The female Japanese mma scene used to boast an impressive 115lb division, but as some of these fighters came into contact with significantly larger opponents abroad, a number of them have started cutting weight, not common in Japan, and moved down to 105. As a result, Deep Jewels can now boast an impressive 105 roster. Including fighters like Ham Seo Hee, Mei Yamaguchi, Saori Ishioka, Naho Sugiyama and now Ayaka Hamasaki.
Former 115 Champion, Ayaka Hamasaki will be returning to action after a year-long absence in which she had surgery and rehabilitation on her knee. Previously she had to use a lot of tape on her legs, but in her last fight with Claudia Gadelha she was told that she couldn't use any, so the decision to operate was made. Prior to her fight with Gadelha, Ayaka was undefeated and held impressive victories over Yuka Tsuji, Mizuki Inoue and Ham Seo Hee. It would be safe to assume that her fight with the significantly larger Claudia, who weighed 136lbs in her last fight, played a role in her decision to test out 105. Possessing a strong Judo base, Hamasaki's game plan usually involves taking her opponent down and getting in side-control. From side control she tries to trap an opponents arm or go for an armbar or the "Hama-lock".
Former 105 Champion, Naho Sugiyama looks to continue her resurgence with what would be the biggest win of her career. Sugirock, as she is called, ruled over the 105 division for a long time in Japan and defeated a lot of top talent but with other fighters moving down and new fighters coming, a lot of exiting fights for her have opened up. Stylistically, she prefers to circle around her opponents, throwing short punch combinations and low kicks. This is all to set up a takedown. She will time a double leg when an opponent gets too aggressive but most of her takedowns come from the clinch or from a successful sprawl. From there she has a number of submissions and gnp she likes to employ. It will be interesting to see if she can trip the Judoka to the ground or if she will prefer to strike with Ayaka, as she possesses the more diverse striking game.
Assuming that she is fully recovered, I would say that Hamasaki is the favorite going into this fight. She has more wins over top opponents at this point in her career. That being said, Sugirock hasn't been facing a bunch of slouches. This is a difficult fight to call and should be pretty exciting. The wildcard going into this fight is that it is only two rounds. Two round fights are completely different from three round fights and I for won can't stand them. Two round fights leave a lot of room for draws so hopefully these two decide to not leave it in the judges hands.
Name: Ayaka Hamasaki
Height: 5"2 (157cm)
Weight: 105 (47.6kg)
Pro Debut: 10/25/2009
Championship: Jewels 115lb Champion (12/17/2010-8/31/2013) Relinquished due to injuries
CJ: How's the knee? How is the rehab going?
AH: Rehab's going well, my knee's condition is really good.
|Pre-surgery Hamasaki with her taped knees|
CJ: Can you talk about your training schedule and where you've been training?
AH: My schedule changes depending on the day so it's always different. I only train at AACC, I don't go out to other gyms.
CJ: When we last spoke you said you wanted to fight at 115, what changed? Can you tell us your reasoning? Would you consider a UFC offer?
AH: I thought I was going to fight at 115 but then I thought that I'd like to test myself and see what 105 was like, so I asked them for a 105 fight. If an offer came from the UFC, I don't know what I'd do but I would like to challenge myself and see what it's like.
CJ: With a win would you like to fight for the title? Does the Invicta title interest you? What do you think about fighting Ham again?
AH: If I can, I'd like to get some titles. I don't really have a strong desire to fight Ham again. If I have the chance, I'd like to get the DJ title but my real aim is to get a belt in America. At that aim I cannot lose.
CJ: 105 is a very solid division. What fighters do you think of?
AH: I don't really know the names of a lot of fighters but I know that those 105ers abroad are at a really high level.
CJ: You're fighting the former 105 Champion, Sugirock, can you talk about that?
AH: I think that Sugirock is a very strong and exceptional fighter. Fighting a former champion like her gives me motivation. I think it's going to be a tough fight but I'm aiming for the KO or the Sub.
|Former Champions Hamasaki and Sugirock|
CJ: You're base is in Judo, can you talk about how you got involved with that?
AH: In high school I really went all out in Judo, but I wasn't all that strong.
AH: After being injured for a year, I'm really looking forward to my comeback but I'm also nervous, I'm going to do all I can to put on a good fight!
|Photo courtesy of LadyGo!|
Name: Naho Sugiyama
Height: 5"1 (154cm)
Weight: 105 (47.6kg)
Pro Debut: 10/24/2009
Championship: Jewels 105 Champion (12/17/2011-5/25/2013)
CJ: How did you get involved with MMA?
NS: On TV they were showing K-1 and there was an MMA fight with Caol Uno, from the moment that I saw it, I thought "Ah, I want to do this!" Deep down I wanted to do it, so it started out as a hobby at first. I turned pro sort of by accident (lol). It was a whole development, I don't know how the conversation got started but the next thing I knew I was lined up to fight for Valkyrie. The Valkyrie producer said that she had heard that i wanted to fight, but I didn't say that I wanted to or didn't want to fight, so I still don't know what happened.
CJ: Can you talk about your ring name "Sugirock"?
NS: My real name is Naho Sugiyama, but one of my sempai's/coaches was called Yoshirock T, so I received the "rock" from him.
|Yoshirock and Sugirock|
CJ: Between 2012 and 2013, you had a rough patch. You lost to Jessica Penne in the U.S then lost twice back afterwards. Since then you have rebounded and won 2 in a row. What happened?
NS: I lost in America, then I was defeated twice in Japan, after that I swept the slate clean and started training striking like it was day 1, I think that me winning my last 2 fights is a result of that.
CJ: Can you talk about your upcoming fight with Ayaka Hamasaki?
NS: It was really unexpected, it surprised me. She was the perfect champion and to be frank, I looked up to her a lot. She was the champion in the division above me, she's very balanced and I think she's going to be a really strong opponent.
However, I think there are areas of my game that are better, I'm going to win solidly, then I'm going to challenge Ham Seo Hee again for that belt she's holding.
|Former Champions Sugirock and Hamasaki|
CJ: Do you think you would like to fight state-side again?
NS: At this moment, I'm not really in a position to say that I want to fight in America again, I need to raise my abilities, when the time comes that I feel like I can attempt it, that's when I'l say i want to fight abroad.
NS: There are a number of fighters dropping from 115 to 105 and I think that fights with any of them would make me a better fighter, all I want to do is win soundly. I want to fight for that title one more time.
Don't forget to watch Deep Jewels 5 over the weekend on USTREAM
Naho Sugiyama's 2nd Pro Fight
Ayaka Hamasaki's American debut