FanPost

'Lion' Takeshi Inoue gunning for Hatsu Hioki ahead of the Jan. 23 Shooto fight card

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The long-standing Japanese mixed martial arts organization, Shooto will hold its inaugural fight card of 2010 on Saturday, January 23.

Titled, "The Way of Shooto ~ Like a Tiger, Like a Dragon ~" the card features the promotion's current lightweight (143 lbs) champion, "Lion" Takeshi Inoue.

In keeping with the Japanese promotions' penchant for down-to-the-wire fight confirmation, the leading Shooto promoter, Sustain has yet to name Inoue's opponent. While Sustain pledged to announce the opponent in "one or two days," Inoue is eyeing the fellow top-ranked featherweight, Hatsu Hioki, as a possible opponent if he had his druthers.

Tapping Hioki for the bout on a short notice may be a tall order, but Inoue-Hioki has the making of a featherweight dream match for not only Shooto loyalists but for MMA enthusiasts the world over. Inoue and Hioki are arguably the two best fighters in Shooto's 143 lbs. class and among the few non-WEC fighters to crack the top 10 featherweights in the world.

With notable victories over the likes of Akitoshi Tamura, Hideki Kadowaki, Antonio Carvalho and Cole Miller, Inoue has groomed himself into Shooto's latest poster boy. Last year, he earned victories over Rumina Sato and Alexandre Franca Nogueira -- two fighters who had their reign in Shooto at one time or another.

Hioki comes off a controversial split decision loss to Michihiro Omigawa last November at Sengoku 11. Prior to the Omigawa bout, he tore through Sengoku's featherweight grand prix, defeating Chris Manuel, Ronnie Mann, and Masanori Kanehara; his shot at the tournament crown was thwarted by concussion he sustained in the fight against Kanehara in the semi-final round that subsequently forced him to withdraw from the final.

Elsewhere, the fight card also features former Shooto Lightweight champion, Hideki Kadowaki and Rumina Sato protege, Taiki Tsuchiya in a title bout over the vacant Shooto Pacific Rim Lightweight title.

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