JMMA may have contracted in recent years, but certain traditions are still holding strong, including the customary, blockbuster New Year's Eve fight cards.
At the annual Inoki Bom-Ba-Ye, Chris Barnett (12-1-0) made short work of Shinichi Suzukawa (1-3-0), putting him away by TKO in the opening minutes of Round 1. Barnett closes out his very busy 2014 at 5-0 after spending the three years before on the sidelines.
And as previously reported by Anton Tabuena, the card also featured another brilliant heel turn by Shinya Aoki (37-6-1NC, 13-2-1NC Dream, 0-1 Bellator, 1-1 Strikeforce, 4-0 PRIDE) who put a first-round twister to Yuki Yamamoto (6-7-3, 1NC) before flipping off pretty much the entire island nation and making his exit. Aoki has won six straight since his 2012 TKO to Eddie Alvarez in Bellator.
In the headliner, Mirko Filipovic (30-11-2-1NC, 4-6 UFC, 18-4-2 PRIDE) picked up his first win since 2012--and his first win over an opponent with a winning record since 2010--with a trademark head-kick-and-punches TKO of Satoshi Ishii. It's a significant victory, considering that Ishii had put together an 8-0 run in the last two years consisting largely of wins over contemporaries of Filipovic, including Jeff Monson, Tim Sylvia, and Kazuyuki Fujita.
Meanwhile, MMA organization Deep also put together a particularly stacked fight card for its Dream Impact 2014 event, which included an appearance by Emi Fujino (15-8, 0-1 WSOF), who defeated Emi Tomimatsu (8-9-0) by unanimous decision. Fujino is 2-0 since her loss to Jessica Aguilar in a bid for the WSOF strawweight title this past June.
Former Sengoku champ Mizuto Hirota (17-7-1, 0-2 UFC, 0-1 Strikeforce, 2-1 Sengoku) secured an undefeated 2014 for himself with his TKO victory over Kyu Hwa Kim (3-4-0). The end came in the opening minute of Round 2 by way of a soccer kick and punches. Hirota, who was released from the UFC in the summer of 2013, is 3-0 since then.
WEC vet Yoshiro Maeda (2-4 Dream, 1-2 WEC, 0-2 PRIDE) pulled himself out of a two-year, five-fight slump with a majority decision over Haruo Ochi (11-5-1). Maeda, a well-rounded brawler who started out his career unbeaten in 16 bouts, is 3-6-1 in recent years.
Also on the card, Kazunori Yokota (22-5-3, 5-3 Sengoku) put the boots to a younger, surging talent in Isao Kobayashi (16-2-4) for the unanimous decision victory. Yokota has won ten in a row after a three-fight losing streak from 2009 to 2010, the only losing streak of his career. Kobayashi, meanwhile, takes a loss for the first time in over four years.
And in the main event, Satoru Kitaoka (35-13-9, 1-2 Dream, 5-2 Sengoku) took on former UFC welterweight Yoshiyuki Yoshida (17-7, 0-1 Bellator, 2-3 UFC). Yoshida, who opened up his UFC career with a speedy anaconda choke of War Machine, wound up fighting a pretty hellish schedule in the Octagon, which included losing efforts against Josh Koscheck and UFC open-weight champion Anthony Johnson. He'd been quietly putting together wins since that time, though, and was riding a six-fight win streak into this week's bout. Yoshida would be unable to extend that hot streak to seven, however, as he dropped a unanimous decision to the inaugural Sengoku champion. He's 1-1 for the year. As for Kitaoka, who's notched wins over Takanori Gomi, Katsunori Kikuno, and Paul Daley on his belt, he's 3-0 for 2014.
That's all for this week, and for 2014! Thanks everyone for the warm welcome this year. Writing this column has been a real pleasure, and I'm looking forward to more of the same in the new year. What secrets does 2015 hold? Just how many retired former UFC fighters will return to the ring?
And Will Tim Sylvia put together a triumphant win streak? Will Tito Ortiz make a triumphant return to the UFC? Will Cro Cop be re-signed to the UFC, then released, then triumphantly re-re-signed, then triumphantly re-re-released? Will Chris Barnett triumphantly lose enough weight to reach the 265-pound limit and finally make a major promotional debut? Yes on all counts! 2015 FOREVER!