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Hatsu Hioki, Yasuhiro Urushitani Capture Shooto Titles, Willamy 'Chiquerim' Freire Retains

TOKYO, Japan -- Despite DREAM's strong featherweight showings this weekend, the best action in that division was to be found in Shooto at JCB Hall. In one of the best fights of the year, Hatsu Hioki captured "Lion" Takeshi Inoue's 143-pound Shooto World Title after three rounds of back and forth striking action.

Nagoya's Hatsu Hioki is arguably one of the most talented ground fighters in all of mixed martial arts but has often been the victim of terrible game planning, ignoring his ground acumen and instead electing to stand and trade instead. A dangerous striker like the defending 143-pound world champion "Lion" Takeshi looked like a dangerous matchup for Hioki as Lion's power can easily put an end to anybody's night.

Lion came at Hioki right from the opening bell, rushing in with punches and attempting to end Hioki's night early. Hioki stayed in the pocket though and slipped Lion's looping fists to land counters which rocked the defending champion. Lion recovered quickly and traded punches and kicks in the center of the ring but found himself having problems getting past Hioki's parries and range.

In the second, Lion started to find his mark with the jab, drawing blood from Hioki's nose and reddening his eyes. Hioki's combinations with his hands, lengthy kicks and knees from the clinch kept Lion busy but it was Hioki's jab that had the champion truly on the back foot.

Finally in the third round, Hioki attempted with earnest to take the fight to the mat but lacked the power in his shot after two solid rounds of standup action. Abandoning his attempt to bring the fight into his own domain, Hioki tried to re-establish his jab but Lion found his mark with this right and backed up the challenger. In the final minutes, desperation filled the arena with a divided crowd sensing that the title may be up for grabs depending on what happens from here. Standing in the center of the ring, both fighters stood toe-to-toe throwing combination after combination to the face and body, attempting to bring each other down. At the end of the bout, Lion's nose and mouth finally started to show signs of the war, but with his performance in the final round it was not clear who the judges were going to side with.

The judges were split, one for the champion and two for the challenger, fulfilling Hioki's career goal of capturing a Shooto World Title and indicating that perhaps his standup game has finally caught up to his talent on the canvas.

Willamy "Chiquerim" Freire took exactly five minutes to dispatch Yusuke Endo in their first outing but the rematch was much closer. Defending his Shooto 154lb title, Freire and Endo both had trouble establishing their dominance in the first round, struggling to get through each other's defense. After being docked a point for a low blow in the second, Freire dropped Endo with a right causing Endo to fall to the canvas and turtle to avoid a barrage of blows. Endo was in trouble of being stopped but was ultimately saved by the bell and due to the point deduction, drew the round.

The third was to be the deciding round and Endo gave up a dominant position early after missing with a single and instead getting taken down himself. Freire maintained his control on top and hammered away at the challenger's head for the rest of the bout and easily winning the round.

Despite the strong finish, one judge didn't it see that way and Friere was awarded a split decision to retain the belt. Post fight, Freire returned his title informing the audience that he has signed an exclusive promotion with a major promotion, stopping him from being able to defend his Shooto 154-pound title.

Ryuichi Miki held a 0-1-1 record against Yasuhiro Urushitani and going into this 123-pound title fight hoped to even the score with the counter striker. It was not to be though, over the course of three rounds Urushitani was able to consistently land the better punches and counter Miki whenever he would over commit in desperation. It was a comfortable win for the new champion who took the strap which was vacant after Shinichi "BJ" Kojima returned the title in March, but a long time in the making. Due to his passive-aggressive countering style, Urushitani has racked up an astonishing six draws which has halted his progression in the division and led to some difficult matchmaking situations for promoters.

"The Shooto Junkie" Ryota Matsune had been retired since 2006 due to recurring knee injuries but his return to action was spoiled in brutal fashion by Joe Silva favorite Rumina Sato. Through the first round Matsune was attempting to shake out the cobwebs of inactivity, working his boxing but unable to keep to get into his rhythm due to the threat of Sato's knees from inside. Early in the second stanza, a knee from Sato found the mark and laid out Matsune and Sato dived in with punches to bring about the referee stoppage at only 21 seconds of the second round.

Masakatsu Ueda returned to form after a shockingly losing his 132-pound title to Shuichiro Katsumura in March. Ueda showed off his new found striking ability in his decision win against former 143-pound champ and WEC veteran Akitoshi Tamura.

Eduardo Dantas confirmed his status as a top prospect at 132-pound with a third round submission over Hiromasa Ogikubo. Dantas was looking dangerous to then champion, Masakatus Ueda in his last venture to Japan in July 2009 but his inability to play to Shooto's rules cost him points and ultimately the decision. Dantas was in danger of suffering the same fate against Ogikubo, grabbing the ropes, hitting the back of the head and landing a low blow which had the referee close to calling the fight a DQ. He managed to play fair long enough to survive and a secure a rear naked choke in the third round however. The 21-year-old is sure to have a bright future if he can tame his aggressive game to work within the confines of the rules.

Matches for July 16th's "Way of Shooto 4" were announced, Shooto 115 pounds World Champion Rambaa "M-16" Somdet will make his first title defense against Hiroyuki Abe, Taiki Tsuchiya will face one of Japan's top prospects in Issei Tamura and Kenichiro Togashi will also be on the card.

Shooto - The Way of Shooto 3: Like a Tiger, Like a Dragon - Results

143lb Shooto World Title Match
Hatsu Hioki def. Takeshi Inoue by Split Decision

154lb Shooto World Title Match
Willamy Freire def. Yusuke Endo by Split Decision

123lb Shooto World Title Match
Yasuhiro Urushitani def. Ryuichi Miki by Unanimous Decision

Rumina Sato def. Ryota Matsune by TKO - Knee and Punches, Round 2, 0:21
Masakatsu Ueda def. Akitoshi Tamura by Unanimous Decision
Eduardo Dantas def. Hiromasa Ogikubo by Submission – Rear Naked Choke, Round 3, 1:21
Kotetsu Boku def. Yoshihiro Koyama by Unanimous Decision
Shintaro Ishiwatari def. Wataru Miki by Majority Decision

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