, was a highly touted prospect when he made his professional debut in 2009 under the watchful eye of Kid Yamamoto. He won the 2009 Shooto “Rookie of the Year” award with three consecutive wins in 2009. Yachi wasn’t quite ready for a step up in competition when he fought former Shooto champ Hideki Kadowaki in only his fifth bout. Yachi dropped his next bout against Japanese MMA veteran Guy DeLumeau before starting another long winning streak. The first victory in his five-fight streak came against Kazuhiro Ito in 2011. Yachi then defeated veterans Shigeki Osawa, Akitoshi Tamura, Wataru Miki and Yuji Hoshino. He signed with Southeast Asian promotion Pacific Xtreme Combat in 2013 and endured a setback in his debut bout against talented striker Toby Misech. The still young fighter bounced back with an impressive decision win over Lion Inoue at Vale Tudo Judo 3rd. Yachi returned to PXC to win his next three bouts, including his third-round knockout over Jang Yong Kim to capture the featherweight crown. He was defeated by top featherweight prospect Alex Volkanovski when the Australian locked up a triangle choke in the fourth round of the back-and-forth title affair.
Perez might feel that he can exploit Yachi’s submission defense after Yachi’s last loss. However, Perez will have trouble. The Japanese fighter is very difficult to takedown and keep on the mat. Yachi has great scrambling ability and submission defense, but he was bested in his last go-around by a very talented prospect.
Perez needs to avoid the standing exchanges. Yachi is a collected striker who patiently awaits his chance to land counters and aggressively attack in combination. Yachi should control this fight on the feet and keep it standing long enough to put his hands all over “Fito.” Yachi will make a successful debut with the promotion. He will stop Perez late in the second round.
BW: Masakatsu Ueda (20-4-2) vs. Jose Alday (8-0)
Jose “El Pochito” Alday is a 24-year-old Mexican fighter training out of Entram Gym affiliate Total Gym Mexico in Northern Mexico. The young prospect has already risen to the top of the bantamweight rankings in his own country. He won titles with World Fighters Championship Mexico and Mexico Fighter during a stretch of six wins in the past 16 months.
Alday grew his star in Mexico and abroad, fighting against Nelson Ferreira at Jungle Fight 81 in Brazil in September. He fell into trouble quickly when the smaller, but athletic Ferreira pounced on him in the first round, dropping him with a barrage of punches. Alday recovered quickly and took the fight down to the mat, where he could take advantage of his superior grappling technique. El Pochito submitted his Brazilian foe with an arm-triangle choke in the second round, earning the fourth submission win of his pro career. Alday earned his fifth finish in his most recent outing at Mexico Fighter 7 in November when he knocked out Jonathan Cruz Santos. Alday will be making his Pancrase debut against one of the best Japanese bantamweights in the sport’s history.
Ueda, 38, is a well-traveled veteran who has been among the best bantamweight fighters in the world outside of the UFC since the world’s largest promotion added the division in 2011. Before the addition of the division to the UFC roster, Ueda garnered attention from his stellar performances in all combat sports. He was a collegiate wrestler in Japan and used his experience to be successful in grappling and combat wrestling tournaments, eventually turning his skill set to MMA. Ueda won amateur tournaments all the way from his East region to the national level. He continued that success into his pro career by winning the Shooto featherweight rookie tournament and earning 2006 Shooto “Rookie of the Year” honors. Ueda remained unbeaten in his 12-fight career and firmly entrenched in the bantamweight top 10 despite being outside of the WEC. Ueda was upset by Shuichiro Katsumura with a ninja choke in early 2010. The loss dropped Ueda from the bantamweight rankings, but it didn’t deter him from continuing to win.
Ueda racked up wins over Japanese legend Rumina Sato, WEC veteran Akitoshi Tamura, Pride vet Royler Gracie and eventual UFC flyweight title challenger Kyoji Horiguchi on his way to an entry into the season-six Bellator bantamweight tournament. Ueda was bounced out of the tourney by the unheralded Travis Marx to account for only his second career loss.
The Japanese veteran returned to Asia, this time with ONE Championship, to start another winning streak. He beat all three of his tournament opponents — Kevin Belingon, former UFC lightweight champ Jens Pulver and current Road FC flyweight titleholder Song-Min Jong — to earn a shot at the bantamweight title held by Bibiano Fernandes. Ueda was on the wrong end of the 25-minute title affair. In his next fight, Ueda was upset by former Pancrase bantamweight title challenger Victor Henry when the Josh Barnett protege locked up a knee bar in the third round at GRANDSLAM 2: War of the Cage in Japan. Ueda made a successful return in his much-anticipated Pancrase debut against Bellator veteran Luis “Betao” Nogueira at Pancrase 268. He continued his winning streak with a decision win over last-minute replacement Kosuke Terashima at Pancrase 271 in his most recent outing.
