Masakatsu Ueda (pic: Sherdog)

Pancrase 296: Bantamweight All-Timer Masakatsu Ueda Retires with a Loss to Rafael Silva + Recaps of All 13 Undercard Battles

Tokyo, Japan – One of the true pioneers of the bantamweight division, this past weekend 40 year old JMMA legend Masakatsu Ueda laced up his gloves one last time for the main event of Pancrase 296 on UFC Fight Pass. Ueda faced an immense task in his retirement fight, as he took on 2013 Bellator tournament champion Rafael Silva (29-6, #44 World) in a grueling five round clash for the interim King of Pancrase title. Ueda’s bread and butter has always been impressive takedowns and positional control, but the grizzled veteran found himself bested at his own game in this one by the 33 year old Brazilian. Silva attained back control midway through round 1 and kept it for much of the frame; Ueda countered with submission tries, but Silva was having none of his toe hold and kimura efforts. Plan A exhausted, Ueda tried to do work with his kickboxing game but ate a bevy of strong leg kicks and straight punches from the Astra Fight Team ace. With open scoring in effect, Ueda faced a three round deficit on the judges’ scorecards entering the championship rounds, but couldn’t figure out a way to penetrate the Brazilian’s defenses and tilt the bout in his favor. After 25 minutes all five judges awarded the decision to the terrific Brazilian grappler Rafael Silva, who earned his first world title in his third try and celebrated post-fight in touching fashion. Next up for interim beltholder Silva: a title unifier with Shintaro Ishiwatari, assuming that the champ is ready to return following a RIZIN tourney finals loss to Kyoji Horiguchi this past New Years’ Eve.

Meanwhile, Masakatsu Ueda (26-6-2, #48 World) followed up on his pre-fight promises and left his gloves in the cage. The emotional Ueda thanked the fans before exiting with his head held up high, his ranking secure among the all-time greats of the 135 pound division (#9 all-time per Fightmatrix).

Pancrase 296 Mens Strawweight Title Eliminator:

W: Daichi Kitakata (19-8-1, #4 World)
Sub-Guillotine Choke, Round 2 0:46
L: Hiroaki Ijima (12-11-3, #8 World)

The two top ranked contenders on the Pancrase men’s strawweight ladder, #2 Daichi Kitakata and #1 Hiroaki Ijima threw down in an exciting contest that was a roller coaster for as long as it lasted. Ijima found his opening takedown efforts stuffed but got the fight to mat the old fashioned way with a crushing left hook midway through round 1. Just as Pancrase announcers Stewart Fulton and Guy Delumeau were theorizing that Ijima was close to a GNP finish, Kitakata hulked up and switched position. Kitakata continued bullying the active Ijima for the remainder of round 1 from top control. Both men were staggered by big shots in the wild opening moments of round 2, but Kitakata was the man with his wits about him and latched on a guillotine choke. Moments later Hiroaki Ijima tapped out – the first time he’s been submitted in 26 pro fights. Next up for Daichi Kitakata is a rematch with strawweight world champion and King of Pancrase Mitsuhisa Sunabe, who defeated Kitakata via Mata Leon (RNC) in December 2016.

Pancrase 296 Lightweight Feature:

W: Tom Santos (9-5, #170 World)
KO-Right Hook, Round 1
L: Kenichiro Togashi (18-13-5, #544 World)

After about three minutes of pawing and feeling out, Brazilian bombadier Tom Santos smashed Kenichiro Togashi with a precise right cross followed by an equally sinister right hook that left Togashi sprawled out on the mat! The 33 year old Santos advanced to 2-0 in Pancrase, and he’s now won five out of six since he moved to the Asian MMA circuit just over a year ago. Those five wins include two impressive finishes of UFC veteran Yui Chul Nam in the Korean Bulldozer’s home Road FC promotion.

Pancrase 296 Strawweight Co Main Event:

W: Emi Fujino (22-10, #69 World)
Unanimous Decision
L: Sharon Jacobson (5-3, 3-1 Invicta, #34 World)

Invicta Fights vet Sharon Jacobson and 37 year old JMMA legend Emi Fujino threw down in a very entertaining contest that very easily could have been awarded to either strawweight warrior. Both women showed off their hands inside the pocket as they blasted away with precise punches from phonebooth distance. Jacobson edged the first round on two-of-three judges’ scorecards thanks to some terrific ground and pound from mount position late. After that rough opening frame, Fujino took the initiative with a takedown and ground strikes that busted Jacobson open early in round 2. Back on the feet the “Kamikaze Angel” ate several fistfuls of jab from Jacobson, only to bring the bout back into grappling range. Jacobson briefly looked gassed after she escaped from a Fujino guiilotine try, but showed off terrific heart by pressing forward into a successful takedown attempt. Jacobson finished the second round on top in mount dropping elbows, though all three judges somewhat surprisingly decided that Fujino’s early work earned her the second round. Both women were tiring but still throwing full blast as they tried to impress the judges in this decisive round 3. Plenty of strikes landed as Fujino and Jacobson favored offense over face protection. Fujino’s hooks seemed to be laning with the greatest power, and she managed to control short portions of the fight in the clinch. Those advantages were enough to tilt round 3 in the favor of Emi Fujino, who registered a successful debut in the Pancrase cage and earned a fourth straigth win overall. Hopefully Sharon Jacobson can look back at rounds 1 and 2 and take some consolation in the knowledge that she could very, very easily have earned the decision win with a different set of judges.

