UFC launch new show ‘Road to UFC Japan’


The UFC is launching a new reality show this week “Road to UFC: Japan” which will pit eight Japanese featherweights against each other under the tutelage of Josh Barnett and Roy Nelson who will meet in Japan at UFC Fight Night on September 27th where the finale of this competition will also be competed. The show features a mixture of veterans of Japanese MMA and younger prospects.

The show debuted on Japanese television today and will premiere on UFC Fight Pass on Friday 10th July. Let’s get to know the contestants a little better.

Mizuto Hirota 17-7-1

Hirota first came to the spotlight in MMA when he was grotesquely submitted by Shinya Aoki on New Year’s Eve 2009 and Aoki then went on to flip him off while Hirota clutched his broken arm in agony. A Strikeforce and UFC run eventually followed but Hirota was unsuccessful and lost decisions to Pat Healy, Rani Yahya and Rodrigo Damm. He won three straight fights in 2014 to get his career back on track. At 34 this will probably be his last chance to get back to the big time. He is a striker with good power and a good chin. He has decent takedown defence and a good ground game but it is not impenetrable. His experience will be his biggest advantage in this tournament.

Akiyo Nishiura 13-8-1

The man nicknamed “Wicky” is a long-time fixture in Japanese MMA having competed in Shooto and Dream amongst others where he stood out due to his bright pink hair and pink trunks. A decision loss to Caol Uno forced him out of the sport for two years but he has two wins in three fights since his return. Wicky is an incredibly aggressive striker and he loves to lunge forward with a winging right hook and it has led to some impressive KO victories. He also utilizes a lightening quick left high kick.

Hiroto Uesako 8-5

Uesako has competed in Deep for the last few years of his career and he has nine victories in his last 10 fights. He is a patient striker, utilizing lateral movement and lots of feints to set up his quick and accurate punches. He has stopping power in his right hand but is not much of a power puncher. He also competed in Greco-Roman wrestling in college so is quite well rounded.

Teruto Ishihara 7-2-1

“Yashabo” is the youngest competitor on the show and he recently spent time with Team Alpha Male in a bid to improve his game. He has since helped to build Team Alpha Male Japan which has UFC fighter Michinori Tanaka as its most high profile fighter right now. Yashabo is a powerful striker, with all his wins bar one coming via TKO/KO and spending time with Team Alpha Male will certainly help to round out the rest of his game.

Nobumitsu Osawa 8-3

Aptly nicknamed “Tyson” due to his muscular frame and aggressive fighting style Osawa saw a five fight win streak stopped in his last outing, where he dropped the Shooto 155lbs belt to Koshi Matsumoto. He loves to wade into the pocket with wide hooks and his relentless quest for KOs has endeared him to Japanese fans. He was a bodybuilder before transitioning to MMA and often poses for the fans in various styles as he makes his way to the ring.

Tatsuya Ando 3-0

Ando is the least experienced fighter in the field but is one of the most exciting prospects in Japan right now. Ando trains at Tribe Tokyo along with Japanese MMA veterans such as Yuya Shirai, Ryo Chonan and Yasuhiro Urushitani. Ando was a star wrestler at collegiate level in Japan but will face a steep step up in competition against the experienced fighters on this show.

Tatsunao Nagakura 11-5

Nagakura is another knockout hunter with 8 of his 11 wins coming by way of strikes. He is a veteran of the Japanese scene and has fought all of his contests within the Deep organisation but at 31 years of age the time is most definitely now to make a run at the UFC. He has power in both hands and a good sprawl but the lack of an offensive wrestling game cost him against the UFC’s Doo Ho Choi when he was punished with punches for weak shots on the Korean.

Daiki Hata 17-9-7

Despite wrestling successfully in high school “DJ.taiki” has been more of a brawler in his MMA career and has become known for putting on exciting fights. In fact it has been his defensive wrestling which has caused most of his defeats. He has never been finished in MMA and all of his defeats have come by decision. Hata is unbeaten in nine fights so this opportunity has come at the perfect time for him, just when he is putting it all together.

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