Americans in Japan

Sam Morgan (1-1 in SHOOTO, 13-3 overall), who holds and armbar victory over UFC veteran and former SHOOTO world ranker Aaron Riley, heads out to Japan on just 2 week notice to take on Akira Kikuchi (8th in SHOOT World Rankings). It is on March 4th at the Kitazawa Town Hall...

Kickuchi (6-1) is an Olympic Judoka with a very dangerous submission game (4 of his 6 wins come by way of submission) including an armbar victory over the very tough and technical Seichi Ikemoto.

His last outing was a decision loss to the now numebr 1 ranked Jake Shields who may be contending for the World title very soon.

Morgan is also coming off a loss on the USA SHOOTO scene where the judges gave victory to his opponent, Gokor protege Manvel Gamburyan, by decision. The Team Bison team member could not stave off Manvel's takedowns in that contest, and now could be in for a long night with Kikuchi if he falls into the same set of circumstances.

Morgan is talented... no doubt about it, but the short notice and trip to Japan may put him at a disavantage. He will need to use his height/reach to set the range and rythm of the bout and try to work the Japanese fighter over from a distance.

Then just over 2 weeks later - Former UFC veteran, Jens Pulver will make his SHOOTO debut in tremendous fashion when he goes in against K'z Factory fighter Naoya Uematsu.

Both fighters are still in there "rebuilding" stages, capping off back to back losses, with back to back wins. Pulver (as is known to virtually ever MMA fan) fell to consecutive KO blasts at the hands or feet as it were to Duane Ludwig and Jason Maxwell. Uematsu, like Pulver had his freight train derailed (though due to life threatening illness as opposed to promtional/contract disputes) then returned to be defeated by top SHOOTO fighters Bao Quach and Joao Roque. They were decision losses, but it seemed that the Uematsu that we new was gone...

Both men have set back in the right direction by getting back to their winning ways:

- Uematsu submitted very respected Japanese fighters Jin Kazeta and Katsuya Toita by armbar and leglock respectively. Pulver will be his first non-Japanese opponent since those two losses and it will be telling is he can keep to the victory trail at the international level

- Pulver, also logged decisive victories by KO'ing SHOOTO Continental Americas ranker Joe Jordan and submitting the seasoned Richard Hess. This will also be his debut at 143 lbs (SHOOTO 65 kg wt class), his Japanese debut, and the first time taking on a world level opponent since the losses. It will be a test of where Jens is overall at this weight and on his overall comback trail.

Jens has historically dominated top grapplers (Joao Roque - who defeated Uematsu and is a current top 3 SHOOTO ranker, Phil Johns - currently a SHOOTO Americas ranker, BJJ black belt John Lewis, former SHOOTO Champion Coal Uno, Dennis Hallman, and BJ Penn)... and a grappler Uematsu is (of his 13 wins, 9 have been by submission). However, prior to his illness, Naoya spent nearly a year in Thailand turning up his striking game and he has displayed a tenacious set of stand up skills since returning. Striking has been Jens undoing as we look back at his glorious record of more than 20 wins in over 25 matches... Those wins have predominantly come against grapplers and the chinks in his armor as of late have been found when he went in against dangerous strikers (which Jens had become known for in his tenure as the UFC champ and before)...

Is Uematsu a dangerous enough striker to topple the American interloper??? Is Jens ready to handle the adversity of the wt class change and making his Japanese fighting debut???