Victor Henry stepped into enemy territory at Deep 88 and left with the bantamweight title around his waist.
The American fighter looked strong over all three rounds to get the better of Yuki Motoya to pull off the upset and win the championship in Tokyo on Saturday night.
From the moment the fight started, Henry was the aggressor as he was stalking Motoya around the cage and throwing multi-strike combinations in succession.
Henry did a great job keeping Motoya at a distance whenever he wanted to work his striking attacks as he peppered his opponent with numerous punches and several hard leg kicks throughout the opening round.
Hunting for the knockout
In return, Motoya seemed to be hunting for the knockout with every shot as he was only throwing one strike at a time when he was able to counter back against Henry’s offense.
Motoya changed up his strategy in the second round as he was able to latch onto a body lock in an attempt to get Henry to the ground but the CSW trained fighter resisted the takedown and eventually reversed positions.
As the fighters scrambled off the break, Henry uncorked a perfectly timed head kick that landed flush and sent Motoya crashing to the canvas as the crowd erupted from the surprising knockdown.
Henry jumped on top looking to get the finish but Motoya was able to regain his composure to survive the onslaught and continue in the fight. Henry spent the majority of the round hammering away at Motoya from his guard as he attempted to secure the stoppage.
Still, Motoya showed incredible heart making it to the third and final round where he was able to defend a takedown attempt from Henry and then landing on top for the first time all fight.
Motoya was able to methodically advance his position before moving into mount and constantly threatening to take Henry’s back but the American was able to stave off his attacks at every turn. With 30 seconds remaining, Motoya finally got Henry’s back as he first looked for the submission and then attempted the ground and pound finish but he wasn’t able to get the job done before the final bell.
When the scorecards returned, Henry earned the unanimous decision victory as he celebrated with the bantamweight title being awarded to him following a hard fought three round battle. His record improves to 17-4 while Motoya drops to 23-6.
In the co-main event, Haruo Ochi survived a late scare from Namiki Kawahara to retain his strawweight champion in his second title defense.
Through the first two rounds, Ochi maintained control with a strategy that involved taking the fight to the ground repeatedly while he stifled Kawahara’s potent striking attack.
Ochi was very proficient with his grappling game as he planted Kawahara on the ground several times in the first two rounds, always looking to advance his position while landing strikes to ensure his opponent was defending himself rather than trying to get back to his feet.
While Ochi was never able to do serious damage or wrap up a submission, he definitely maintained control throughout the first 10 minutes of the fight with Kawahara in desperation mode going into the final round.
Knowing that he had to get the finish, Kawahara came out swinging huge bombs at the strawweight champion looking to get the knockout and he nearly landed the shot to win him the title.
In a scramble, Kawahara blasted Ochi with a huge shot that sent him crashing to the canvas and immediately he was trying to grab onto a takedown while eating several stiff punches on the ground.
As hurt as he was by that exchange, Ochi still managed to keep his wits about him enough to take advantage of Kawahara’s aggression to eventually put him back down on the ground while he recovered.
From there it was all Ochi as he looked to press the action on the ground while advancing to take Kawahara’s back and nearly locking up a late choke before time ran out on him.
Still the mission was accomplished as Ochi (19-7) defeated Kawahara (5-2) by unanimous decision to retain his Deep strawweight title.
In the Megaton title fight further down the card, Roque Martinez picked up a first round finish against Ryo Sakai to move his record to 13-4-2 overall while also bouncing back from a loss to Mirko Cro Cop at Rizin 11 in his last appearance in Japan.
Martinez spent the majority of the fight chasing his opponent around the cage as Sakai was constantly on his bicycle trying to stay away from the power shots lurking just inches away.
Sakai did land a few combinations that clipped Martinez but no matter what he landed, it didn’t seem to slow down the hulking heavyweight in hot pursuit of him throughout the round.
Martinez kept coming forward with a giant smile on his face as he invited him Sakai to trade punches with him. Sakai tried his best to use a counter striking attack but he was seemingly more concerned about staying away from Martinez’s power than actually doing much damage of his own.
The end came in the final seconds of the opening round after Martinez was finally able to surge ahead and bring Sakai down to the ground. From there, Martinez (13-4) began hammering away at him with punches and elbows until the referee stepped in to save Sakai (8-9) just before the bell sounded.