From Overseas: The Top 10 Best Japanese Fighters In MMA
Over the years, Japan has been a hot bed for mixed martial arts talent.
The pioneers in Japanese mixed martial arts include the likes of Kazushi Sakuraba, Masakatsu Funaki, Minoru Suzuki and the rarely talked about founder of both Shooto and Japanese mixed martial arts Satoru Sayama.
Even before the UFC there was Shooto, the sport of Japanese mixed martial arts has been around since 1985.
Modern day Japanese mixed martial arts tends to come from the lighter weight classes, redefining the term, "that big things come in small packages."
These are the top 10 best Japanese Fighters in mixed martial arts present day.
10. Takeshi Inoue
MMA Record: 18-4
Notable wins: Hideki Kadowaki, Antonio Carvalho, Akitoshi Tamura, Alexandre Franca Nogueira, Cole Miller
Here at #10 is Shooto featherweight superstar "Lion" Takeshi Inoue.
Inoue is a former two-time Shoot lightweight champion (143 lbs) and has had 11 of his 18 wins come by knock out or submission.
Despite recently losing to Hatsu Hioki, Inoue on multiple occasions has solidified himself as one of the best in Japan.
9. Masanori Kanehara
MMA Record: 16-8-5
Organizations: Sengoku, Pancrase, DEEP, ZST
Notable wins: Michihiro Omigawa, Norifumi "Kid" Yamamoto, "The Korean Zombie" Chang Sung Jung
Coming in at number 10 is former Sengoku featherweight grand prix and featherweight champion Masanori Kanehara.
Kanehara has had his ups and downs in his MMA career, but perhaps his career defining moment is when he replaced Hatsu Hioki in the featherweight grand prix and defeated the top ranked fighter Michihiro Omigawa by split decision.
8. Hatsu Hioki
MMA Record: 21-4-2
Organizations: Sengoku, Shooto, Pride, TKO
Notable wins: Takeshi Inoue, Masanori Kanehara, Jeff Curran, Mark Hominic, Hideki Kadowaki
Featherweight Sengoku and Shooto standout Hatsu Hioki has been widely recognized as one of the best in the world in his weight class for several years now.
Hioki has been known for his powerful takedowns in the clinch with an unorthodox submission style that has left many opponents puzzled.
Recently Hioki won the Shooto lightweight title (143 lbs) off of Takeshi Inoue.
Hioki's next bout will be against "Ultimate Fighter" veteran Jeff Lawson at Sengoku 14.
7. Yoshihiro Akiyama
MMA Record: 13-2
Organizations: UFC, DREAM, K-1
Notable wins: Alan Belcher, Melvin Manhoef, Denis Kang
Yoshihiro Akiyama is a Japanese middleweight superstar and a decorated judoka that currently fights in the UFC.
After spending time in K-1, Akiyama became infamous for the Japanese grease ate after defeating Japanese Legend Kazushi Sakuraba utilizing a large amount of vaseline. Since then the fight has been ruled a no contest.
Most recently Akiyama lost to Chris Leben via triangle choke at UFC 116.
Akiyama's next bout is scheduled to be against "Ultimate Fighter" season 3 light heavyweight winner Michael "The Count" Bisping at UFC 120 in England.
6. Tatsuya Kawajiri
MMA Record: 26-6-2
Organizations: DREAM, Pride, K-1, Shooto
Notable wins: Gesias Cavalcante, Vitor Ribeiro, Yves Edwards, Luiz Azaredo, Luiz Firmino
Top ten lightweight Tatsuya Kawajiri is a former Shooto welterweight champion (154lbs) that has faced some of the sports best.
Kawajiri is known for his tremendous wrestling ability and despite not having many knock outs on his resume, Kawajiri has shown power in his hands.
While Kawajiri has come up short against the likes of Shinya Aoki, Eddie Alvarez, and Takanori Gomi, Kawajiri tends to rarely ever be out of a fight, in fact in 2005, Takanori Gomi vs. Tatsuya Kawajiri was named fight of the year by Sherdog.
5. Michihiro Omigawa
K-1 Dynamite 2009
MMA Record: 11-8-1
Organizations: DREAM, Sengoku, ASTRA, UFC, Pride
Notable wins: Hatsu Hioki, Marlon Sandro, Hiroyuki Takaya, L.C. Davis, Micah Miller, Nam Phan
After suffering 3 straight losses in a row and dropping from featherweight to lightweight, Michihiro Omigawa has resurrected his mixed martial arts career with fighting for Sengoku.
Omigawa used to be known as a purely a judoka, but since 2007, Omigawa has greatly improved his boxing and has shown some of the best hands in his weight class.
4. Yushin Okami
MMA Record: 25-5
Organizations: UFC, Pride, Pancrase, Rumble on The Rock
Notable wins: Anderson Silva, Mark Munoz, Evan Tanner, Alan Belcher, Dean Lister, Mike Swick, Jason MacDonald
Japanese middleweight Yushin Okami started his career as a judoka but quickly became a natural at wrestling.
With Okami's strong grappling style, he has made a name for himself in the UFC and has solidifed himself as one of the best middleweights in the world.
Most recently Okami defeated Mark Munoz and showcased that he is no longer just a powerful grappler with his improved boxing.
3. Megumi Fujii
MMA Record: 21-0
Organizations: Bellator, Shooto, Jewels, Smackgirl
Notable wins: Kyoko Takabayashi, Carla Esparza, Saori Ishioka, Lisa Ward, Ana Tavares, Seo Hee Ham
Megumi Fujii is currently ranked the #1 female fighter in the 115lbs division and has been known as pound-for-pound the best female in the world.
Fujii is a highly decorated grappler with a black belt in Judo and Brazilian jiu-jitsu as evident after winning 17 of her 21 fights by way of submission.
Currently, Fujii is coming off a win over All-American wrestler Carla Esparza by way of armbar and has advanced to the semi-finals of the Bellator 115lb female tournament.
2. Takanori Gomi
MMA Record: 32-6
Organizations: UFC, Pride, Sengoku, Shooto, Rumble on the Rock
Notable wins: Tatsuya Kawajiri, Hayato Sakurai, Tyson Griffin, Mitsuhiro Ishida, Marcus Aurelio, Duane Ludwig, Jens Pulver, Luiz Azeredo
"The Fireball Kid" Takanori Gomi is a former Pride lightweight and Shooto welterweight champion (154lbs) that currently fights in the UFC.
Known for his wrestling and powerful hands, Gomi ruled the lightweight division at one point in time.
Most recently Gomi made his first attempt at getting his career back on track after knocking out Tyson Griffin at UFC on Versus 2.
1. Shinya Aoki
MMA Record: 24-5
Organizations: DREAM, Pride, Shooto, Deep
Notable wins: Gesias Cavalcante, Eddie Alvarez, Vitor Ribeiro, Tatsuya Kawajiri, Joachim Hansen, Caol Uno, Joachim Hansen, Akira Kikuchi, Kuniyoshi Hironaka
At #1 is Japanese lightweight submission specialist Shinya Aoki.
Despite being one known as a one dimensional fighter, Aoki has defeated several top ranked opponents and has submitted 15 of his 24 opponents.
Aoki recently submitted top ten ranked Tatsuya Kawajiri by submission via an achilles lock at DREAM 15.