Photo by Taro Irei for Sherdog.
This Friday's UFC on FX 2 introduces the Flyweight division to the UFC with a pair of title eliminator fights. UFC fighters Joseph Benavidez and Demetrious Johnson make up two of the participants, but the remaining two are names who UFC fans be not be familiar with. Yesterday, I profiled Ian McCall. Today here's a look at Benevidez's opponent - Yasuhiro Urushitani.
At 35 years old and with 10 years and nearly 30 fights worth of experience, Urushitani is the veteran of this tournament. But despite this experience, this will be the first time Urushitani has ever fought outside of either Japan or South Korea. The vast majority of his fights have come in Japan's Shooto organization - a long-time home for fights in the lowest weight classes. Urushitani debuted for Shooto in 2001. Over the years, he has faced Japan's top names in the division, including "BJ" Shinichi Kojima and Mamoru Yamaguchi. He also holds a win over TUF champion John Dodson. His time in Shooto accounts for all the draws in his record (19-4-6) as the draw is a common judges' decision there.
After establishing himself as a fighter always near the top, Urushitani went on a strong 5-0 run starting in late 2008 that put him as the elite fighter in his division in Japan. During that run, he won the Shooto Bantamweight title (for Shooto, this is the Flyweight equivalent with a 123 pound limit) and defending it. Known more for decisions than his finishing power, Urushitani has scored 3 finishes in these 5 wins. His last fight was a successful title defense last July.
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Of the four Flyweight tournament fighters, Urushitani is the most focused on a single discipline. He is, by a significant margin, a striker. It's rare that he goes to the ground or uses any kind of grappling, unless it's to block an opponent's takedown attempt. This provides an interesting aspect to the tournament, as on the one hand, he is very accomplished in his striking, but on the other, he may not be as comfortable outside of that area.
More analysis, plus fight footage, in the full entry.
As a striker, Urushitani is more of a counter-striker. He tends to start slow in fights, feeling out his opponents for the first few minutes. He'll then begin to increase his output, usually with his hands as the primary weapon. He's fast with those hands, and will almost always respond to an opponent's strike with a counter-punch of his own. One thing I really like about his style is that unlike some counter-fighters, he doesn't demand that the fight come to him. Urushitani is happy to push the action forward and go on the offense, but still counter as he is coming forward. That ability to both move ahead while slipping punches and countering is a great skill that he employs well.
Still, there are some criticisms of his style. In the past, his striking has been a bit too repetitive. He has a relatively small arsenal of punches he employs, and so could become predictable in fights. Lately, he has improved on this by mixing in more kicks.
A few other random observations on his striking: Urushitani is a southpaw and has a nice lead cross, which is a great punch for a southpaw fighter. He's good at using angles to get an advantageous position in an exchange. He seems to have a goal of landing last in exchanges, which works well for him. On the minus side, he loves the quick jumping knee, and frequently uses it, though does not have much success with it.
Overall, I would characterize him as a crafty striker with excellent fundamentals and very good hands. The big question mark for him is has he expanded his game to include all facets of MMA? Joseph Benavidez is a perfect opponent to try and answer this question. If the answer is no, then he may find himself struggling to find a permanent home in the UFC Flyweight division.
Urushitani (red trunks) vs. Takuya Mori
November 19, 2010