Everyone should be totally stoked about ONE FC 4: Destiny of Warriors, happening on June 23rd in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Leglock beast Masakazu Imanari, fresh off his leg submission victory over Kevin Belingon at One FC 3, will face BJJ World Champion, Leandro Issa, in what will certainly be an intense stylistic face off.
There’s a reason they call Imanari, Ashikan Judan (“tenth dan in leglocks”), and that’s because the 135lb fighter has become pretty damn good at using them. 10 out of his 16 submission victories in professional MMA have come by way of leg submissions. Imanari has admitted that he likes to use them simply because it hurts his opponent. He did also confess that this strategy started out because of difficulties in passing the guard. And if there’s one thing BJJ fighters are good at, it’s fighting from guard.
Which is why his opponent Leandro Issa poses a significant challenge. The BJJ world champion from Brazil has won the Brazil Nationals and the Mundials in 2004. Now based in Singapore, he fights out of Evolve MMA, home to some of the greatest fighters in all of Asia, including Shinya Aoki, best known as one of very few human beings ever recorded on film pulling off a gogoplata in a sanctioned MMA bout. Shinya Aoki will no doubt be employing his twin black belts in BJJ AND Judo to help Issa fine-tune his grappling game leading up to the fight with Imanari.
Imanari is 25-10-2, which makes him significantly more experienced than Issa (9-2-0). My prediction is that Imanari is going to go home with the win and quite possibly Issa’s leg. Every time a BJJ stylist like Issa pulls guard, he’s opening himself up for a leg submission, and that’s exactly what Imanari will be hunting for.
But maybe it’s too early to count Issa out. If the Palhares-Belcher bout at UFC On Fox 3 proved anything, is that a skilled ground fighter can get out from the rabid-dog grip of a leg lock specialist, get into position and start teeing off with strikes to the face.
Despite his penchant for leg attacks, Imanari does pull out surprises. An upkick knockout to Takeshi Yamazaki at Deep 26 would tell you that. But always going for the legs does open you up for knee strikes. Just ask Joachim Hansen’s knee which found its way into Imanari’s face at Pride Bushido 8, knocking out the Japanese badass cold and making him a fixture on highlight reels for years to come. Issa has been training with some of the top Muay Thai fighters out of the Sityodtong camp so he might just be able to stand and deliver a knockout victory at ONE FC 4.