Juntaro Ushiku defended his  featherweight title with a split decision win over Koya Kanda at Deep 105 in Tokyo on Sunday. The 26 year old is enjoying a landmark year, having snapped up the Rizin belt from  Yutaka Saito with a second round TKO at Rizin 31 in October.

Following those fireworks in the capital, Ushiku’s triumph over Kanda was a much closer affair. The challenger has also competed in Rizin but was knocked out by Tetsuya Seki at Rizin 22.

Aside from that occasion, Kanda has spent his entire pro career competing in Deep. He recovered well from the Seki setback, and put together three straight victories to earn himself a title shot.

Aggressive start

The Chiba native started aggressively and unleashed the right hook. Ushiku marched forward with an overhand left. With both fighters up against the cage, Kanda went to work with the knees. Each man then resorted to low kicks before Ushiku connected with the right hook.

The champion began to find his range and was landing punches on the inside. Kanda responded by switching stances and let go with some body kicks before returning to orthodox to throw the high kick. Ushiku finished the round strongly and landing punches while Kanda responded with knees and elbows.

Ushiku resorted to the overhand left in the second round and followed up with the jab. Kanda continued to find a home for some solid knees which he used to fake a set up a left cross. Kanda then cracked the champion with a left low kick and a right jab. Kanda landed the right jab and the left cross. He followed with a right hook as he drove the champion into the cage.

Good work

The 25 year old then did more good work with the knees only for Ushiku to return the favour. Kanda replied using hooks from both sides and did well to resist the takedown attempts from Ushiku.

Ushiku, continued to edge the battle and capitalised on a Kanda knee in the third round to secure the takedown and land in top position. Both fighters looked to attack with knees when they found their feet while Ushiku did well to keep Kanda at range using the jab.

The ‘Fighting Bull’ then threw the right low kick following by a body kick. His opponent reacted with a left kick to the body and a right kick but it was too late to turn the tide.

Four out of five judges scored the fight in favour of the champion as he completed the second defence of his title and extended his record to 21-8-1. Kanda slips to 8-4.

Deep 105, Tokyo, 12th December
Juntaro Ushiku def Kouya Kanda via split decision (For featherweight title)
Tatsuya Mizuno def Seigo Mizuguchi via TKO
Sho Kogane def Yuta Watanabe via split decision
Koichi Ishizuka def Kunihisa Sasa via submission
Tetsuya Seki def Ayumu Yamamoto via submission
Kosuke Terashima def Ryuki Kaneda via submission
Ryo Sakai def Keisuke Nakamura via TKO
Yukinori Akazawa def Taisei Sekino via unanimous decision
Ryosuke Honda def Takahiro Komakine via KO
Hiroya Kondo def Junya Hibino via unanimous decision
Hanbyo Oniyama def Taisei Nishitani via unanimous decision