Great Fights is a series aimed at newer MMA fans who are looking for recommendations on the sport's finest bouts.
Before his time in the UFC, before his Hall of Fame fight with Cub Swanson, fan favourite Doo Ho Choi was slugging it out in Japan under the DEEP banner. Riding a 10-1 record, his hype and popularity were starting to grow exponentially in Asia. At DEEP: Cage Impact 2013, he shared the cage with Shoji Maruyama - a Japanese MMA veteran. The two had been scheduled to fight in 2012 however the fight was cancelled due to undisclosed reasons.
Despite Shoji's popularity among hardcore JMMA fans, this main event revolved around The Korean Superboy - so much so that the event poster only highlighted him:
And so the first round started in front of a crowded Korakuen Hall in Tokyo. Shoji immediately pressed forward with little disregard for Choi's punching power. Despite the prodding calf kicks from Choi, Shoji was focused solely on head-hunting. His straight right hand was landing at ease and backing Choi up. Within seconds, Choi was up against the fence as Shoji lamped him with a picture-perfect right hook. The Korean prodigy was wobbled but, despite the pressure and adversity faced, he returned fire with an uppercut that rocked Shoji.
In less than a minute, they had earned one another's respect. This respect, however, wouldn't stop the ensuing brawl. As Shoji looked to initiate his forward pressure, Choi slipped the patented straight right and connected with a nasty check hook that sent Shoji straight to the canvas. Recovering quickly, Shoji returned to his feet and fired a head kick that caused Choi to lose his footing.
In what looked like a replay of the previous sequence, Shoji looked to land his right hand and Choi slipped it again with another right hook that sent the Japanese veteran crashing toward the canvas. Initiating a grappling sequence, Choi worked a front headlock in an attempt to control the energetic Shoji. No roar in the venue was louder than when Shoji managed to sweep Choi and reverse the position. Despite getting dropped twice in less than a minute, Shoji still had his wits about him and continued to hunt for the finish.
Realising that Shoji was likely a zombie, creature of the undead, or made of titanium, Choi started to invest in repetitive roundhouse kicks to the midsection in order to disrupt the pace of the fight and drain Shoji's cardio.
As the first round ended, everyone in attendance knew that they had just witnessed one of the wildest 5 minutes of fist-fighting. The man whom the card had been built around had been rocked, survived, and was starting to put a beating on his opponent.
The second round started similarly to the first as Shoji showed little sign of wear; he continued pressing forward with little regard for what was being thrown in return. When he managed to close the distance, he wrapped his hands around the back of Choi's neck and pummeled him with a brutal knee in the clinch. This sent Choi to the canvas. It just so happens that whatever Shoji was made out of, Choi was made of the exact same. Within seconds, he was back on his feet and trading strikes with his opponent.
Shoji managed to sneak in a takedown amidst the chaos on the feet. As he encountered issues passing Choi's guard, Shoji returned to his feet and stood over Choi looking for an opening. Just as he committed to dropping some ground-and-pound on Choi, the Korean Superboy caught him with a swift upkick that spelled the beginning of the end for a rattled and dazed Shoji.
As both men returned to their feet, Choi finally laid Shoji to rest. The same check right hook that dropped Shoji twice in the first round would seal his fate in the second. With one swift right hook and successive ground strikes, Choi put an end to the fight halfway through the round.
Shoji's resilience was a thing to behold but Choi proved in this fight that he had that same type of dog in him. It's no surprise that this same fighter would go on to be one half of a UFC Hall of Fame fight.
Shoji x Doo Ho Choi is one of the best fights you've never seen... and it's available to watch for free on DEEP's YouTube channel. You have no excuse.