Isao Kobayashi will be defending his featherweight title at Pancrase 321 on Sunday. The 32 year old takes on Taichi Nakajima and is looking for a stoppage after going the distance in his last three fights,

“I want to show my skill and power has improved in this fight. I want to show an even higher level this time.”

At Pancrase 316 he scored a decision win over Akira Okada. Kobayashi admits he would have liked to have finished that fight,

“At that time, there were a number of moments I thought I could get the finish, so I have a little regret. But, I came away with a solid win, so I thought it was good.”

Keisuke Takazawa / MMA Planet

Very tenacious

Kobayashi might have anticipated a title fight with UFC veteran Yoshinori Horie. But the touted featherweight prospect was surprisingly beaten by Nakajima at Pancrase 318.

As a result it is Nakajima who challenges for the belt and Kobayashi describes the Pancrase veteran as ‘tenacious’,

“My impression is he’s very tenacious. I think he fights with a lot of heart. I’m sure he’ll bring a lot of action.”

Pancrase has been on a hiatus due to Covid-19 and this is the first event of 2021. As the headliner Koabayashi feels under pressure to put on a performance for the returning fans,

“I don’t know if it’ll be over quick or go to a decision, but this is the first Pancrase show of the year, so even with the Covid situation I want to show a lot of action, create a buzz and take the win. I have to take each exchange at a time, keep things tight without making any mistakes, and if I find the opportunity, stop him in his tracks.”

Keisuze Takazawa / MMA Planet

Impressive accomplishments

Kobayashi is a few months younger than Nakajima but his list of accomplishments is impressive. He became lightweight King of Pancrase in 2012 and went on to win the promotion’s featherweight belt in 2019.

Kobayashi has beaten the likes of Koji Oishi, Kazuki Tokudome, Kuniyoshi Hironaka, Takeshi Inoue, Marlon Sandro, Yutaka Saito, Hiroyuki Takaya, Yusuke Kasuya and Koyomi Matsushima. These are some of the best featherweights and lightweights Japan has produced in the last decade.

Many of them have long since retired and Kobayashi could be heading down the same road. But he is riding a five fight winning streak and when he does walk away from the sport he is determined to do so with the Pancrase title around his waist,

“I just have to mix it up and show everything I have. I want to take a clear win and keep the belt until I retire.”