There were more significant fights in 2010. There were fights that reached larger audiences. There were fights that featured a higher level of skill. There were fights that might claim to match it in drama. But no fight in 2010 exceeded the drama of Jorge Santiago vs Kazuo Misaki 2 at Sengoku Raiden Championships 14.
The two men had met before. In 2009 at Sengoku No Ran 2009 they fought for the Sengoku middleweight belt. Like the sequel, the first was a brilliant five round fight that saw Misaki leading on points until Santiago came back to finish him in the final round. (Video of the first fight is in the full entry of this post).
Expectations were high for the rematch and those expectations were met and exceeded.
Here's Daniel Herbertson talking about the fight:
There is something that comes out in a five-round title fight that you do not see in a three-round bout. It pushes fighters into a realm where they are sometimes forced to expose what they are truly made of. Kazuo Misaki is a dramatic guy, but when he said that the towel that flew into the ring only seconds before he would have won the Sengoku middleweight belt saved his life, I had to believe him.
The second installment of Jorge Santiago vs. Kazuo Misaki was not a mindless slugfest; it was a dynamic display that can only be seen in mixed martial arts. Both fighters were on the verge of defeat countless times and both fighters staged seemingly impossible comebacks time and time again.
It wasn't for the most prestigious belt in the world, and it wasn't in front of a packed Saitama Super Arena, but Santiago vs. Misaki 2 is one of the most emotional and incredible bouts in the history of the sport.
Sherdog named it their fight of the year and Tony Loiseleur got some great quotes from both fighters:
"As a professional fighter, I think it was a great experience to fight him, but aside from that, he's also helped me grow and change a lot, just in life. It doesn't matter who won. I'm very grateful for him and having had the chance to fight him," Misaki said solemnly. "I think we will probably meet again because I don't think that this fight was the end of our story. Even though the towel was thrown in at the end, I think there's still one more drama to be played out by the both of us. I think it's our destiny to meet again."
"He's a tiger, you know? He has that fire in his eyes and in his heart. I do, too. We're the same. We both feel like we're not going to just give a fight to anybody," Santiago said. "Like he was saying [at the press conference], the champion of this bout is going to be the one who wants it more, who has more will. I think if we always fight with that mindset, we'll always put on great shows."
"I don't know if I'll still be alive in 10 or 20 years. If I am still alive, I think it would be because of fights like these with Santiago," (Misaki) said. "That's also why I think it's our destiny to face each other. Again, I'm grateful for the chance to fight against someone like him, and in 10 or 20 years, I'll still think the same."
The judges had the fight for Misaki going into the fifth and final round as BE's Chris Nelson wrote at the time:
With the way the judges' scores added up entering the fifth round - 38-36, 38-36 and 39-36, all in favor of Misaki - it's not entirely clear what might have happened had the bout not been halted in the waning seconds. The most likely scenario involves Santiago winning a majority "must" decision, which makes me thankful that the match ended the way it did. Today, instead of concerning ourselves with Sengoku's goofy judging system, we can simply enjoy this Fight of the Year candidate for what it was and commend two men for putting their hearts on display and giving us one for the ages.
We'll have Nelson's full fight recap in the extended entry as well as a HL video of the fight, the full fight video courtesy of HDNet, Bloodstain Lane's recap of the fight, the presentation of HDNet's Blazzie Award for Fight of the Year to both fighters and video of the first fight. Enjoy.
Chris Nelson recapped the fight immediately afterwards:
After an even and relatively uneventful opening frame dictated by a pair of Misaki takedowns, the 34-year-old challenger set the drama in motion when he seized the neck of an off-balance Santiago in round two. Wrenching what Santiago would later confirm was an extremely tight guillotine, Misaki jumped guard and rolled into mount but was unable to finish off the champion. Santiago briefly threatened with a leglock late in the round, only to be stood up by referee Yoshinori Umeki when Misaki rolled through the ropes.
Santiago surged in the opening minute of round three, felling Misaki with a head kick-straight right combo which nearly ended the contest. As Umeki loomed, the now-bloodied "Hitman" somehow withstood a barrage of ten hard, unanswered punches and made it to the next round, where he would again turn the tables.
Two minutes into the penultimate round, an ill-conceived flying knee put Santiago within range of Misaki's left hook, which sent the Brazilian crumpling to the mat. Misaki tried desperately to finish with punches from mount, knees to the face, an arm-triangle and a rear-naked choke, but Santiago would not be stopped.
The most unfortunate moment of the match came with 40 seconds left in the fourth, when referee Umeki issued an inarguably unwarranted red card to Santiago for rolling through the ropes - a foul which incurred no punishment when Misaki committed it two rounds prior. The card robbed Santiago of what could have been a crucial point, as well as 10% of his fight purse.
Just as in their first encounter, Misaki and Santiago entered the final stanza with Misaki seemingly ahead on the scorecards. Santiago wasted no time in pouring the punishment on his visibly weary opponent, dropping Misaki with combinations and a knee from the clinch almost as soon as the round began. The champion's conditioning proved the difference as Santiago mounted Misaki, threatening with armbars and kata-gatame for the majority of the round. Misaki swept at one point, but Santiago executed a beautiful sweep using a kimura to latch on a rear-naked choke attempt.
Battered, bleeding and with both eyes nearly swollen shut, Misaki could not shake Santiago from his back. The choke attempt was abandoned and Santiago began thumping Misaki with punches from back mount until the Japanese corner was forced to throw in the towel with less than 30 seconds remaining, an action which HDNet color commentator Frank Trigg instantly deemed "the worst thing ever... horrific." Upon replay, it was unclear whether referee Umeki had already decided to dive in for the stop when the towel hit the canvas.
Here's an unofficial HL video
Here's the fight. Set aside thirty minutes and enjoy, Jorge Santiago Vs Kazuo Misaki at Sengoku Raiden Championships 14:
Here's their first fight, which is nearly as great as the rematch. Jorge Santiago vs Kazuo Misaki, Sengoku No Ran 2009:
Here are Santiago and Misaki accepting their Blazzie Awards for Fight of the Year 2010 from HDNet's Inside MMA
Here's Bloodstain Lane recapping the second fight: