Isao Kobayashi had to endure an absolute war for five rounds against Nazareno Malegarie to become the undisputed featherweight King of Pancrase in the main event at Pancrase 305 on Sunday.
It was a back and forth battle throughout all 25 minutes in Tokyo with Kobayashi and Malegarie trading shots in every round and ultimately fighting to the final bell.
In the early going, Kobayashi set a methodical pace with a series of kicks to Malegarie’s legs as he attempted to chop down the Argentinean in an attempt to slow him down in the latter rounds.
Malegarie refused to back down as he consistently fired back with shots to the head and body while doing his best trying to avoid any more of those thudding leg kicks.
In the second round, Malegarie got a little more aggressive with his striking attacks as opposed to the first five minutes where he seemed to be countering Kobayashi.
Malegarie was definitely looking to land his powerful left hand, often ending his combinations with that punch either clipping Kobayashi or coming just short from connecting.
Thanks to open scoring in Pancrase, we knew the fighters were tied up at a round a piece going into the third and that brought out a little more urgency in Kobayashi as he began pressing forward, looking for the takedown and then working from the clinch.
Kobayashi looked to slow down Melagarie by cutting off the cage and then stepping forward with his combinations. Still, Melagarie held his own by unleashing powerful punches every time that Kobayashi got a little too comfortable with his attacks.
As the fighters continued trading shots it was Melagarie who was connecting with more consistency with Kobayashi trying to find a home for his best strikes.
After taking the third round on the judges’ scorecards, Melagarie was up going into the championship rounds, which meant Kobayashi knew he had to secure the fourth or get the finish to ensure he would still have a chance to go home with the championship title around his waist.
The urgency seemed to up the output from Kobayashi while Melagarie was slowing down just enough to allow his opponent to land with more power and volume over the five minute session.
Kobayashi got the nod from the judges in the fourth, which meant the title would be decided in the fifth and final round.
Both fighters left everything in the cage with Melagarie still throwing bombs while Kobayashi was a bit more reserved and accurate with his combinations. The Japanese fighter used rapid fire punches with the Argentinian dropping bombs with every shot he threw in response.
As time began running out, Kobayashi’s work rate was higher with Melagarie reacting more than putting together his own offensive flurries, which obviously played a part in the final decision that was rendered from the judges.
Kobayashi continued to batter the legs with less than two minutes remaining and the wince on Melagarie’s face was unmistakable as the fight began to slip away him.
When the final horn sounded, the judges gave the fifth round to Kobayashi, which meant he did enough to earn the victory as he becomes the new undisputed featherweight King of Pancrase.
The win for Kobayashi could also earn him an opportunity in ONE Championship after Pancrase inked a partnership with the Singapore based promotion earlier this year. He improves to 24-5-4 while Melagerie drops to 33-6-1.
There is also a potential rematch looming for Kobayashi with Kyle Aguon, who defeated the newly crowned featherweight King of Pancrase by split decision last August.
In the co-main event, Toru Ogawa (11-7) put on an impressive performance to earn a unanimous decision victory against former flyweight champion Mamoru Yamaguchi (31-13-5) after three rounds.
Ogawa was lightning quick on his feet as the flyweight continuously danced around Yamaguchi before leaping forward with his fast striking combinations.
Yamaguchi struggled to deal with the speed and accuracy of his opponent as he was constantly attempting to counter strike yet never really finding a home for any of his best punches.
Ogawa was able to pepper away at Yamaguchi over the course of three rounds to get the job done while also bouncing back from a devastating knockout loss in his last fight against Masatatsu Ueda.
In a trilogy battle of Pride legends, Yuki Kondo (60-35-9) outworked Akihiro Gono (36-24-8) over three rounds to get a unanimous decision victory in their fight on the undercard.
Kondo showed off his signature kicking game that just chipped away at Gono over the course of the fight and by the end it was clear that the Japanese icon had done more than enough to secure his 60th professional victory.
The fight also wrapped up a trio of battles between Kondo and Gono that started all the way back in 2001.
Pancrase 305, Tokyo, May 26th
Isao Kobayashi def. Nazareno Malegarie via Decision (Unanimous) (Unifies Featherweight Titles)
Toru Ogawa def. Mamoru Yamaguchi via Decision (Unanimous)
Kazumasa Majima def. Issei Tamura via Submission (Arm-Triangle Choke in R3
Yuki Kondo def. Akihiro Gono via Decision (Unanimous)
Yuta Miyazawa def. Takafumi Ato via Decision (Split)
Yuichi Ohashi def. Bakhytbek Duishobaev via KO (Punch) in R1
Chihaya Yoneyama def. Joey Crisostomo via TKO (Punches) in R2
Kazushi Sugiyama def. Yusuke Kawanago via KO (Punch) in R1
Joji Goto def. Seio Yamada via TKO (Punches) in R3
Kazuki Kasai def. Takuya Saito via Submission (Arm-Triangle Choke) in R3
Kiyoshiro Akasaki def. Yosuke Shimoda via KO (Punches) in R2
Kaneaki Watanabe def. Yasutaka Kato via KO (Punch) in R1