Around this time last year, the future of all Japanese female MMA fighters was uncertain.
After G-Shooto disappeared before anyone noticed it, and K-Grace, the cage tournament for women never followed up with another show, in fact failed to pay some fighters a tournament winning bonus, and Smack Girl folded.
It was the biggest blow in for Japan’s women’s MMA because Smack Girl was the only consistent promotion that lasted for over six years.
From where the industry was just a year ago, its fair to say no one has expected JEWELS to actually sell out a show.
Sure the venue is small. Three hundred plus seats but where else in the world today, can the promoter actually sell out all tickets with only female MMA fighters on the bill?
JEWELS is the new women’s MMA promotion that sort of succeeded Smack Girl. Well, to be precise, when Smack Girl announced its end, one of the fans, the president of the event planning and promotion company Marvelous Japan, Inc., raised his hand, to take over its operation. And with full cooperation of DEEP, meaning the actual matchmaking and operation are in place by old Smack Girl and DEEP personnel, JEWELS is doing better than expected.
From the very first show, they put two top up and coming fighters, Mika Nagano and Saori Ishioka, to fight for the "new heroine" spot of the promotion. They marketed the match as a battle between two beautiful combatants striving for the next stardom. Then at the same time, JEWELS put none other than undefeated Megumi Fujii in the line-up.
This way, the fans can hope, maybe some day, one of these two hot youngsters would challenge the invincible "Mega Megu".
In this first show, Saori came on the top, and after taking out Hanako Kobayashi with a TKO in the second JEWELS show, she started talking "Fujii".
Meanwhile JEWELS never stopped promoting. They frequently held events such as autograph sessions with fighters or press conference at cafes.
Therefore the stage was set for the showdown, just as the promoter hoped for.
The additional small pleasant surprise was that both Megumi and Saori wanted to do a full MMA rules bout where JEWLES official rules prohibit striking to the head on the ground, and JEWELS officials actually accepted their wish to make this fight a special full MMA rules bout.
Top female athletes deserves to be treated the same as top male athletes.
At first they seemed to be persistent on their official rules but perhaps it was a misperception.
For Saori, a fighter with no prior experience in a full MMA rules bout, to take on a 17-0 Megumi, seemed a bit lopsided but from the first round, the striker from Zendo-kai Karate proved that record can be deceiving.
Right off the start Saori went up for a flying knee. A calm Megumi stepped away and from the southpaw stance immediately began throwing left straight punches to get into her own pace. After a couple powerful shots Megumi clinched then trying to take it to the ground but Saori held on and landed knee shots to the body.
But Megumi never stopped attacking. She kept her pace with left straights.
Saori tried to counter with right straights of her own but Megumi came back with a powerful right hook, left low kick, and another right hook to Saori’s chin.
Megumi took Saori down then after throwing a few pounding shots from the half mount. She then easily moved to the mount position. After dropping heavy fist to Saori’s face, Megumi went for an armbar.
Everyone at Shin Kiba 1st Ring though that was it was over but somehow Saori escaped and came out on top, finally dropping a couple of her fists to Megumi’s face.
From her full guard, she easily reversed the position, came on the top and dropped power punches to Saori’s head.
In the second round, Saori attacked first. She landed sharp inside low kicks. Megumi shot in for a single leg but Saori sprawled out and then followed with a couple solid inside low kicks followed by a right straight that squarely landed on Megumi’s face. Megumi’s head went backward, but the undefeated warrior from team AACC came back with a right hook. Saori stepped in with a left upper cut but Megumi countered with a left straight to the face. From there both exchanged punches and leg kicks, but finally Megumi clinches, pushing Saori to the ropes, then taking it to the ground with a double leg.
From there, it was all Megumi. She got into a mount position in a matter of seconds. Dropped powerful punches, locked Saori’s arm, and went for an armbar.
Saori got up for a while and tried to shake it off but Megumi repositioned herself and that was it. Saori had no way out but to tap.
