Name: “Wicky” Akiyo Nishiura Professional Record: 9-3-1 Notable Wins: Hideki Kadowaki, Jong Man Kim and Fanjin Son
Colorful and brash are some of the words that best describe “Wicky” Akiyo Nishiura, who fi rst caught the attention of mixed martial arts fans around the world after becoming the Shooto 2006 Rookie Lightweight Champion. Besides becoming the rookie champion, Nishiura was also named Shooto 2006 Rookie MVP, honored him as the best fi ghter out of all seven Shooto weight classes. After winning the fi nals of the Lightweight division, Nishiura made his Class-A debut, losing a decision to future champion Akitoshi Tamura.
Nishiura then returned a few months later, facing off with another future champion in Hideki Kadowaki. It was a backand- forth fi ght with Nishiura landing a multitude of strikes on the feet and Kadowaki outclassing Nishiura on the ground with some slick grappling. When all was said and done, Nishiura had landed enough effective strikes on the feet to win a razor thin split decision.
Nishiura would then make his U.S. debut later in the year, taking on Southern California fi ghter Joe Camacho, even moving up in weight to get a chance to fi ght in the United States. The two fi ghters fought an evenly matched fi ght, the end resulting in a disappointing draw.
Nishiura’s big break would come in 2008 as he entered the Cage Force Featherweight tournament in hopes of winning it all and getting a call to one of the big shows. He started the tournament in impressive fashion, knocking out one of the best Korean fi ghters in Jong Man Kim, who holds victories over Atsushi Yamamoto and Hatsu Hioki. “Wicky” would then return to his old stomping grounds of Shooto, stopping Matteus Lahdesmaki with strikes late in their fi ght at Shooto Tradition 2. Next up for Nishiura would be the semi-fi nals of the Cage Force tournament, where he would win a decision over Fanjin Son after outstriking him on the feet with crisp and powerful combination, earning a berth into the tournament fi nals.
In the fi nal he would meet Pancrase veteran Yuji Hoshino, who also had an impressive showing during the tournament, reregistering wins over Shooto veteran Antonio Carvalho and DREAM veteran Takeshi Yamazaki. Nishiura tagged Hoshino on the feet with vicious strikes, but those were too few as Hoshino was effectively able to take Nishiura to the ground and keep him there for most of the fi ght en route to winning a decision and the Cage Force Featherweight tournament.
Although Nishiura didn’t win the tournament, he opened some eyes with his exciting stand-up and earned a berth into the DREAM promotion. Now with Nishiura fi ghting in DREAM, he’ll have a chance to display his exciting stand-up to the world as he makes a run to become a champion.
Name: Brandon Thatch Professional Record: 4-1 Notable Wins: Mike Crisman and Michael Arrant
Coming from a stand-up background, Brandon Thatch is quickly making a name for himself on the Colorado mixed martial arts scene as an exciting young fi ghter. With his trademark Mohawk, he is easily recognizable and brings with him a devastating striking ability. He began training in traditional martial arts at a young age with his father, Clarence Thatch, and got interested in competitive fi ghting while in high school. He started off his professional career in kickboxing, but quickly made the transition to mixed martial arts after only two kickboxing bouts.
Thatch is more than confi dent in his abilities, and he isn’t shy about it. “I got some ridiculous strength and conditioning,” he said when asked about his strongest attributes as a fi ghter. “I’m a striker; I will sprawl and brawl. I’m not looking for any omo platas or any gogoplatas; I’m looking to stand up, bang it out and knock some people out.”
Still relatively new to grappling, Thatch assesses his abilities, saying, “I’ve only been grappling for about a year and a half. I never really liked it since I like to stand up and bang. I always liked to punch and kick, but I’m learning how to grapple. Right now I’m really defensive in my grappling.”
Thatch has already gotten a chance to fi ght in one of the big shows. He fought on the undercard of the second Strikeforce show at the Playboy Mansion. It was also his fi rst career loss as he lost a close split decision to the more experienced Brandon Magana. For most young fi ghters, a loss is an excellent learning experience because it helps them improve their training and makes them get hungrier to get back on the winning track, which is what Thatch did. He would go on to impressively knock out Michael Arrant with a highlight-reel high kick at Ring of Fire 33. Besides winning the fi ght, Thatch was also crowned the Ring of Fire 170-pound Young Gun’s Champion.
The future looks bright for Thatch, who is working hard and is confi dent in himself but has a level head, which is a rare thing to fi nd in young fi ghters. “I go one fi ght at a time. Obviously, I’d like to get in the UFC and make a name for myself and represent Colorado, but I train for one fi ght at a time and I take it from there.”
One thing is certain: Thatch fi ghts for the fans and likes to put on a show. “I fi ght all out, and I fi ght for the fans. I’m going to fi ght 100 percent from the fi rst round to the fi fth round. I’m going to fi ght all the way to the end even if I’m bleeding all over. I’m looking to end the fi ght and not go the distance and put on a show for the fans, because without them I wouldn’t have a job.”
Name: Shintaro Ishiwatari Professional Record: 6-1-3 Notable Wins: Hayate Usui and Tenkei Fuijmiya
Coming out of the Shooto ranks, Shintaro Ishiwatari was unique in his style. The norm in Shooto is that the technical wrestlers or grapplers ascend to the top of the rankings and win the affection of the crowd, but Ishiwatari changed that with his exciting, brawling style. He started off from the bottom of the Shooto ranks and slowly worked his way up with his overwhelming striking style that crumbles his more technical opponents. It’s a refreshing change of pace in Shooto for // PHOTO BY SUSUMU NAGAO someone like Ishiwatari to ascend to the top of the ranks and be successful in the world of technical grapplers.
Ishiwatari had his breakout year in 2008. First up for him was Shooto 2007 Lightweight Rookie champion Kazuhiro Ito in a crucial bout to determine who would get his Class-A license and get a chance to fi ght the top class of fi ghters in Shooto. After a feeling-out process, Ito would latch on and go for an armbar on Ishiwatari, but he defended it as well. What happened next would be a highlight reel for the ages. Ishiwatari picked up Ito while caught in an armbar and slammed him straight on his face, knocking him out cold. This opened some eyes in the Japanese mixed martial arts community.
In the fi rst big test of his career, Ishiwatari faced off with Shooto 2005 Lightweight Rookie Champion Tenkei Fujimiya. They slugged it out for an exciting couple of minutes, both landing devastating shots, but it was Ishiwatari who landed the bigger blows. He dropped Fujimiya on several occasions and fi nally put him away with a stunning combination.
Next on Ishiwatari’s plate would be a meeting with PRIDE and UFC veteran Michihiro Omigawa. The two fought a backand- forth affair, which ended up in a draw, but Ishiwatari gained a huge opportunity in the process. Ishiwatari earned a berth into the Sengoku Featherweight tournament, giving him an opportunity to shine in front of a larger audience on a bigger stage. One thing is for certain: Ishiwatari will bring excitement to Sengoku and could possibly have his breakout year when many more in the mixed martial arts community will know his name.