Keisuke Sasu squeezes past Ryoji Kudo to claim featherweight crown at Shooto 0725
‘Sasuke’ succeeds Yuki Kawana as the new king of the division after the 30-year-old gave up the belt following his departure to Rizin in 2020.
Sasu came into this fight in great form. The 26-year-old submitted Taison Naito at Shooto 0131 to make it six wins in a row.
Kudo had won his last seven and landed with a one-two in the first round but one of the best sequences of the fight came from Sasu who faked a jumping knee and landed with a right hook.
Having missed with a one-two combination of his own Sasu improvised brilliantly to score with a spinning back fist. His opponent was using the teep to good effect with both fighters utilizing a deluge of leg kicks throughout the contest.
In the second round, Kudo planted a right body kick and continued going to work with the inside leg kicks. Both fighters exchanged more powerful kicks to the lead leg as Sasu moved in to touch his opponent with the jab late on in the round.
In the third round Sasu shot for a takedown which he couldn’t complete but he soon found a home for the body kick. He continued his astute work with the calf kicks and showed good footwork with a step back hook although Kudo did score with a jab.
The low kicks were really beginning to pile up for Sasu as he followed up with a clean jab of his own. Then a big right hand, and a knee in the clinch.
A sweep from Sasu followed and another knee from close quarters. Kudo found his feet only to be pushed back down to the canvas. He retaliated with some heavy low kicks but was later caught with another solid jab.
Both fighters exchanged yet more low kicks in the fourth with Kudo laser focused on the lead leg. Perhaps sensing he was down on the scorecards, Kudo attempted to put his combinations together and go upstairs.
Sasu landed an overhand right and a snapping leg kick. Kudo bagged a sweet counter right hand, but began moving slightly gingerly after being cracked to the calf for the umpteenth time.
Kudo continued to touch the lead leg in the final round but was caught with a right hand. Anticipating Kudo’s favourite method of attack, Sasu was then able to grab the lead leg and complete the takedown.
Kudo went back to attacking with low kicks and landed several on the calf. He caught Sasu with a right hand in the latter stages but overall, failed to do any real damage and it was a surprise to hear one of the three judges had scored the fight a draw.
It was mature and methodical work from Sasu who ultimately prevailed by way of majority decision with the other two judges seeing it in his favour. He’s spoken in the past about his desire to sign with the UFC and has certainly made a compelling case with seven straight wins.
Sasu is the new Shooto featherweight champion and his record climbs to 9-1-1. Kudo slips to 10-2-1 after losing for the first time sine 2018.