Saturday, March 17, 2007

Split-Draw for “BJ” and Urushitani

By Tony Loiseleur

TOKYO, Japan, March 16 — Anyone who has followed international mixed martial arts for long has most likely realized by now that draws happen often in Shooto.

Well, not just "often," but all the time, really.

Where many of us are used to definitive endings, where one fighter absolutely must score higher than his opponent, most of us are unaccustomed to the idea of two competitors being so evenly matched that a winner simply cannot be declared. How can draws still occur in our sport, today?

The answer is, perhaps, in that which makes Shooto so great: its exceptional ranking system, where the best are consistently matched up with the best. When the best draw with the best, as they often do in Shooto, it makes the idea of draws a little easier to swallow, let alone understand.

In their first encounter in late 2005, then Abe Ani Combat Club representative "BJ" Shinichi Kojima (Pictures) — still green and fresh off his Class A promotion — drew with Yasuhiro Urushitani (Pictures) of Wajutsu Keishukai RJW in a furious back-and-forth affair where both men left everything they had on the canvas. With almost a year and a half in which to further hone and perfect their skills, it was assumed that one would surely improve enough to outdo the other.

In their second encounter, however, despite their large strides over the past year and a half, both men were still too evenly matched to be put away by the other. If anything, tonight's bout proved to be a continuation of their first.

The first period began with both men trading cautious leg kicks with each other, gauging distance and testing the waters, before a right hook from Urushitani caused the champion to trip over his own feet while backpedaling. Kojima was quick to pop back up and chase Urushitani down with a flurry of left straights and right hooks.

Though all were avoided, Urushitani seemed to receive BJ's message and remained outside of the champion's range, tagging Kojima's lead right leg with inside leg kicks. From here, BJ was forced to push inward, engaging a counter-punching Urushitani who, for all intents and purposes, was racking up the points with his shots. Having been slightly edged out on the feet, Kojima pushed into the challenger's space to clinch and do damage there. It seemed too little, too late, however, as inactivity caused the referee to break them seconds before the bell.

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