During a press conference held in Tokyo over the weekend, ONE Championship announced four blockbuster match-ups for their upcoming ONE: Century card in Japan on October 13.
The fights confirmed will all pit one Japanese promotion vs. another as four Pancrase champions will face four Shooto title-holders in what is sure to be a few can’t-miss fights showcasing some of Japan’s finest.
After recently taking out the legendary Mitsuhisa Sunabe to become the Pancrase strawweight champion, Daichi Kitakata (20-8-1, 2NC) will face yet another world-class fighter in the form of Yosuke Saruta (19-9-3), Shooto’s strawweight king.
Kitakata is riding a five-fight win streak since losing to Sunabe in a title-challenge back in 2016. This current streak includes finishes over Ryo Hatta, Hiroaki Ijima, and, of course, the fifth-round finish over Sunabe to capture the King of Pancrase title last month.
Daichi Kitakata had this to say regarding the match-up.
“I am happy to be able to fight against a former ONE champ in Saruta. Even more so to do it in a wonderful organization like ONE. While the event itself is attracting attention, I think this fight, me vs. Saruta, can attract even more attention and excitement. His balance of mental, while still being technical, is suitable for a former world champion. It’s not all about being technical, though, I think. I believe I am stronger in fighting.”
Yosuke “Tobizaru” Saruta has been on quite the journey these past few years. Winning the Shooto strawweight championship with a fourth-round knockout in 2017, Saruta promptly moved up a division and dominated the veteran Kiyotaka Shimizu three months later. Dropping to strawweight yet again in May of 2018 to defend his title with a third-round knockout, Saruta would test the waters at flyweight once more last July, losing to Takumi Tamaru due to a nasty cut stoppage.
He joined ONE Championship in late 2018 and defeated former champ Alex Silva before defeating Joshua Pacio to become the ONE strawweight champion in January. After the split decision win, Pacio was given a rematch. “The Passion” knocked out “Tobizaru” to reclaim the gold back in April.
Now, still Shooto strawweight champion, Saruta had this to say regarding his ONE: Century inclusion.
“Kitakata is the most powerful fighter in the strawweight division, so I am honored to fight him. It’s a fight, it’s hard to get ‘excited’ for a fight. It’s hard to be energetic knowing I am someone’s opponent. But I love the competition. We can use this ONE stage to show the world what Pancrase and Shooto are about. I want to make it fun and show the world just how strong Japan can be. I watched him beat Sunabe on AbemaTV. Wow. I have nothing to lose, as I feel all of the momentum is on with him.”
Rafael Silva (31-6) of Astra Fight Team is the current bantamweight King of Pancrase and one of the most formidable grapplers in MMA. The Bellator veteran has won nine of his last ten bouts. Following a loss to then-champion Shintaro Ishiwatari in 2017, Silva dominated former ONE tournament champ Masakatsu Ueda to become Pancrase’s interim bantamweight champion. In early 2019 when longtime champion Ishiwatari vacated his title to focus on RIZIN, Silva promptly submitted Kenta Takizawa in one round to become the new world champion.
Last month, “Morcego” defended his King of Pancrase title by thwarting the knockout-artist Yuto Hokamura with an arm-triangle in round two. It is also worth mentioning that Silva holds wins over DEEP champ Victor Henry and former UFC fighter & current ONE bantamweight John Lineker.
Opposite the Brazilian grappler; Shooto champ Shoko Sato (33-16-3, 1NC) out of Sakaguchi Dojo.
The Japanese striker earned his shot at vacant gold back in 2017 when he knocked out UFC veteran Reuben Duran. Three months later, Sato returned and won the Shooto bantamweight title with a unanimous decision win over Keita Ishibashi. Since losing in non-title action in January of 2018, the Shooto ace has been red-hot.
Following two Shooto title defenses in 2017, Sato signed with ONE Championship to debut in May of 2019, where he would finish two-time ONE Warrior Series winner Mark Abelardo. Last month Sato returned to Shooto to defend his title once more with a scintillating first-round knockout.
As a former longtime Pancrase fighter himself, Shoko Sato had this to say regarding his massive ONE: Century inter-promotional clash.
“I believe Rafael Silva is my strongest and toughest opponent ever. As a Shooto champion, I am very excited to compete with a Pancrase champion at the ONE: Century tournament. I originally fought in Pancrase, so I have a strong feeling of familiarity when it comes to potential fights with the champions from over there.”