Other Pancrase 296 Main Card Bouts (3 x 5 Minutes)

145: Pancrase #3 Nobuki Fujii (18-8-3, #148 World) had his hands full with the speed, footwork, and crisp combinations offered by Pancrase #9 Alan Yoshihiro Yamaniha (14-7-4, #374 World) in the opening striking exchanges of this featherweight clash but quickly used his grappling savvy to tip the scales in his direction. With the standup game going south, Fujii shot in but nearly had his back taken by the athletic Yamaniha. A persistent second effort saw Fujii snag Yamaniha’s back before flipping over to mount and smashing away for the rest of round 1. Yamaniha got things back into his comfort zone for the first two minutes of round 2, but Fujii forced things back to the ground for the final three minutes and landed several serious ground punches in the process. Yamaniha wanted to sweep but just didn’t have the answers to bust Fujii’s concrete grappling base. The underdog showed appropriate deperation at the start of round 3 and even managed to crack Fujii with a mildly-stunning head kick about a minute in. Yamaniha succeeded at bloodying Fujii, but couldn’t avoid the takedown midway through round 3. The favorite Nobuki Fujii pounded out the rest of the round, including some awesome diving punches near the buzzer, to earn the clear unanimous decision and step that much closer to a future Pancrase title bout.

170: Seven second KO alert! As soon as the bell rang Kunio Nakamura (4-1, 4 KOs) rushed forward and annihilated Kenta Takagi (16-16) with a vicious combo before the veteran could even get his feet set. That’s four wins, four KOs for Mr. Nakamura after he dropped his pro debut way up at light heavyweight.

170: 25 year old Takaaki Nara (3-2) earned a dubious #6 spot in the Pancrase welterweight rankings with wins in the promotion over way-past-his-prime PRIDE legend Yuki Kondo and similarly ancient Kubota Kosei. After losing a split decision to journeyman Kenta Takagi at Pancrase 291, Nara really crashed back to earth versus former King of Pancrase Akihiro Murayama (20-8-9, #393 World). Murayama had no trouble finding a spot to blast Takagi in the opening striking exchange. Murayama then pounced his wounded foe and squeezed him into dreamworld at just 48 seconds of the opening round. The 38 year old judoka snapped a two fight losing straight against to record his first victory since March 2016.

Pancrase 296 Undercard Bouts (3 x 3 Minutes)

125: Pancrase lists Masatatsu Ueda (15-3-2, #110 World) as the #5 fighter in their flyweight ladder, and he showed why he’s among the cream of the Japanese 125 crop in this grappling-heavy bout with Kohei Kuraoka (14-10-2). Ueda controlled the clinch and scored takedowns near the buzzer to seal rounds 1 and 2, and this was an easy win overall for the world-ranked flyweight by unanimous decision.

135: Onetime Octagon competitor Shunichi Shimizu (32-20-11, 0-1 UFC) ate canvas late in round 1 thanks to a mini-Ngannou right hook knockdown from Taiyo Hayashi (6-5). After hanging on to a toehold up to the round 1 bell, Shimizu fared better at striking range for most of round 2 but again suffered a late knockdown courtesy of Hayashi’s perfect lead left hook. The veteran globetrotter nearly pulled off a huge comeback when he cinched in a triangle choke with some time to work in round 3, but Hayashi slammed his way out of danger. Nice performance from Hayashi, who earned the clear unanimous decision by 29-28 scorecards for a fourth straight victory after starting his pro career with a barely lukewarm 2-5 record.

155: Yutaka Kobayashi (10-21-4) stepped into the cage sporting a pair of tiny red Minowa/Ken Shamrock style fighting underpants – dazzling style choice, sir. Juntaro Ami (9-11-1) stayed pretty well glued onto his man in this fight, but Kobayashi was the one landing most of the damage via short ashots en route to the unanimous decision win.

145 Neo Blood Tourney Semifinals: These two competitors each scored KOs at Pancrase 294 in March to advance to this tourney semifinal. The first two rounds took place on the feet and served as a showcase for 21 year old Shinsuke Kamei (2-0). Kamei set the tone with a consistently accurate straight right while Katsushi Kojima (6-4) threw with more volume but didn’t land much of consequence. Kamei added in well-timed kicks and punches in combination as the fight progressed. Kojima finished strong with a nice single leg takedown and some relatively innocuous ground striking, but it wasn’t enough as Kamei took the unanimous decision to advance to the semis.

135 Neo Blood Tourney Quarterfinals: Following an early takedown from Shunya Ogawa, bantamweight Junichi Hirata spent the first part of round 1 working toward a fairly deep gogoplata attempt. Ogawa wasn’t quick enough to avoid being ensnared, but knew enough about the mat game to avoid the low percentage finish. The second round started the same way, with an Ogawa takedown into Hirata’s rubber guard. Nothing came of that effort and Ogawa spent the last two round dropping light strikes from top position en route to a unanimous decision win and a spot in the Neo Blood tourney semis.

155: ZST regular Atsushi Ueda (17-16-8) has thrived in that quirky promotion but has sported a sub-.300 winnning percentage in his forays into the Japanese big leagues. Ueda nearly bit the dust in round 1 when he walked straight into a crackling right hand from fellow ZST journeyman Hiroshi Takahashi (10-12-2). Takahashi smashed away with strikes from standing back control at the end of round 2 before sealing the unanimous decision victory with an equally dominant round 3.

M115: After a wrestling-happy round 1, Toshio Mitani (10-13) blasted Hiroyuki Sugiura (0-1) with a brutal, perfectly timed straight right counter. Moments later Mitani, who has established himself as a solid strawweight after starting his career 0-6 at flyweight, cinched up a fifth straight win when he put Sugiura out cold via mounted guillotine choke.


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