It is no secret around here that I have a great affinity for strikers, particularly those who can make wrestlers think twice about spamming takedown attempts. There is an embarrassment of riches in terms of talented strikers now entering the sport of MMA, simply because of the declining state of kickboxing and the growing purses and exposure of Mixed Martial Arts competition. My fondness of Japanese MMA stems from my fandom in the PRIDE FC days, and my taking up wrestling and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in Tokyo while over there training my striking, and I have made sure to keep up to date with the current crop of talent working it's way through Shooto in hopes of DREAM FC returning to the form PRIDE FC was on. For the die hard fans of JMMA this list will provide nothing new, but those who are perhaps only familiar with the major U.S. promotions, this will provide an interesting little guide to some of the more entertaining fighters Asia has to offer.
Mamoru "The Fro" Yamaguchi
One of the premier names in the flyweight (125 lbs) division for the last five years, a Shooto champion and one of the most dynamic fighters in Japanese MMA. Mamoru Yamaguchi fights in Thai style shorts and is responsible for more dropped or KOd opponents in Shooto's oversized (5 oz.) gloves than anyone at 125lbs.The first time I saw Yamaguchi fight I realised two things; the first was that the Japanese can grow afros - quite impressive ones at that, and the second was that in the 125 pound division, which is so little heard about due to lack of explosive finishes or big names, KOs can happen. I happened to discover Yamaguchi through his fight in Shooto with Stonnie Dennis, which Yamaguchi finished by establishing the Thai clinch on Dennis' neck, pushing him into the ropes, and knocking him out cold with a beautiful head kick.
Yamaguchi's hands are as fast an furious as you'd expect from a flyweight fighter, and his kicks are heavy, but what is most interesting about Yamaguchi to die hard fans is that he, just as Anderson Silva has done, has negated the majority of his opponent's takedown attempts through mastery of the clinch from a striking perspective. Watch his destruction of Frank Baca as the latter struggles to gain underhooks on the smaller, craftier Yamaguchi.
Much of Yamaguchi's success from a technical perspective is not from his superior fighting at range, but rather in his ability to fight out of the clinch.
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