Dream, Sengoku Begin Tourney Selections,Aoki Eyes 170-Pound
Ikemoto-Monma for Deep Title, Dream GP Slot?
One of the slots in Dream's welterweight tournament will likely be filled on Feb. 20, when Deep 40 Impact takes place at Korakuen Hall. The bill will feature the first title defense of unlikely welterweight champion Seichi Ikemoto as he risks his belt against Hidetaka Monma.
Ikemoto, 33, has been inactive since his upset of Hidehiko Hasegawa in July to win the title. The 35-year-old Monma last saw action in November, where he took a thrilling victory over Andre Mafetoni, the cousin of standout heavyweight Gabriel "Napao" Gonzaga.
Monma and Ikemoto met at Deep 13th Impact in January 2004, where Monma took a second-round submission win. With a desire to partially populate the eight-man bracket with notable Japanese competitors, the winner of the bout will likely be afforded a spot in the Dream welterweight tournament, beginning in May.
The Deep 40 Impact card will also feature a middleweight title eliminator between Riki Fukuda and former champion Ryuta Sakurai. The pair met in the opening round of Deep's middleweight championship tournament last February, with Fukuda winning a unanimous decision. He would eventually go on to lose to former middleweight King of Pancrase Yuichi Nakanishi in the final. Despite a non-title loss to Yuya Shirai in December, Nakanishi will defend his title against the winner of the Fukuda-Sakurai later this year.
"K-Taro" Back To Welter, Aoki to Follow?
The Japanese contingent in Dream's welterweight grand prix may also feature some shifts on the scales, as two welters-turned-lightweights may return to the division they began their career in for the tournament.
UFC veteran Keita "K-Taro" Nakamura is eyeing a return to the welterweight division. Since cutting down to 155 pounds for his final UFC fight against Rob Emerson last February, Nakamura has gone 1-2 as a lightweight, including being smashed in a shocking 59 seconds by South Korean Jang Yong Kim in November. Nakamura took a decision win over Brazilian Adriano Martins in the Dream ring in September, and while FEG has not offered him a spot in the tournament as of yet, he is keen to return to the promotion as a welterweight in May.
More notably, Fighting and Entertainment Group is currently negotiating with lightweight superstar Shinya Aoki, who still holds the Shooto world 168-pound title, to move back up to welterweight to compete in the tournament. A source close to the situation has told Sherdog.com that FEG is hoping to convince Aoki to fight in the tournament in order to pit him against fellow star Hayato "Mach" Sakurai in May's quarterfinals. Sakurai and Aoki met in August 2005, where a then-unknown Aoki took Sakurai to a hotly competitive decision.
Tamura Eyes 135, Osawa To Meet Rebello in March WEC
A scale slide in the opposite direction may also be in order for former Shooto world champion Akitoshi Tamura, who has designs on a bantamweight debut in 2009.
Tamura, a career featherweight, was unsuccessful in his stateside debut in December, where former IFL featherweight king Wagnney Fabiano took a third-round submission over him in the WEC cage. After being soundly outmuscled and controlled by the jiu-jitsu stalwart, Tamura told Japanese combat sports periodical Gong Kakutogi that he plans on cutting to 135 pounds for his next fight in the WEC.
If Zuffa and WEC acquiesce to Tamura's request to join the WEC 135-pound ranks, he'll be alongside fellow Shooto competitor Kenji Osawa, who is due for do-or-die action in the WEC in March.
March 1's WEC bill at the American Bank Center in Corpus Christi, Texas will see the charismatic Wajyutsu standout take on American Top Team product Rafael Rebello. It will be the WEC debut for Rebello, who was originally slated to face Marcos "Louro" Galvao, and the third for Osawa, who will look for his first WEC win after going 0-1-1 in the promotion thus far, with a draw this past March to Chris Manuel and an August loss to Scott Jorgensen.
Deep's 99-Pound Queen on Maternity Leave
And, on the topic of gaining and losing weight, one of female MMA's biggest stars is about to take a maternity leave.
Deep 99-pound champ Satoko Shinashi has announced her pregnancy. Shinashi, who last took a first-round submission over Yukiko Seki in October, revealed that she is four months pregnant, and expecting to deliver her first child in July. The diminutive MMA queen currently has designs on a December return to the ring.
"I hadn't really thought about retiring. I'm the type that even if I give birth to a child, I still want to fight," said Shinashi, who wed in November 2007.
"Maternity leave is something that should be socially accepted these days," added Deep boss Shigeru Saeki. "After she returns, I'd like her to make a title defense. Even if other women get married and become pregnant, I'd like them to not worry and continue to aim for the title."
Shooto, Pancrase, Powergate All On for Super Bowl Weekend
The Super Bowl weekend is always a massive MMA staple stateside with blockbuster UFC cards, and 2009 is no different with the ultra-stacked UFC 94 card at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. However, this Super Bowl weekend also has a healthy dose of MMA across the Pacific.
January 31 will see the seventh edition of the popular Shooting Disco series at Shinjuku Face in Tokyo. In addition to a 123-pound main event pitting up-and-comer Ryuichi Miki against always game veteran Homare Kuboyama, the 10-fight card will also mark the start of the 2009 Shooto rookie tournament series, which gets under way with four bracket bouts on the bill.
The following day, February will begin in style as Pancrase's 2009 Changing Tour kicks off at Differ Ariake in Tokyo. In the main event, Katsuya Inoue -- the lightweight King of Pancrase -- will defend his title against hard luck veteran turned contender Daisuke "13" Hanazawa.
It will be the first defense for the 29-year-old Inoue, who defeated Koji Oishi to claim the vacant title in December. Moreover, Inoue is the last man to defeat surging lightweight Satoru Kitaoka, taking a split verdict over the Sengoku champ in January 2008. Hanazawa, who began his career 3-8-4, has been beaten just once in his last 11 bouts, and last submitted Sengoku-sponsored prospect Maximo Blanco in December.
Inoue and Hanazawa met in December 2005 in GCM's Demolition of Octagon Gear, where Inoue took a majority decision.
The card will also feature a pair of featherweight scraps between Kenji Arai and ZST representative Masanori Kanehara, and Masaya Takita and Jameel Massouh.
Feb. 1 will also mark the 2009 debut of grassroots Kansai promotion Powergate, who will stage their ?Overcoming Vol. 1? card at the Osaka World Hall, with a headliner pitting promotional lightweight regulars Hideki Kishimoto and Fumihira Umezono against one another.