Shinichi Kojima vs. Yuki Shoujou headline Shooto’s Tradition 6 on March 20

With the WEC promotion set to add a flyweight division, many of the sport’s fans and pundits have been heading over to the Sherdog.com rankings to see who is on top of the smallest Zufffa recognized division. When they click on the page, the number one ranked fighter is Shinichi Kojima, who has been nicknamed “BJ” due to his similar ground game to MMA’s foremost Vaseline hater.

To the untrained eye he is another divisional kingpin in the mold of Georges St. Pierre, Anderson Silva, or Rashad Evans, but to a more sighted crowd, the Shooto 123lbs. champion is not someone on that level.

This Friday, Kojima will put his championship and number one ranking on the line, when he takes on Yuki Shoujou as a part of Shooto’s Tradition 6 card. Perhaps this time, he will be able to prove he belongs at the top of a soon to be budding division.

Flashback to October 14th, 2006. That night, Shinichi Kojima fought against the afro’d champion Mamoru Yamaguchi. He earned his title shot on the strength of a 6-1-3 record, which included draws against Yamaguchi and another world ranked flyweight Yasuhiro Urushitani. In prodigious fashion, Kojima choked out the champion in less than two minutes, and in the process became the number one ranked flyweight.

After the win, Kojima was a respected champion. He even started to appear in some pound for pound discussions, but it wasn’t long before things started to unravel. No one really knows why, but “BJ” left his home gym, AACC, and did not resurface until right before his first title defense against Urushitani.

Kojima managed to slip out of the fight with his belt. Although the judges saw it as a draw, it is widely believed that Urushitani was robbed of the victory and the title. During the fight, Kojima strangely relied on his suspect stand up instead of using his ground game that had carried him to a successful career.

The oddity from Kojima did not stop there. After another victory at flyweight, he decided to live up to the real BJ, and move up in weight to Shooto’s 132 lb division. The campaign to become a two division champion failed miserably. His new found penchant to stand and trade got him thoroughly embarrassed against the then 18 year old Eduardo Dantas, and he was then submitted by So Tazawa.

He returned to 123 lbs this past July, for a mandatory title defense against his old rival Mamoru Yamaguchi. At this point any fan fervor the once mighty champion had accumulated with the masses had been thoroughly depleted. Many thought, and hoped, that Yamaguchi’s superior striking would be enough to defeat Kojima, since he now fashioned himself to be a stand up fighter. For the first two rounds it appeared as if they were correct. Yamaguchi continually got the better of the exchanges and clearly won the first two rounds.

In the third round there was a flash of the ground game Kojima was once known for, and in a quick scramble he slapped on a guillotine choke. With less than two minutes left in the fight, BJ had once again escaped with the belt. For really the first time since winning the title, Kojima had done something befitting a champion. It wouldn’t last.

In January, it was more of the same from BJ. In a non title fight, he fought to a draw with 4-2-1 fighter Jesse Taitano. Now, despite being the champion and sport’s number one ranked fighter for over two years, Shinichi Kojima must win, and do so impressively in order to regain the respect he has lost. Much like in his most recent title fight, it seems as if he is down and out, hopefully, for Kojima’s sake, he has another miraculous finish up his sleeve.

Here is the full fight card for SHOOTO: TRADITION 6 set for March 20, 2009 at Korakuen Hall in Tokyo, Japan:

SHOOTO: Tradition 6

Shooto Bantamweight Championship
Shinichi Kojima (No. 1 FLW) vs. Yuki Shoujou
Shooto Featherweight Championship
Masakatsu Ueda (No. 2 BW) vs. So Tazawa
non-title bouts
Hiromasa Ogikubo vs. Tetsu Suzuki
Noboru Tahara vs. Takehiro Harusaki
Masaaki Sugawara vs. Daiji Takahashi
Atsushi Takeuchi vs. Mikitoshi Yamagami
Takayuki Okochi vs. Michiyuki Ishibashi
Takashi Niikuni vs. Kota Onojima

Special thanks for Tony Loiseleur for helping with this article.

By: Richard Mann

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