A 34-year-old representative of ALIVE, Pancrase lightweight king Takasuke Kume (22-6-3) has done exceptionally well in his past seven fights – all under the Pancrase banner. Challenging for the title in 2016, Kume grounded and pounded Kazuki Tokudome for the quick and ultra-impressive round one win.
“Da Jaguar” won a non-title fight a few months later before rematching former champ Tokudome in December of 2017. Despite heading into the bout riding a two-fight win streak, Tokudome was once again finished quickly by Kume, but this time it was the striking of Kume that upended Tokudome.
Last year Kume competed in non-title action and was stopped by Anton Kuivanen. Still champion, Takasuke Kume returned in April of this year and submitted the heavy-handed Tom Santos with a slick triangle choke to retain his gold. At ONE: Century, “Da Jaguar” faces Shooto champ Koshi Matsumoto. Here is what the Pancrase rep had to say on his inclusion.
“Matsumoto is a great fighter. We have prepared for the opportunity to face the champion of a great organization called Shooto, so we want to take him out, showcase all the strength that comes with being a proud Pancrase champion.”
At 36-years-old, Koshi Matsumoto (20-8-2) may be in the best form of his career.
Fighting out of Master Japan, “Luxor” is currently the #1 lightweight in Japan according to Tapology, and he has the hardware to prove it in the form of the Shooto lightweight title. Winning the championship in 2016 at a Mobstyles event to cap off a seven-fight unbeaten streak, Matsumoto’s only losses since have come outside of Shooto.
Following a Vale Tudo Japan loss to Efrain Escudero, “Luxor” returned to Shooto and won three-straight. This includes a devastating first-round knockout against Yuki Okano to defend his lightweight title. In 2018, Matsumoto was knocked out by Daron Cruickshank at RIZIN 11.
Following a 1-1-1 run in Quintet earlier this year, Koshi Matsumoto returned to defend his Shooto crown against Naoyuki Kotani with a barrage of knees and punches back in May. Proudly repping Shooto, “Luxor” had this to say regarding his upcoming ONE: Century match.
“I want to make a name in history by beating a strong fighter such as Kume. Of course, in my mind, I can’t lose to these top, top guys. I want to make Shooto fans proud of the results here when I face off against a strong Pancrase fighter. I practiced with Kume several years ago. He came across as a gorilla — a gentle gorilla. With the win money, I will buy a new bike. Honda’s CRF50 Rally. I go to practice on a motorcycle, so this is self-investment.”
Last, but certainly not least, Hiroyuki Tetsuka (7-3) will represent Pancrase as the promotion’s current interim welterweight champion when he faces Hernani Perpetuo (20-7, 1NC) of Brazil.
Tetsuka has won three straight since losing to Glaico Franca in 2018, this includes most recently defeating Kenta Takagi to win interim gold. Since losing a narrow split decision to Franca last year, the Brazilian has gone on to win the vacant welterweight King of Pancrase title following a first-round submission win against Takashi Sato late last year.
Since winning the title, Franca has been competing in Professional Fighters League’s second season, and he is now 2-0 in the organization and one of the top-ranked fighters in his division heading into the PFL Playoffs. Tetsuka, however, has remained in Pancrase and is looking for his Franca rematch.
But first, “Last Samurai” will head to ONE Championship to face a UFC veteran in the form of Hernani Perpetuo.
Hernani Perpetuo is the lone fighter in these four bouts who is not actually a champion currently. But he does, however, still, represent Shooto. Just not Shooto Japan like everyone else on ‘Team Shooto’ that has been mentioned so far, as the 34-year-old finisher is currently competing in Shooto Brasil.
In his last outing back in December, Perpetuo submitted Marcao Santana with a quick omoplata in the Shooto Brasil 89 co-main event. Prior to his two-fight UFC run in 2014 that saw him drop back-to-back fights by way of decision, Perpetuo was a highly-touted prospect out of Brazil as he, at the time, was the current Shooto Brasil welterweight champion.
ONE: Century goes down on October 13, live from the Ryogoku Kokugikan in Tokyo, Japan. The card is stacked with talent. From Angela Lee and Aung La Nsang to Eddie Alvarez and Demetrious Johnson, this can’t be missed! Especially with the addition of four fantastic title vs. title bouts.
Check out more details and photos of the announcement press conference courtesy of the always fantastic Bout Review.