There's a lot of hubbub about the Strikeforce event coming up a week from Saturday, and with good reason. All four main card fights (Mousasi-Kyle, Beerbohm-Aoki, Kawajiri-Melendez II, and Diaz-Daley) are set to be spectacular. Not only that, but this will mark the first ever Strikeforce event promoted during a UFC PPV.
There's one name on the undercard that intrigues me, however.
His doesn't look all that great; at 33, his record is a mediocre 15-8-1. While he's won his last three fights, he lost the two prior to that and completely fizzled in his first stateside trip, going 0-2 with an ugly knockout loss in the WEC.
He also happens to be one of the best featherweights in the world.
To ensure that you stay interested, let me give you an interesting statistic: of Hiroyuki Takaya's last eight wins, seven were by TKO. He was the first man to beat Hatsu Hioki and, perhaps most impressively, the only fighter to EVER knock out Joachim "Hellboy" Hansen.
His reputation was so bad that his father actually fled their hometown to escape Takaya's reputation.
Rather than continue down the rather unpleasant road towards prison and the "in through the out door" moments therein, he turned his attention to MMA, going 4-0-1 in his first five (including a win over current #2 featherweight Hatsu Hioki wherein he dropped the future great several times) before being defeated by Strikeforce champ Gilbert Melendez. He would split his next 6 bouts, including an unsuccessful run at lightweight that saw him face and fall to Genki Sudo, Gesias Calvacante, and Muay Thai monster Andre "Dida" Amado.
Luckily, after dropping back to featherweight, he won his next two by TKO and packed his bags for the sunny, hot dog-filled land of America.
It also happens to be full of angry little people more than willing to punch your face off, however, as he was felled by Leonard Garcia and, despite a spirited effort that won him FotN, was released from the WEC after dropping a decision to Cub Swanson.
Takaya's time was about to come, however, as he entered DREAM's 139-lb. featherweight grand prix.
After knocking out debuting (and immediately-retiring) Jong Won Kim, he took on freshly-released former WEC bantamweight challenger Yoshiro Maeda. With 20 seconds left in the first round, he landed a monstrous right hand that sent Maeda crashing down, granting him an (admittedly premature) stoppage victory.
Next up for Takaya was a date with current UFC competitor and consensus top-10 featherweight Michihiro Omigawa. Unfortunately for the Streetfight Banchō, however, the slick "Peekaboo" boxing of Omigawa nullified his incredible power and put him down halfway through the first.
Unbeknownst to onlookers, 2010 would be Takaya's year.
At DREAM 14 on May 29, 2010, Takaya stepped into the "White Cage" to face Joachim "Hellboy" Hansen, the one-time DREAM lightweight champion and all-around badass. While he was on a two-fight losing streak, Hansen had lost only to the elite and was having his second fight at 145, a much better weight for him. He entered at -280, fresh off a close split-decision loss of his own to Bibiano Fernandes.
This was a rebound fight for an elite fighter entering his natural weight class.
Showing solid takedown defense, Takaya was fairly even with his foe for the beginning of the fight. With less than 40 seconds left in the first, a hard right straight from Takaya wobbled Hansen. "Hellboy" shot back up to his feet, but left his hands back at his waist; another vicious right sent him tumbling back. A third and final shot did the impossible, glazing the eyes and deadening the arms of the indestructible Norwegian.
Takaya made sure not to let momentum slip away, next facing former WEC bantamweight champion Chase Beebe, who was looking to continue a two-fight winning streak in the wake of a nightmarish stretch of losses and an appalling robbery. Again, the wicked brawler forced his opponent to stand with him, stuffing ever shot from the vaunted wrestler before connecting with a huge left hook and turning out his lights with followup right straights on the ground.
Another visit to Dynamite, this time as the main event, awaited Takaya at the end of the year, as he was granted a title shot (much to the annoyance of Omigawa) against top-10 featherweight and BJJ ace Bibiano Fernandes, who had beaten Takaya for the title. The Streefight Banchō looked to build on the momentum set by lightweight associate Tatsuya Kawajiri, who had just run roughshod over Josh Thomson.
Before the bout, the VTR talked about both men's pasts; touchingly, Takaya said that he wanted his father there to see him win a belt.
The bout itself was, for the most part, sedate; the fighters broke even on the feet and Takaya shrugged off Fernandes's attempts to put him on his back. In the third, however, Fernandes made a terrible mistake, attempting to pull guard without really thinking about the fact that nobody had submitted Takaya in five years. The remainder of the contest was spent with Takaya mashing Bibano's head into pastry against the mat.
One unanimous decision later, to applause so raucous that nobody even heard the third judge's score, Hiroyuki Takaya was the DREAM featherweight champion.
I know this isn't as good as my last piece; I just thought Takaya deserved this. He's not a big name, but he should to be; not only does he have some EXCELLENT wins on his resume, but it wouldn't be exaggeration at all to call him one of the hardest pound-for-pound punchers in the sport. He's got a personality and a wonderful story, one which I wish I could better communicate.
And one which has a perfect ending. As the crowd exploded for the former bad boy, the camera zoomed in on his father.
Sources: Sherdog, FIGHT Magazine.