Great Fights is a series aimed at newer MMA fans who are looking for recommendations on the sport's finest bouts.
In 2018, Senzo Ikeda and Yuya Wakamatsu went to war in Tokyo under the Pancrase banner.
Ikeda, the King of Pancrase and a veteran of Japanese MMA, welcomed the young upstart Wakamatsu to the cage. Wakamatsu boasted a record of 9-1 with that one loss coming in his professional debut. He was riding a nine-fight winning streak with eight via knockout. The then 22-year-old was one of the hottest prospects in JMMA. Ikeda, on the other hand, was 35 with a patchy record of 11-6 and a Pancrase Flyweight championship to his name.
For all intents and purposes, Wakamatsu was to enter this fight and put a beating on Ikeda. What ensued was a slobber knocker, 23 minutes of pure chaos. A technical fight that very quickly descends into madness. The pendulum swung back and forth and back again.
Wakamatsu pressured Ikeda and had him on the back foot for the majority of the fight, landing at ease but often eating big shots in the clinch when he would try to close the distance. While Wakamatsu was heralded for his stopping power, Ikeda's boxing fundamentals kept him competitive in the striking department.
After a frantic 15 minutes, the bell rang for the 4th round to start. Wakamatsu was inches away from finishing the fight with a flurry up against the cage that had the referee hovering over the action. Ikeda had 30 seconds to prove his mettle and recover from getting dropped twice. Despite being dazed, he secured a clinch which allowed him to drain the final seconds on the clock for a 5th round.
Everyone thought Wakamatsu had broken him. But Wakamatsu had thrown everything but the kitchen sink at Ikeda and now faced five more minutes of pressure-fighting that he no longer had the cardio to uphold.
And so Ikeda, after looking down and out on his stool at the end of round 4, began to take over in the 5th and final round.
It's still this writer's favourite fight of 2018. I'll keep from spoiling the end result for those who haven't seen it. It's worth your time of day.
Here's a wicked side-by-side shot of Ikeda and Wakamatsu after the fight. Like something out of a movie:
UFC Fight Pass subscribers can watch the fight here: https://ufcfightpass.com/video/62460/senzo-ikeda-vs-yuya-wakamatsu-pancrase-293
NOTE: Some readers may be familiar with both fighters as they are now under the ONE Championship banner. Wakamatsu has fought Demetrious Johnson and most recently suffered defeat in his title fight against Adriano Moraes.