MMA: Was Katsunori Kikuno vs. Yuichiro Nagashima Japanese MMA's Fight of 2011?

Dale De SouzaAnalyst IJanuary 2, 2012

If you have absolutely no idea about Katsunori Kikuno by now, you're missing out on one of the most underrated lightweight fighters in any combat sport, let alone MMA.

Kikuno is the classic example of a true "martial artist in MMA," taking his two bread-and-butter disciplines, Judo and Kyokushin Karate, and blending them with a Sanchin Dachi stance that many traditionalists will recognize as a stance seen in the Okinawan Karate style of Uechi-ryu.

This combination creates a highly unorthodox fighting style that essentially showcases the traditional martial arts in the modern world of MMA and has achieved consistent success throughout Kikuno's serious pro MMA career.

Words can only do so much justice to Kikuno's style. But, we're going to let you hear a few vulgar syllables about what might have been one of Japanese MMA's best fights of 2011.

Yes, Japan took a big hit when it fell victim to a series of earthquakes that inspired the "Fight For Japan" theme of DREAM's 2011 schedule, but it scored big with Kikuno going head-to-head with 154-pound kickboxer and cosplayer Yuichiro "Jienotsu" Nagashima in a bout that was simply a classic to watch.

The bout was a Mixed Rules bout, with the first round being fought under kickboxing rules and the second round being under MMA rules, and neither disappointed.

Both men were knocked down in the kickboxing round, but Kikuno demonstrated why they call it "mixed martial arts" when he got the back of Nagashima in the MMA round, took Nagashima down and flattened him out before commencing onward with the "bobble-head beatdown" of the 17-4 kickboxer with the 3-2 MMA record.

We missed our shot at seeing another "Kikuno Crescent" this time out, but we got ourselves a look at one hell of a fight for sure.

Needless to say, anyone that missed Kikuno vs. Nagashima at DREAM's New Year's Eve 2011 event not only missed the real showstopper of the card, but they also may have missed one of, if not the best fight of 2011 in Japanese MMA.

It may not have been Dan Henderson vs. Mauricio "Shogun" Rua, but for Japanese MMA aficionados and MMA fans alike, this bout was somewhere among the best fights in the world in 2011, one of the best fights in the Japanese MMA scene for 2011, and arguably one of the most fitting bouts to feature as we prepared to close 2011 and welcome the year of 2012 in combat sports.