Both fighters start off punching aggressive with the odd kick thrown in. Tokoro goes for a takedown but Saiga evades, twice. After a series of kick and punch exchanges, Saiga connects with a right cross that sends Tokoro back to the corner. Tokoro comes out of the corner and gets the takedown into a mount, but Saiga reverses into guard.
Saiga eventually stands and waves for Tokoro to get up. Saiga misses a spinning kick that goes over Tokoro’s head, and then Saiga connects on a high kick but Tokoro catches it and uses it to drag Saiga down. Saiga escapes to his feet once but Tokoro takes him right back down as Saiga’s wife is screaming loudly from the crowd, cheering her husband on. Tokoro locks on a rear-naked choke but he loses control of the body triangle. They both scramble, and roll around trying to lock submissions on each other. Nothing comes of it and they both stand up.
Saiga hits a strong left hook that sends Tokoro backwards but Tokoro rolls into a stunning kneebar. He tries for a calf slicer but goes back to the back-mount. With Saiga defending against the rear-naked choke, Tokoro looks for an armbar, finally locks one on and taps Saiga out.
After the match, Tokoro grabbed the microphone.
“Sorry I’ve been away everyone, but it’s me, Hideo Tokoro. Thank you all for coming out tonight. I am so happy to be a part of this event as Japanese MMA makes its comeback on the world stage, and also so happy that I was able to get through everything to be here standing like this right now. I also want to dedicate this fight to Tomoya Miyata who passed away 4 years. I am sorry it’s so late but this fight is for you Tomoya”.
An interview with Hideo Tokoro.
Please gives us your thoughts on this victory.
I’m just very happy. It’s been a while since I had a win, and on such an important, big stage, I’m extremely happy.
What are your thoughts on Saiga and his powerful counters and physical ability?
I’d say more than power, it’s his speed. Half way through the fight I was thinking to myself, “damn, this guy is fast”.
After the fight you dedicated the match to Tomoya Miyashita. Was that a spontaneous decision or did you plan to say it?
It was planned. The 31st of December is such a special day for us and even though it’s only the 29th, I wanted to say it. It reminds me of the “how are you!!!” Dream event from 2011 when he was there watching me.
An interview with Kizaemon Saiga
Looking back, how do you think the fight went?
It was the perfect experience.
Did you get a feeling that Tokoro’s fight experience was very high?
To be honest, I knew it would be like this. This is my third MMA fight, and 10 months between my last one. I trained as hard as I could for two months. I thought my newaza wasn’t good enough, but I actually surprised myself. I realized where my weak points lie, and I will take all this onboard for the next fight.
What do you think your weak points are?
Most of my fights are stand up, that’s one of my weak points. I don’t think about what my opponent is trying to do, I just go out and attack. I need to be more calm about things.
You appeared to focus more on your punches than your kicks?
No, not at all. I’m confident in my attacking ability, that’ll I’ll beat anyone. However, I think I do need to kick more because without my kicks, I was taken down. I need to create my own MMA style, one where I kick more when I attack.
We heard your wife scream a lot tonight?
I’m sorry about that. She’s always supporting me. I thought that was a fight I could have won, next time I want to do much better. The next fight will be quite different.
A lot of people are saying this was the best fight on the card.
I was able to fight the way I did because of Hideo Tokoro. However, I think if you watch me fight you’ll realize that I have aura. Even if other fights have the same fight as me, my fight will always be the best on the card.
Do you want to keep using stand up and MMA together when you fight next?
Martial arts is how I survive. I also want K1 to thrive, so if the conditions are right I’d also like to fight in K1. However, for martial arts to be able to keep me sustained, I must do MMA.