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Beyond the Octagon Japan: Hirota to Road to UFC finals, Satoshi Ishii takes submission

A bout between UFC vet Oli Thompson and prospect Chris Barnett, plus action from Satoshi Ishii and semi-final results from Road to UFC top this week's look at regional MMA in Japan.

Last week yielded up a giant-sized selection of MMA results to check out, with UFC, Strikeforce, Bellator, and PRIDE veterans turning out in force. With that in mind, we'll be taking a look at the MMA scenes of Japan, Russia, and the good ol' U.S. of A separately. We start things off in Tokyo...

On Saturday, in the headlining bout of Inoki Genome Federation 4, Oli Thompson (15-8, 0-2 UFC) looked to keep his developing win streak alive against prospect Chris Barnett (13-2-0).

Thompson had a brief, unremarkable UFC tenure and has generally struggled to gain momentum in the years since his 2012 release. He did, however, start off this year with a victory over Ikuhisa Minowa, and has remained undefeated since.

Chris "Huggy Bear" Barnett, who has developed into something of a cult favorite, burst onto the scene in 2009. Victories over solid competition in Kenny Garner, Walt Harris, and Mario Rinaldi marked him as a heavyweight with potential, but injuries removed him from competition before he could gain any real traction. Barnett returned to competition last year, looking untroubled by his three-year hiatus, and proceeded to make up for lost time, claiming three (T)KO victories in 2014.

Thompson and Barnett tested each other's chins frequently during the bout's opening round, alternating periods of positional sparring along the ropes with firefights at range. Round 2 unfolded much the same, with a visibly exhausted Barnett slowly but irrevocably losing ground to Thompson. In the end, the judges would see it the same way, awarding Thompson the unanimous decision, making for the most significant win of his career and the first time in five years that he's won three consecutive bouts. He'll face 9-1 Fernando Rodrigues, Jr. in the IGF tournament final.

Watch Thompson vs. Barnett here. It's a valiant but deeply flawed showing from Barnett, who exhibits good killer instinct in the ring but will obviously need to train with greater discipline to gain a foothold in any major promotion.

Also on the card, Olympian judoka and would-be JMMA savior Satoshi Ishii (14-4-1, 1-1 Dream, 2-1 K-1) snatched up a first-round rear-naked choke of Will Penn (8-5, 0-1 Bellator). This, following a few minutes of positional dominance from Ishii, who is two victories removed from his disappointing TKO loss to Mirko Filipovic.

Check out Ishii vs. Penn here.

That same day, Tokyo also played host to DEEP Cage Impact 2015.

The main event saw Yuki Sasaki (25-20-2, 1-3 Sengoku, 0-1 UFC) return from a two-year hiatus for a contest with journeyman Hidenobu Koike (13-18-8). In his lone UFC appearance, Sasaki turned in a turgid performance against Dean Lister, losing by unanimous decision. Against Koike, however, his submission skills would win out, with Sasaki tying up a definitive rear-naked choke in Round 1. He's 3-1-1 since his last appearance in a major show: a TKO loss to Mamed Khalidov in Sengoku.

In the co-main event, Kazunori Yokota (24-5-3, 5-3 Sengoku) further established himself as Japan's best featherweight with a unanimous decision win over Kenjiro Takahashi (8-4-0). Yokota is 12-0 in the last five years, with this latest victory halting a seven-fight winning streak for his opponent.

Also on the card, leg-lock specialist Masakazu Imanari (32-14-2, 4-3 Dream, 0-2 PRIDE) made predictably short work of novice Moon Hwan Yang (0-1-0), securing a fight-ending heel hook in 21 seconds. Imanari is 4-0 for 2015.

DEEP also ran it's WMMA show Jewels this weekend, featuring a strawweight title fight between Emi Fujino (16-9, 0-1 WSOF) and champion Mizuki Inoue (9-4, 1-2 Invicta). The two had fought previously, in the semi-finals of a DEEP tournament that resulted in Inoue's championship. Inoue would again emerge with the unanimous decision victory, marking a successful rebound from her loss in Invicta last Februray. Fujino, meanwhile, sees a three-fight win streak go up in smoke.

In the co-main event, Ji Yeon Kim (4-0-2) upset bantamweight champion Takayo Hashi (15-6-1, 0-1 Invicta, 0-1 Strikeforce) with a unanimous decision-worthy effort. This is the second title fight in a row that Hashi has lost, having failed in her bid for Barb Honchak's Invicta title last November.

Finally, Road to UFC: Japan named its first finalist following a clash between Team Nelson's Mizuto Hirota (17-7-1, 0-2 UFC, 0-1 Strikeforce, 2-1 Sengoku) and Team Barnett's Daiki Hata (17-9-7, 1-2 Dream). Hirota and Hata both had difficult quarterfinal matches, with Hirota besting Nobumitsu Osawa by majority decision and Hata overcoming a dwindling gas tank to claim a unanimous decision against Tatsunao Nagakura. The pair would again go the distance in their semifinal bout, with Mizuto Hirota coming away with the unanimous verdict. He'll face the winner of Akiyo Nishiura vs. Team Alpha Male Japan's Teruto Ishihara.