Scouting the Globe: The Five Best Prospects From Japan

MMA Prospect Mikuru Asakura vs. Daniel Salas
Mikuru Asakura vs. Daniel Salas Credit: RIZIN FF

During this MMA hiatus, we’ve taken to scouting world and selecting five favorite prospects from each country for the most part. This time out we’ll be taking a look at Japan. Japan has produced amazing talent from the past and has some good fighters right now as well. Today some of the well-known names include Tatsuya Kawajiri, Yushin Okami, Shinya Aoki, Takashi Sato, and Mizuki Inoue.

Strawweight, Kanako Murata (11-1)

Kanako Murata was a former 2011 Junior Wrestling World Champion. Her only loss in MMA was to former UFC fighter Rin Nakai but since then she’s won her next eight fights. In her last fight, she actually won the Invicta FC Vacant Strawweight Championship. Her wrestling in MMA is excellent, as her timing and her ability to explode to finish her entries are very well done. Murata has some solid chain wrestling. If her initial shot doesn’t get her opponent down, she can adjust and still land the takedown. She also has some nice judo that she utilizes from time to time. In terms of her skill on the feet, Murata is decent and getting better, but still a much better grappler. Murata is an excellent positional grappler with active ground-and-pound.

Lightweight, Mikuru Asakura (13-1)

Mikuru Asakura is a top prospect out of Toyohashi, Aichi, Japan who has won his last nine fights. Asakura is an exciting prospect who has steamrolled all but one of his opponents. Asakura is a very adept grappler who has some proficient judo/wrestling, along with exceptional jiu-jitsu. Having said that, on the feet is where Asakura is most dangerous. Holding huge knockout power, you could describe Asakura as having dynamite in his hands. He uses that innate power with good set-up techniques, including counters and feints. He is a sniper with explosiveness. Asakura was expected to face ex-ONE Championship bantamweight champ Kotetsu Boku at RIZIN 22, but that card was recently cancelled.

Mikuru’s brother Kai has also evolved into a star for RIZIN FF.

Featherweight, Kazumasa Majima (14-1)

Kazumasa Majima has been on a tear of late, and is currently on a 12-fight win streak. His only loss was by split-decision and dates back to 2014. Majima doesn’t have much to offer on the feet but his work ethic is second to none. He’s very heavy on the gas constantly working takedowns. On top, Majima has glue-like grappling covering every inch of space. He’s shown to be a finisher as well with thirteen finishes, twelve by submission. He’s a workhorse that will be a problem for anyone.

Lightweight, Koji Takeda (10-1)

Koji Takeda has one sole loss to former UFC fighter Damien Brown. Since then he’s got back on the board with two wins. Takeda is the current DEEP Impact lightweight champion with two title defenses. He’s well-rounded with submission wins and TKO wins, although he has gone the distance five times. On the feet, Takeda has an excellent jab and fights behind it very well. He doesn’t have the power, but it’s the accumulation of strikes he lands which is fantastic. He’s just so technical on the feet and is also a good wrestler/grappler and can do it the whole distance of the fight.

Bantamweight, Tatsuki Saomoto (14-2)

Tatsuki Saomoto has been tearing apart a number of promotions in Japan.  He’s fought and beaten some pretty good, experienced fighters. Meanwhile, Saomoto himself is only 23-years-old. On the feet, he’s really good at moving in and out with strikes and stepping out of the pocket throwing slick combinations. Saomoto excels on the mat with fun grappling scrambles he’s able to hit. He’s always looking to better his position and land good ground and pound. Overall, Saomoto is a good talent and a fun prospect to watch for.