After a grueling five-round battle in the main event of Pancrase 309 Japan’s Isao Kobayashi emerged victorious by the narrowest of margins. He beat Kyle Aguon by split decision to defend his featherweight title.

The 31-year-old champion from Osaki used a combination of relentless pressure and repeated takedown attempts to get the nod from two of the three judges at cageside.

Like in their initial meeting in August 2017, the pair engaged in a strategic, drawn-out encounter, This time Aguon displayed a new dimension to his evolving skillset by putting together dynamic combinations.

In an offensive clinic against his Japanese opponent, Aguon overwhelmed Kobayashi with punishing strikes from the get-go, blasting with rocking left hands and cracking kicks.

Patient approach

As Aguon consistently pressed for action for two rounds, Kobayashi proved in the third frame that he was not the same fighter that the Guamanian defeated two years ago. The more composed and tactical Japanese patiently took his time looking for his opportunity to attack.

Entering the championship rounds, the hometown hero looked to be more eager as the visiting challenger started to crawl his way back into the fight. He finally completed a takedown in the middle of the fourth stanza and even wobbled Aguon with a spinning backfist.

Kobayashi jolted forward with frenzied pressure towards the end of the bout, forcing Aguon to work off the back foot.

Crisp combination

While Aguon made a last-ditch effort to turn the tide, Kobayashi upped his intensity level and briefly stiffened his arch-nemesis with a crisp right-left combination, which caught him flush on the chin.

When the final bell rang, the judges were split in their decision. Ultimately, the victory was awarded to Kobayashi with the judges seeing it 49-46, 49-46 and 47-48 in his favour.

Kobayashu improved his win-loss standing to 25-5-4 and extended his winning roll to four fights. Meanwhile, Aguon’s record fell to 13-8 after a first loss in nearly two years.

Bantamweight challenger

In the co-main of the evening, Alan Yamaniha (16-8-4) eked out a unanimous decision to topple Takeshi Kasugai (25-7-1), earning the right to vie for Rafael Silva’s Bantamweight King Of Pancrase crown.

Both men put on an entertaining display of elite-level striking for the duration of the three-round bout and traded strikes with neither backing down. Yamaniha attacked with his myriad of wild punches right off the bat, while Kasugai preferred to rely on his counterpunching ability.

The second frame opened up with more action on the inside as Yamniha and Kasugai connected huge combinations from close range. With an attempt to change the complexion of the fight, the former shot for a takedown and almost secured the finish with a rear-naked choke.

Down two rounds on the scorecards entering the third and final round, Kasugai picked up the pace and applied pressure on Yamniha with the intention of picking up either a knockout or submission.

However, Yamniha was able to keep him at bay and landed an important takedown in the dying seconds of the frame, which was enough to earn the nod from all three judges.

Best of the rest

In other matches on the card, Tatiane Fontes (4-1) pulled off an upset win in his maiden Pancrase appearance, ending the four-fight winning streak of Yoko Higashi (4-2) by way of split decision.

Unperturbed by her foe’s hometown advantage, Fontes was relentless in her takedowns as she repeatedly grounded Higashi and controlled her on the mat.

Higashi had her moments as she put her Brazilian counterpart in some precarious situations, but in the end, it was Fontes who was hailed the winner by two of the three cageside judges after three exhausting rounds.

Former Welterweight King of Pancrase Hiromitsu Miura (13-7) made a triumphant return to active competition after his 27-month layoff, scoring a 68-second knockout victory over fellow veteran Gota Yamashita (14-9-1).

After sending Yamashita to the canvas with a hard right during the intense opening sequences of the contest, Miura followed up with a plethora of merciless punches on the ground to shut the lights off on his opponent.

The first finish of the evening came from Croatian welterweight Aleksandar Rakas (16-7), who made an astounding Pancrase debut by submitting Japan’s Kenta Takagi (17-18) in the second round with a rear-naked choke.

Pancrase 309, Tokyo, October 20th
Isao Kobayashi def. Kyle Aguon via Decision (Split) (Defends Pancrase Featherweight Title)
Alan Yamaniha def. Takeshi Kasugai via Decision (Unanimous)
Tatiane Fontes def. Yoko Higashi via Decision (Split)
Emiko Raika def. Anne Karoline via Decision (Split)
Hiromitsu Miura def. Gota Yamashita via KO (Punches) at 1:08 of round one
Aleksander Rakas def. Kenta Takagi via submission (Rear-Naked Choke) at 2:02 of round two
Shinichi Taira def, Ukyo Abe vvia Decision (Unanimous)
Teppei Suwabe def. Ryo Iseki via Decision (Split)
Jouou Date def. Toru Fujii via Decision (Unanimous)