June 19th is set to be a hectic day for fight fans thanks to a big show in Chiba. One of the many bouts on that card will see a new WBO female Super Flyweight champion being crowned, as Miyo Yoshida (12-1) and Casey Morton (8-1-3, 1) battle for the currently vacant title. For both fighters this will be their first world title bout, and potentially their only shot at world gold, given that both are the wrong side of 30.
Yoshida has been a revelation over the last 2 years or so. She debuted in 2014, in a 4 round bout, and struggled past Ayaka Sato and then took a significant break from the ring before returning to struggle past Yuko Henzan. Yoshida would win her first 4 bouts, all close decisions, before her luck ran out and she was beaten by Yuki Koseki in September 2016. Since the loss however she has gone 7-0 and shown massive improvements. Her 7-0 run has seen her avenge her loss to Koseki as well as claim the Japanese female Bantamweight title, with a win over Tomomi Takano, and later unify the title with the OPBF female Bantamweight title, which she won in 2018 with a technical decision over Gretel de Paz.
In the ring Yoshida is a good boxer-mover. She lacks power but has shown an ability to fight at a good pace, grit her teeth when he needs to and dig deep to get the win. He victory over Takano was deemed a big upset and since then her confidence has grown and grown. Sadly whilst her confidence has gotten better her competition really hasn't improved, though a win in March against Yoshie Wakasa was among her best wins to date.
At the age of 31 Yoshida is on the wrong end of 30, however Morton is the older fighter, at 35, and is also the fighter with the less impressive form coming in to this bout. The "Lady Hawaiian Punch" also debuted in 2014 and has fought consistently since then, with multiple bouts a year. She has fought not in the US and Mexico but has also been on an Asia tour, of sorts, in recent years with her last 5 bouts being spread between the Philippines and China. We mentioned her form a moment a go and that is, in part at least, due to her 2018 upset loss to Jutamas Jitpong in China, in a bout where Morton was made to look second rate to the Thai. It's also worth noting that over her last 8 she is 5-1-2, with draws against the then debuting Karla Gonzalez and the then 1-2 Samantha Salazar.
To date Morton's best win, at least on paper, is a shut out in the Philippines against Kanchana Tungthaisong, who was a shadow of the fighter she had once been and a narrow win over Japanese female Minimumweight champion Chie Higano. Both several classes below Yoshida, both technically and physically.
Morton will know this may well be her first and only chance at a world title, but she will be up against a naturally bigger fighter who is full of confidence and we suspect that size and belief will be the difference, leading to a clear decision win for Yoshida.
Prediction UD10 Yoshida
On April 28th we'll see Japan's Kasumi Saeki (3-0, 2) look to announce herself on the world stage, as she takes on once beaten Mexican Elizabeth Lopez (6-1-4, 1) in a bout for the WBO female Minimumweight title, a title vacated by stablemate Etsuko Tada. For Saeki this is a chance to win a world title in just her 4th bout, whilst also looking to prove she is more than just a talented prospect. For Lopez the bout will be her first outside of Latin America, and also her first for a major title.
The 22 year old Saeki is a novice professional. She only turned professional in 2018, making her debut on May 27th 2018, though had had a solid amateur background with a 35-9 record including bouts on both the national and international stage. That amateur background showed on her debut as she showed flashes of genius in a 6 round decision win over Floryvic Montero on debut. Following up her debut Saeki would score a stoppage win over Kanyarat Yoohanngoh, who would subsequently win the OPBF silver female title, and then stop Wassana Kamdee, to become the WBO Asia Pacific champion.
Saeki is a real natural talent. She is one of the purest female boxers out there, with exceptional skills, lightning speed, alarming accuracy and amazing ring IQ. even this early in her career she looks to be a special fighter, not just a special prospect. She looks to have all the tools to go a very long way, has already shown she can do 6 rounds. Given the fact she's in the Shinsei gym will have really helped her develop her skills and it's clear that she will have been working alongside Etsuko Tada to prepare for this bout.
With 11 bouts to her name the 4'9" Lopez has one of the sports oddest looking records, with 4 draws from her 11 contests. The 26 year old, who made her debut in March 2015, would strangely begin her career 2-1-3, with her loss coming to the under-rated Yesenia Gomez who has since become the WBC female Light Flyweight champion. As well as those 3 early draws Lopez actually drew last time out, fighting to a 6 round draw with Kumora Yang Badillo.