After the fight Ishioka was in tears but she is only 22 years old and she did better than most fighters did against "Mega Megu". On the other side, Megumi, after the fight told the reporters, "I felt that Ishioka trained hard for this fight because she wanted to achieve a ‘generation change’. I actually want young fighters to achieve that but at the same time I don’t want to lose so I gave everything I had. Now I understand the strength of Ishioka, and I thought rules allowing ground n pound (meaning full MMA rules) are thrilling and I must do it. From now I want to see everyone bringing up their level and do rules allowing ground n pound.
At the weight class of 115 lbs and under, still Japan has the deepest talents in women’s MMA and since JEWELS has Megumi who is undoubtedly the best in the world at this weight class so it make sense for JEWELS to build the show around her and around this weight class.
And with the event promoting skill of Marvelos Japan and MMA knowledge of the old Smack Girl staff and DEEP personnel, maybe the future of women’s MMA is now brighter than ever.
Saturay, July 11th, 2009
At Shin-Kiba 1st Ring, Tokyo, Japan
Megumi Fujii (Japan / AACC) vs. Saori Ishioka (Japan / Karate do Zendo-kai Koganei Dojo)
Winner: 2R 4’17" Megumi Fujii by Submission (armbar)
Rena (Japan / Oikawa Dojo) vs. Tomoko SP (Japan / WSR Fairtex Gym)
Winner: 3R Lena by Decision (30-26, 30-27, 30-26)
Hitomi Akano (Japan / AACC) vs. Miki Morifuji (Japan / T-BLOOD)
Winner: 2R 4’17" by Hitomi Akano by Submission (straight armbar)
Mika Nagano (Japan / S-KEEP / CORE) vs. Rina Tomita (Japan / AACC)
Winner: 2R 3’05" Mika Nagano by Submission (armbar)
Shizuka Sugiyama (Japan / Karatedo Zendo-kai Yokohama branch) vs. HARI (Japan / Age Age)
Winner: 2R 5’00" Shizuka Sugiyama by Decision (unanimous)
Yukiko Seki (Japan / Freelance) vs. Asami Kodera (Japan / REDIPS)
Winner: 1R 4’47" Asami Kodera by Submission (armbar)
Mutsumi Kasai (Japan / Paraestra Tokyo) vs. Serina (Norway / Team Hellboy Hansen)
Winner: 1R 3’06" Mutsumi Kasai by Submission (kimura)
HARUMI (Japan / Age Age) vs. Hiroko Kitamura (Japan / Karatedo Zendokai Koganei Dojo)
Winner: 1R 3’51" Hiroko Kitamura by Submission (triangle choke)
2nd Match – Amateur Rules 52 kg & Under Bout 5 min / 1R
Ayuka Hamazaki (Japan / AACC) vs/ Miyoko Kousaka (Japan / GRABAKA Jiu-jitsu Club)
Winner: 1R 1’07" Ayuka Hamazaki by Technical Submission (armbar)
1st Match – Amateur Rules 54 kg & Under Bout 5 min / 1R
Emi Murata (Japan / AACC) vs. Yuko Kagoshima (Japan / Shinagawa CS)
Winner: 1R 0"53" Yuko Kagoshima by TKO (punches)
PIC 1: When the invincible Megumi "Mega Megu" Fujii makes the entrance, the fans’ voltage went up to the maximum level.
PIC 2: The young hot stock Karate-ka out of Zendo-kai added a colorful touch to her walk-in with kids from her school.
PIC 3: Megumi Fujii (left) dictated the pace early with this powerful left straight.
PIC 4: On the ground it was all Megumi. She had no trouble taking the mount position and landed series of punches. Saori’s head bounced off the canvas more than few times.
PIC 5: Once Megumi locked her armbar it was all over.
PIC 6: Megumi Fujii extended her unbeaten winning streak to 18. And she finished 15 of them including Saori.