Mizuto Hirota Makes Triumphant Return From Gruesome Injury at Deep 55

TOKYO - After suffering of one of the most sickening injuries in the history of the MMA, former Sengoku lightweight champion Mizuto Hirota successfully returned from a 20-month absence on Friday night to best defending Deep lightweight champion Katsunori Kikuno at Deep 55 at Korakuen Hall.

Sporting a six-inch scar on his tricep and a four-inch scar on his bicep - evidence of the extensive surgeries required to repair the damage inflicted by DREAM lightweight champion Shinya Aoki's hammerlock - Hirota showed no signs of ring rust, out-striking Kikuno through the three-round bout to steal the champion's strap.

Also at the sold-out Korakuen Hall, Deep featherweight champion Koichiro Matsumoto won a two-round war with rugby-convert Tatsunao Nagakura before announcing his retirement and movement into comedy, and Georgian judo player Levan Razmadze brutalized defending Deep Megaton champ Kazuhisa Tazawa before submitting him with a keylock after one and a half minutes.

As he did in his last outing in DREAM against Daisuke Nakamura, defending lightweight champion Katsunori Kikuno employed a questionable game plan in his bout with Mizuto Hirota - offering no traditional defense, keeping his hands by his side and attempting to press forward in a squared stance while looking to counter with straight punches to the jaw.

When Kikuno first used his unusual new style, he narrowly edged out a decision over a grappler. Against a striker the caliber of Hirota, the style cost him his title.

Hirota had the champion figured out as soon as the opening gong sounded, rushing Kikuno with strikes and forcing him into the clinch. Kikuno's stubborn determination to counter-strike from defenseless stance took away any ability he had to circle away and maintain distance. Through the three rounds, Hirota rushed in with punches, controlled the fight in the clinch and dictated the pace.

Hirota, maintaining an impressive pace given his layoff, rocked Kikuno in the first and second rounds and dominated with knees in the clinch in the last stanza. Although he did occasionally take counter shots, Hirota's forward momentum took the steam off the blows.

After three rounds, the five judges employed for a Deep title bout had no issues awarding Mizuto Hirota the win and the Deep lightweight title.

The win over one of Japan's best lightweights was a satisfying one for Hirota, having gone through several setbacks in the recovery from his gruesome injury, changing gyms and watching Sengoku (where he was the last lightweight champion) go under during his time away from the sport.

The Katsunori Kikuno that gave top five lightweight Eddie Alvarez fits seems to be only a distant memory.

Reigning Deep featherweight ace Koichiro Matsumoto (13-3-0) left the MMA world on Friday night but he left his mark on Yoshida Dojo's Tatsunao Nagakura before saying goodbye.

In a thrilling two-round battle, Matsumoto found himself rocked early by the powerful Nagakura, stumbling around the ring in an attempt to avoid the one-shot that would have finished him. The champion's slick evasive skills proved good though and after his rough start, Matsumoto was able to compose himself and start to time Nagakura's movements and land devastating counter strikes.

Nagakura kept the pressure on in the second but the damage from Matsumoto's consistent jolting counters started to add up and slowly his feet seemed less sure. As Nagakura's footwork deteriorated, Matsumoto's accuracy improved and by midway through the second round Nagakura was unable to avoid any of the strikes and was becoming a bloody mess.

Dojo boss Kazuhiro Nakamura had seen enough after 2.48 and threw the towel in to save his student - Koichiro Matsumoto making a successful defense in his final outing.

Matsumoto retires from MMA at the tender age of 25 to follow his gym owner, the hugely popular Koji Imada, into a career in comedy.

Georgian judoka Levan Razmadze moved to a perfect 4-0, claiming the Deep Megaton title and smashing Kazuhisa Tazawa before keylocking him after 1.29 in the first round.

Razmadze's power advantage was ridiculous, his huge fists clubbing Tazawa around the ring, forming an egg on his forehead only seconds in. A simple single leg while Tazawa was covering up saw the Georgian take side control where he pounded away before applying the fight-ending keylock.

Despite only having fought since January of this year, while tipping the scales at a solid 273 lbs it is unlikely that Razmadze will find any serious opposition in Japan. The judo player's striking is still lacking refinement but future opponents in the East should only prove to be stepping stones.

Former Deep middleweight ace Ryuta Sakurai and Kazushi Sakuraba teammate Katsuyori Shibata put on a beautiful display of violence before Shibata fell to punches midway through round two.

Shibata was able to use his reach to get the advantage on the feet, causing a mouse under the eye of Sakurai early. Shibata's non-existent takedown defense thwarted his offense efforts though and Sakurai was able to put him on his back and open up a bad cut about Shibata's eye with ease.

After three doctor checks for the injuries in round one, Sakurai pressed forward with strikes on the feet in round two, rocking a valiant Shibata and sending him to the mat where he was pounded out.

With the loss Shibata, a popular figure on the local pro-wrestling circuit, slips to 4-11-1. Sakurai (22-16-6) has now put together two straight wins since his incredible TKO loss to UFC acquisition Riki Fukuda.

The fluffy-mohawked Tatsumitsu Wada put on an fearless striking dispkay in his majority decision victory over K-1 and DREAM veteran Daiki "DJ.Taiki" Hata.

Wada sent the message early, cracking Hata's leg with a low kick in the opening exchanges. Not intimidated by Hata's K-1 experience, Wada went after Hata and got results, coming close to finishing his foe early with punches. Hata's experience showed though as he was narrowly able to avoid defeat, utilizing his wrestling to keep him in the bout.

Hata moved past his disastrous start to mount some solid offense of his own, scoring with mean knees from the clinch in the final round, but it was too little, too late. Although one judge scored the bout a draw, the other two sided with Wada.

Hata, once considered one of the top featherweights on the regional scene, is now on a four-fight slide and drops to 11-9-3.

Deep 55 - Sept. 26, 2007 at Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan.

Mizuto Hirota def. Katsunori Kikuno by Unanimous Decision
Koichiro Matsumoto def. Tatsunao Nagakura by TKO (Corner Stoppage) - Round 2, 2:48
Levan Razmadze def. Kazuhisa Tazawa by Submission (Keylock) - Round 1, 1:29
Ryuta Sakurai def. Katsuyori Shibata by TKO (Punches) - Round 2, 3:04
Tatsumitsu Wada def. Daiki Hata by Majority Decision
Ryuta Noji def. Shuji Morikawa by TKO (Corner Stoppage) - Round 1, 2:56
Motoki Miyazawa def. Yasushi Kitazaki by Submission (Rear-Naked Choke) - Round 2, 3:36
Yuki Niimura def. Shunsuke Inoue by KO (Punch) - Round 1, 0:27
Makoto Kamaya def. Tomohiko Hori by Majority Decision
Amanda Lucas def. Hikaru Shinohara by Technical Submission (Armbar) - Round 1, 4:37

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