For all of you hardcore fans out there who are still hungry for Japanese MMA and caffeine blasts at 2 or 3 AM in the morning, get ready to be giddy with happiness. ASTRA will take place this Sunday, April 25th at the Nippon Budokan in Tokyo, Japan, and it will feature a main event retirement battle between Yoshido Dojo master Hidehiko Yoshida and long-time Dojo student and PRIDE veteran Kazuhiro Nakamura. The event will also feature a featherweight battle between Michihiro Omigawa and Micah Miller along with a lightweight scrap between Jorge Masvidal and former UFC fighter Naoyuki Kotani.
The event will air LIVE on Skyperfect PPV in the local market of Japan, so if you're lucky enough -- you'll get to watch the event live.
The mentor vs. student clash between Yoshida and Nakamura is a classic Japanese style battle when it comes to old legends retiring from the sport. K-1 follows a similar dynamic, although it usually entails a legend not battling a student, but someone who will put you into the hospital. Masato retired in his prime, so that really doesn't count.
Interestingly enough, I'm not sure this will fall in line with traditional. Yoshida has always been a fighter who had survivability in the ring, and Nakamura has been a disappointment in recent years. He was always small at light heavyweight, and a drop to middleweight didn't garner better results when Misaki and Santiago defeated him. Granted, both men rank high in the middleweight division worldwide.
Yoshida should be the bigger fighter, and he actually punched pretty impressively against a very green Satoshi Ishii. Nakamura won't stand in front of Yoshida like Ishii though, but this is a surprisingly intriguing retirement fight simply because Nakamura has just been bad. While I don't think it'll be a beatdown of epic proportions, Nakamura should take it.
This is by far the best fight on the card. Omigawa's resurgence can be attributed to dropping down to featherweight, something not common in Japan, and fighting with a huge chip on his shoulder. Out to prove he isn't the fighter who came up short in the UFC, Omigawa has rattled off five wins in his last six battles. While some of those fights were definitely controversial, Omigawa has improved immensely from his days in the UFC.
Miller has remained active in the last two years. After losing to Josh Grispi and Yoshiro Maeda at WEC 35 and DREAM 7 respectively, he has won three straight with wins over the WEC's Anthony Morrison and Strikeforce prospect JC Pennington. He'll be looking to use his Brazilian jiu-jitsu wizardry and lengthy frame to keep Omigawa at bay in this fight.
While I think Miller has a shot if he can stay away, Omigawa really has become a beast in the striking department. He throws huge overhands in combinations in a classic boxing style. He isn't the most technical striker, but he lands quite often against less seasoned punchers. Miller will more than likely get lit up, but Omigawa can hold his own on the ground as well.
Short, But Sweet
Welterweight: Ryo Chonan (17-10) vs. Jung Hwan Cha (6-5-1)
I'm not really fully invested in this fight. Chonan is pretty much done as a relevant fighter, but I think this is, at the very least, a competitive fight he can win. Cha has ran into better competition with limited success. He actually drew with the UFC's Dong Hyun Kim at Spirit MC 15. Ultimately, I think this is a fight that will spotlight Chonan and keep him in the win column.
Lightweight: Daisuke Nakamura (20-12) vs. Ganjo Tentsuku (9-4-2)
Nakamura's submission ability is obviously his biggest strength, but he also happens to be a guy who can get overpowered on the ground or outstruck. While he has some amazing submission highlights, he can sometimes get sucked into style match-ups he can't win due to a bad gameplan. Fortunately, that shouldn't happen here. I imagine we'll see Nakamura slug his way to a decision win here, but Tentsuku isn't a rollover win. This could have upset written all over it.
Lightweight: Jorge Masvidal (19-5) vs. Naoyuki Kotani (20-9-7)
UFC veteran Kotani might have his hands full in this showdown as Masvidal crawls into ASTRA after completely crushing submission threat Satoru Kitaoka at Sengoku XI. Masvidal did manage to lose to Nogueira protege Luis Palomino on February 4th, but from all indications -- "Gamebred" didn't train for the fight or realize Palomino was a legit threat. Look for Masvidal to avoid submissions and put his power on Kotani's chin quickly.
Light Heavyweight: Enson Inoue (11-8) vs. Antz Nansen (1-0)
Nansen is a New Zealand kickboxer while Inoue is... well, a pioneer of the sport in Japan. He returns after six years away from the sport, and he'll have his hands full against a solid striker in Nansen. While I want to pick Inoue simply based on nostalgia, I can't. Age and ring rust will play a big factor here. Nansen via TKO.
Welterweight: Che Mills (8-3) vs. Yuya Shirai (18-8)
Mills recently lost to Bellator's Jim Wallhead back in November, but before that match-up -- he had rattled off an eight fight win streak. He was tabbed for The Ultimate Fighter, but was surprisingly upset in the show's elimination round of fights to get into the house. He'll now try to work his way back into the UFC's interest as he takes on Yuya Shirai, a fighter who has found some success as of late. I'll take Mills as he has a little more power, some reach on Shirai, and can be a little more dynamic striking.
Lightweight: Tatsunao Nagakura (5-0) vs. Akihiko Mori (8-7-1)
A good way to start off the night as Yoshido Dojo's 145 pound prospect Tatsunao Nagakura will get a chance to put his knockout power on display as he takes on Akihiro Mori. You might remember Mori as the guy that Maximo Blanco soccer kicked illegally at Sengoku VIII. Neither guy is a great striker, but Nagakura has, at the very least, proven he can knock someone out. I'll take Nagakura over Mori here.
Heavyweight: SEIGO vs. SEIRYU
Middleweight: Yusuke Sakashita vs. Kenji Nagai
Bantamweight: Ryosuke Komori vs. Takumi Murata