This truly is a battle of prospect versus veteran. Alday is an orthodox striker who likes to fight on the outside before closing in for punching exchanges. He has a good left hook that he likes to throw to the body, but his most effective trait in his striking offense is his diversity. Alday is comfortable working his striking with his opponent against the cage, and this is where he puts in his most work standing. Alday fights in all phases of the sport.
Alday’s Japanese opponent also excels in this regard. Ueda is an excellent grappler and wrestler with strong control from the top and a diverse array of submissions. He is an intelligent fighter who switches between striking and wrestling exchanges at the exact right time. The Japanese fighter has continued the steady improvement in his striking with Paraestra Tokyo. Ueda will be the heavy favorite heading into the contest, and for all of the right reasons. He is a giant obstacle for Alday to conquer, and he might be just a bit too much for the prospect.
Ueda controls where the fight takes place and earns his third consecutive win with a dominant decision over Alday.
FW: Yusuke Kawanago (13-5-2) vs. Yuki Nakahara (6-4)
Yusuke Kawanago is a 32-year-old Japanese featherweight training out of the Akimoto Dojo in Tokyo. He fought much of his early career inside the Pancrase organization, where he earned eight victories and suffered just two defeats. He signed with upstart Chinese promotion Legend Fighting Championship in 2011. Kawanago lost to Southeast Asian prospect Mark Striegl in his Legend debut, but bounced back in his return to defeat Chinese Sanda striker Chengjie Wu.
Kawanago showed off his submission prowess by stopping the previously unbeaten Xian Ji with a second-round guillotine choke at Legend FC 8. He defended his featherweight title against ONE Championship veteran Rob Lisita in his final bout with the now-defunct promotion. Kawanago sat on the sidelines for over a year before taking a bout against Pancrase Neo-Blood featherweight tournament winner Hiroyuki “Hulk” Oshiro at Pancrase 256. Kawanago fought to a two-round draw with the future UFC: Road to Japan participant. Kawanago met Lisita in a rematch, this time under the ONE Championship banner in his debut with the promotion. It took only 28 seconds for Lisita to stop Kawanago with a brutal left hand and machine-gun punches on the ground. The Japanese veteran returned to the ONE cage against Russian featherweight prospect Timofey Nastyukhin in June. He held his own until a punch dropped him and Nastyukhin overwhelmed him with soccer kicks, forcing the referee to stop the bout in the first round.
Yuki Nakahara is a 23-year-old Japanese featherweight training with the Mach Dojo in Tokyo. He began his career in 2012 under the tutelage of Japanese legend Hayato “Mach” Sakurai. Nakahara was given tough opposition early in his career, giving explanation to his deceiving fight record. Nakahara won his first two bouts under the Grachan banner before losing a split decision to former Spirit MC featherweight champion Kwang Hee Lee at the Mach Matsuri festival. In only his fourth pro bout, Nakahara fought UFC veteran Tuerxun Jumabieke and lost a close decision. Nakahara returned to the win column with back-to-back first-round knockouts in the Japanese regional promotion, Gladiator. Nakahara won the promotion’s featherweight title before making his Pancrase debut in 2014. Nakahara lost by split verdict to Yuta Sato in his debut. The talented prospect won two of his next three in the promotion, including his most recent fight against Kazushi Sugiyama at Pancrase 271.
Nakahara pressures his opponents with a good jab and right hook from the southpaw stance. He uses his right hand to set up his left middle kick and, most frequently, to close the distance for his aggressive takedown attempts. Nakahara is an aggressive grappler who hunts for the finish as soon as the fight hits the ground. He is adept at defending and reversing position when his over-aggressive style puts him in danger. He may need to defend against the sneaky submissions of Kawanago, but he could surprise his opponent by mixing up his stand-up and takedowns.
Kawanago can certainly hold his own and more on the feet, but he has suffered two brutal knockout losses in his last two fights. He may want to avoid taking the heavy right hand of Nakahara. Kawanago will push back against the aggressive style of Nakahara and win his first fight in three years.
Main Card Predictions
BW: Kenta Takizawa (4-1) vs. Alan Yoshihiro Yamaniha (12-4-4)
Yamaniha by decision
WW: Kenta Takagi (14-10) vs. Bislan Etleshev (2-5)
Takagi by second-round submission
LW: Shunpei Ota (7-4) vs. Bayzet Khatkhohu (4-1)
Khatkhohu by first-round knockout
MW: Hikaru Sato (22-23-4) vs. Sergei Martynov (5-1)
Martynov by decision
BW: Shuichi Kanda (6-4) vs. Kosuke “CORO” Terashima (12-9-3)
Terashima by decision
FlyW: Hiroaki Ijima (7-9-3) vs. Naoyuki Kato (11-9-2)
Ijima by decision
LW: Genpei Hayashi (5-4-1) vs. Atsushi Ueda (14-10-8)
Ueda by decision
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