It's a rare treat for WMMA fans, who have grown accustomed to WMMA fights you never get to see, or having to wait many months to view. Full fight videos have emerged of Mizuki Inoue vs. Emi Fujino and Mika Nagano vs. Emi Tomimatsu in DEEP JEWELS' Strawweight Grandprix as well as the finals.
Semi-final 1: #9 Mizuki Inoue vs. #11 Emi Fujino
Semi-final 2: Emi Tomimatsu vs. Mika Nagano
Final match: Inoue vs. Tomimatsu
Inoue vs. Fujino
From the get go Fujino was very cautious and aware of Inoue's boxing ability. Usually Fujino will swarm with quick jabs and straights, instead she sat back and ate Inoue's punches for most of the fight. It wasn't until the very end of the fight did Fujino start throwing combinations, and that was when she was most effective.
Inoue really is a joy to watch. She is unquestionably the best boxer at 115lbs. I italicized boxer because her game is very much built on boxing. She has excellent kicks, landing the only leg kick she threw and a few push/front kicks to the body and face, that I would like to see use more. A fantastic ground game, but she prefers to stand.
Nonetheless, she was able to land jabs at will, leading with a straight right at times (a sign of a well-versed striker, not just throwing a windmill right hand). While landing these punches she was also able to deflect, block or avoid almost all of Fujino's return strikes. Inoue employs a guard not typically seen. Sometimes she will extend her lead hand and move away something, Jon Jones, Renan Barao and Jose Aldo often do. Other times she will use the "Rampage" shell defence, looking to counter after Fujino punched.
However, most interesting was this hybrid block and parry combination she would use again and again. A half-shell defence with a parry, which would often cross her hands.
Tomimatsu vs. Nagano
Tomimatsu is a premier grappler. The referee separated them in the clinch very quickly, but once Tomimatsu got a right side underhook, she was able to hit a knee tap into half guard. Nagano looked to be visibly uneasy, wincing at every shot Tomimatsu threw on the ground, even ones she blocked or were barely landing to the side of her head.
They were in halfguard for most of the round, but once Nagano started working for a badly timed Kimura without even fully securing her halfguard, Tomimatsu effortlessly sliced her right knee through the guard into side control. If Nagano had held onto that Kimura (ala Hughes armbar on GSP), the fight likely would have been over. Instead, opting to turn on all fours as Tomimatsu swiftly took her back, sinking in her hooks.
Emi Tomimatsu vs. Mizuki Inoue
Here is quick summary of the pre-fight controversy from MMARising:
"Under the set rules for the fight, Inoue was not eligible to win due to her failure to make weight for the planned title bout. As a result, the official record stands as a disqualification win for Tomimatsu, who was crowned as the new Deep Jewels Interim Lightweight Champion at the beginning of tonight's event."
Note that Inoue would have made weight for a 115lbs fight, but this was at 114lbs.
Before the fight, the ref gave Inoue a yellow card, and signalled that two points were being deducted. I don't agree with it, but in the prefight package at least the Japanese acknowledge they already gave the belt to Tomimatsu (unfortunately you don't see that in the video above).
Auh... that's noise I let out at the refereeing of this fight. Anytime Inoue would get Tomimatsu in a submission (and this also happened in the Tomimatsu-Nagano fight) he would relentless yell/ask, "GIVE UP!?". Like he was trying to force the fighters to tap out. Finally, the ref had enough and stopped the fight himself, without Tomimatsu even tapping... One good thing to take away from this ref was he was very active in looking for the best position possible. Inoue had Tomimatsu in a belly-down armbar against the ropes, and the dude went on all fours looking every which way for a possible tap.
What else can be said about Inoue. She is a true talent. These fighters who are training in MMA while still in high school and in the future instead of 5 year old soccer practice, it'll be the 5 year olds in Jiu Jitsu (I'm already seeing this trend at a gym I've trained at). Sergio Pettis, comes to mind, and Carlos Condit, fighters who are well versed on the feet and on the ground like Inoue.
Inoue, who is already an active fighter, was especially active with the points deducted. Showing a striking output I haven't seen of her in MMA, and constantly pursuing the finish. If the fight went to the decision, Inoue probably still would have won. Though I believe the fights are scored as a whole, so I'm not sure how you can have point deduction.
Tomimatsu was likely a little off with her grappling cause of the punches she was taking, but the fact is Inoue was dominating the 2012 Brown Belt open weight winner in the biggest BJJ tournament in Asia held by the IBJJF. Both of them are much smaller than a Joanne Calderwood or Claudia Gadelha, even though Inoue already defeated the much larger Bec Hyatt (now Rawlings). Tomimatsu has already shown trouble against larger strawweights, and Inoue's talent will only get her so far, before size becomes the deciding factor.
Conversely, Inoue is still only 19! I remember Rory McDonald wasn't the physical machine he is today in his UFC debut. Tomimatsu, on the other hand, is 5 ft 1 and a drop to 105, it isn't out of the question to see her crack the top 10.