With It's Showtime prepared to make their first full venture into Japan in little over a month and a half, It's Showtime Japan countdown-2 and REBELS.12 took place earlier today at Differ Ariake in Tokyo.
In the main event, Team Souwer's Henri van Opstal improved to 5-0 against Japanese competition with a majority decision over It's Showtime Japan 70kg champ Hiroki Nakajima on scores of 30-29(x3), 29-29 and 30-28. Nakajima scored early to the body, but his lack of defense allowed van Opstal to find openings throughout the fight and pick apart his opponent. van Opstal (18-3-0) has now won two in a row after a loss at It's Showtime 55, most recently stopping Hinata in the 3rd round at RISE 88. He could find himself fighting on the main It's Showtime Japan card, but with a Shootboxing event the same day, it is hard to know if he will compete on either card. Nakajima (15-6-0, 10 KO) recently ended a 1-5 run with a win over Danilo Zanolini to win the It's Showtime Japan 70kg title, but it's the same story for him; until he develops some sort of defense, he is extremely limited. While he has power and a dynamic offense, he just gets hit too much and guys at van Opstal's level will be able to expose him with ease. He is set to fight on the It's Showtime Japan card in September, but let's hope he's put in a rematch with Yuichiro Nagashima and not in a fight with Andy Ristie or Robin van Roosmalen.
In the co-main event, Hinata bounced back with a quick 1st round knockout of Korean Kang Jung-woo at 1:24 with a high kick. Hinata (23-12-1, 8 KO) is just 3-3 in his last 6 bouts, with two of those three wins against mediocre competition and the third against a guy fighting 10 pounds above his natural weight. While his losses did come to Giorgio Petrosyan, Andy Ristie and van Opstal, his only quality wins since 2010 are over Yuya Yamamoto, who looks worse with every outing, and Artur Kyshenko. If he wants to be considered a competitor at 70kg, he needs to start fighting top competition more regularly and get some wins, rather than lose to a top fighter and bounce back with an easy win.
In a fight to determine the first It's Showtime Japan 65kg champion, MA Kick Super Lightweight champ Mohan Dragon and Zen Fujita fought to a majority draw after 5 rounds on scores of 48-47 and 48-48(x4). In what seems to have been an exciting fight, as most of Mohan Dragon's fights are, Mohan Dragon started very strong, hurting Fujita in the first and carrying that momentum into the second round before tiring in the bout's closing stages and allowing Fujita to come back and secure a draw. Fujita is now 1-1-1 in 2012, with a loss at 70kg to Hinata back in April and a win over Junichi Maruyama back in June at 65kg. Mohan Dragon is now 2-0-1 on the year, defending his MA Kick title with a knockout of Hidekazu Tanaka and edging out J-Network champ Yusuke Sugawara at RISE 87. This fight likely could have been to determine Lim Chi-bin's opponent in the It's Showtime 65kg World title fight, but the draw likely cost both men that opportunity.
In a fight to decide the inaugural It's Showtime Japan 55kg champion, J-Network Super Bantamweight champ Hiroaki Mizuhara took a unanimous decision over Taisuke Degai on scores of 49-48(x3), 48-47 and 49-47. Mizuhara is now 2-1-1 on the year and could potentially rematch Yuki Noro, the man he defeated to get this fight, in his first title defense as Noro recently upset TO-MA in a bout billed under the It's Showtime banner. This loss snaps a 4 fight win streak for Degai.
Finally at 61kg, Kizaemon Saiga scored a unanimous decision over Tatsuya Inaishi on scores of 30-29, 30-28(x2), 30-27 and 29-28. Saiga (10-5-1, 2 KO) is now 3-1 on the year with a close win over Katsuya Goto, a close loss to Koya Urabe and most recently a KO of Arita Tsukahara back in May. Saiga was expected to fight for the It's Showtime Japan 61kg title at this event, but with Masahiro Yamamoto winning the It's Showtime 61kg World title and a 61kg title fight scheduled for the September event, I wouldn't be surprised to see Saiga slotted in against Yamamoto for the first all-Japanese It's Showtime title fight.
It's Showtime's main branch makes its first official venture into Japan on September 17th at Pacifico Yokohama in Yokohama. Only one fight is announced for the card, with It's Showtime 85kg champ Sahak Parparyan taking on It's Showtime Japan 95kg champ Toshio Matsumoto, but a 61kg title showdown between current champ Masahiro Yamamoto and Kizaemon Saiga is possible with both men slated for the event and Lim Chi Bin will be participating in an It's Showtime 65kg World title fight against a yet to be named opponent. Also expected to compete are Daniel Ghita, Robin van Roosmalen, Andy Ristie, Hiroki Nakajima and Yuichiro Nagashima.
REBELS.12 results and quick results after the break