Much has been made of the state of Japanese mixed martial arts, with many asserting that it’s dead, dying or just falling behind. Most every prospect, with the occasional exception, to have come west from the Land of the Rising Sun has faltered and turned in mixed results, looking somehow like a lesser version of themselves.
Shinya Aoki was touted as possibly the best lightweight in the world and was absolutely steamrolled by Gilbert Melendez when he challenged for the Californian’s Strikeforce title. Michihiro Omigawa followed suit, reentering the UFC this year and eating two straight decision losses. Aside from knocking out Tyson Griffin, Pride veteran Takanori Gomi has had a dismal UFC run, getting stopped in his three other Octagon outings.
Last night, highly-regarded featherweight prospect Hatsu Hioki made his UFC debut, taking on George Roop in a fight he was expected to dominate. Like so many times before in the cases of his peers, Hioki didn’t really live up to the hype. He was definitely in the fight and was eventually declared the winner by unanimous decision, but it was a very questionable verdict turned in by the judges and one that drew loud boos from the crowd.
Though he would have liked to put on a stronger showing as evidence, Hioki told the world last night that MMA is far from dead in his ravaged home country.
“Even though we are in a tough situation, Japanese MMA is not dead,” said Hioki. “It’s time to change.”