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Fedor Emelianenko still without an opponent, Tsuyoshi Kosaka to face James Thompson at Rizin

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Tsuyoshi Kosaka, a Japanese pro wrestler who was the only fighter to have beaten Fedor Emelianenko before 2010, has been crossed off the list of potential opponents for Emelianenko's comeback fight on New Year's Eve.

The 45-year-old former judoka was announced to be facing James Thompson (20-15,1 no-contest) over New Year's weekend on one of the two Rizin debut shows at the Saitama Super Arena in the Tokyo metropolitan area. Rizin will have shows on Dec. 29 and Dec. 31 at the old home of the Pride Fighting Championships, in an attempt to rebuild the major league MMA scene in that country. Emelianenko headlines the Dec. 31 show.

Kosaka (28-18-2, although this listed record includes a number of pro wrestling matches in the 90s) retired after a 2006 loss to Mark Hunt in Pride.

Kosaka gained fame in Japan for thrilling pro wrestling matches with the likes of Volk Han and Kiyoshi Tamura in the mid-90s, and later came to the UFC where wins over Kimo Leopoldo and Pete Williams led to his facing Bas Rutten in the semifinals of a tournament for the vacant heavyweight title. Kosaka was ahead early, but Rutten finished him at the 14:15 mark in a 1999 fight before UFC bouts were fought with rounds. Rutten ended up winning the tournament with a controversial decision over Kevin Randleman, and then retired due to injuries.

Known as "T.K.," Kosaka was best known in the U.S. at that time as part of "The Alliance," with Frank Shamrock and Maurice Smith, one of the best first MMA teams of the time. The idea was that each man had a specialty, Shamrock being catch wrestling, Smith being kickboxing and Kosaka being judo, and they would teach each other to be well-rounded fighters.

Early on, Kosaka was successful against some of the era's best fighters, going to a draw with Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, his controversial win over Emelianenko, losing a close decision to Randy Couture, and a thrilling loss to Rutten.

His win over Emelianenko was on Dec. 22, 2000, when in the opening seconds of the fight, he cut the Russian badly with an elbow, leading to the match being stopped in 17 seconds. The match was fought under RINGS rules, with elbows being illegal, so the result should have been either a no contest or disqualification. However, it was in a tournament, and with Emelianenko being unable to continue in the tournament (ironically, his next opponent would have been Couture), Kosaka was instead ruled the winner.

Emelianenko defeated Kosaka in a rematch when the doctor stopped the fight after the end of the ten minute first round on the April 3, 2005, Pride show.

Kosaka was one of a number of people considered for Emelianenko. The match was reported by Inside MMA, but Japanese sources after the announcement said Kosaka was only of many up for consideration, including other aging pro wrestlers and a giant sumo from Estonia, Baruto Kaido, who is well known by the Japanese general public.

Thompson, 36, best known for his exploding ear in a 2008 fight with Kimbo Slice, headlined the first MMA show on U.S. network television. He most recently lost to Bobby Lashley in 54 seconds on the Nov. 6 Bellator show in St. Louis, where he appeared to suffer a knee injury on the first takedown.

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