Emi Fujino accomplished her mission to add her name to the long list of legendary Pancrase champions, and she did so courtesy of a dramatic late finish at the Shinkiba Studio Coast in Tokyo on Sunday.
Fujino submitted South Korean opponent Hyun Ji-Jang to capture the vacant strawweight title in the main event of Pancrase 311. The 39-year-old Aichi native started the contest aggressively and was on the front foot right from the opening bell.
She closed the distance at the start of the first round and forced her opponent to backpedal with a series of punches. Fujino switched things up midway through the first round by ducking under Jang’s punches to attempt a single-leg takedown against the cage.
She then switched to a body lock when the promotional newcomer stubbornly stayed on her feet. Disengaging from the tie-up, Fujino moved forward and unloaded some punches in the final seconds of the round, but she paid for her aggression when Jang elected to fight fire with fire.
Despite the strong finish by Jang in the opening round Fujino enacted the same game plan in the second stanza. She briefly latched on a standing guillotine choke, which was met by wild cheers from the partisan Tokyo crowd.
Fujino shifted gears in the third round. After landing significant strikes in the stand-up, she changed levels and shot for a takedown. On the canvas, the seasoned veteran grabbed her opponent’s back and locked in her hooks.
Jang desperately tried to defend every advance, but Fujino patiently bided her time for the perfect opportunity to slide her arms underneath the South Korean’s chin. The Japanese veteran eventually sunk in the rear-naked choke and forced the tap at the 3:30 of round three.
Fujino, who improved her professional standing to 25-11 with the title-clinching performance, was emotional when the referee finally stepped in to call a halt to the contest. It took her 15 years and four title shots across three promotions before she could finally call herself a champion.
The newly-minted Strawweight Queen Of Pancrase could only utter the words ‘thank you’ as she was reduced to tears in her post-fight interview.
On the other hand, Jang dropped to a 3-3 record and has lost her second-straight outing, failing in her bid to close out 2019 with a victory.
Best of the rest
In the co-main event, Saimon Oliveira (17-3) turned in a spectacular performance in his promotional debut, sending short-notice opponent Wataru Mimura (12-3-2) with his signature guillotine choke in 76 seconds
In other matches, Luthando Biko (7-2) outpointed Taiki Akiba (10-9-1) via unanimous decision with three 30-27 marks across the panel.
Meanwhile, Victor Hugo (20-4) left a lasting impression in his maiden Pancrase appearance, dominating Shinsuke Kamei (3-2) over the course of three rounds to score a unanimous decision.
Lastly, Ryuichi Miki (21-12-4) edged Masatatsu Ueda (16-5-2) in a flyweight thriller to walk away with the split decision win.