Footage of Lopez is hard to find, though what is available makes her look quite slow and clumsy. She's wild and rough around the edges, but does seem tough and marches forward. She has an aggressive style, but it is a very agricultural style and she does seem wild and reckless at times. Despite being aggressive she has only scored 1 stoppage win in 11 bouts, showing a lack of power and it seems like that will cause her bouts to go longer than she would like.
From the footage available of both it seems hard to see anything but a win for Saeki. She has too much skill, too much speed and too much polish for someone as sloppy as Lopez. Lopez will come to fight, but we expect to see her wide shots beign countered time and time again as Saeki goes on to take a wide, and clear decision. The only worry about Saeki is whether her lack of professional experience will be exposed, though with her training at the Shinsei gym we don't imagine that will actually be a problem here.
December 1st is set to be a hectic day for fight fans in Japan with 7 different title bouts taking place across 3 shows and 2 venues. Those 7 title bouts include a female world title bout, as WBO female Minimumweight champion Kayoko Ebata (12-7, 6) defends her title against former WBA champion Etsuko Tada (17-3-2, 5) at the EDION Arena Osaka. The bout pits two real veterans against each other in what could out to be a real thriller for fans at the venue.
The champion, who is 42, is one of the oldest female fighters in Japan and is also a fighter with one of the most remarkable careers. Ebata debuted at the advanced age of 31 and would fight for a world title in her second professional bout, losing a razor thin decision in Camboia against Samson Tor Buamas for the WBC female Light Flyweight title. Despite the loss it was clear she was an excellent fighter, and she was good enough to get 3 more title fights in his following 5 bouts, though sadly lost all 3 of those bouts, including a WBA female Super Flyweight title bout to Tenkai Tsunami. Despite being a fantastic fight she found herself quickly falling to 3-4 (2). She then managed to rack up wins at the lower level, but came up short in 3 world title fights, losing to Nancy Franco in 2013 and Kumiko Seeser Ikehara in 2015 and 2016. With a record of 0-5 in world title fights she was essentially given one final chance in 2017, against Erika Hanawa for the vacant WBO female Minimumweight title, and she took that opportunity by defeating the then 7-0 Hanawa for the belt. A belt she has defended once, narrowly, since winning. It's fair to say that if Ebata loses the belt her career is likely over, though she has accomplished a dream of being a world champion.
At 37 years old the challenger also can't really afford a loss, though Tada has had a distinguished career. She would win the WBA female Minimumweight title in her 5th bout, defeating ChoRong Son for the belt in 2009. She would make 9 defenses of the title before losing it to Anabel Ortiz in 2013. Prior to losing the belt she had twice fought in unification bouts, drawing both, and had notched up notable wins over the likes of IBeth Zamora Silva, Maria Salinas, Naoko Shibata and Yuko Kuroki. Following he loss to Ortiz we saw Tada become a 2-time champion, as she beat Kareli Lopez for the IBF title in 2015, though lose in her first defense in 2017 to Cai Zong Ju. Her only bout since that loss was a WBO Asia Pacific title win against Naoko Shibata, in November 2017. Sadly in her most recent bouts she has lacked the tenacity, hunger and fire that she once had. She's still a hungry fighter, but one that fights like a tamer version of her once fearsome self.
At their best these two were great fighters, but now they are shadows of their former selves. Neither is bad by any stretch, but they aren't what they once were. Here we favour the challenger. She's younger, looked better last time out and despite not fighting in over a year is likely to be the sharper fighter. Ebata struggled to retain her title in her first defense, and we can't see her getting much luck against Tada, especially given that Tada is the fighter managed by the promoter of the show.
We suspect Tada will take the decision, and we expect a real action bout. It's just a shame these two didn't fight earlier in their career's.
The Atomweight division, 102lbs, is the lowest weight in professional boxing and is a weight unique to female boxing. It's not had the greatest of reputations, with the lack of depth being a major issues, but it has given us some notable fighters, like the great Momo Koseki and the often fun to watch Ayaka Miyao. It's also responsible for Japan's oldest ever champion, current WBO Atomweight champion Nao Ikeyama (18-3-3, 5) who holds her title at the age of 48. In fact not only is Ikeyama an old champion but she was 44 when she actually won the belt.
This coming Sunday Ikeyama looks to stretch her reign to 7 defenses and make sure she continues to be recognised as a world champion beyond her 49th birthday. Trying to prevent her form that is former foe Mika Iwakawa (7-5-1, 3), herself a 35 year old fighting in her second world title shot.
These two women fought first back in 2013, when they clashed in a 6 rounder. That bout saw Ikeyama end a 3 year break from the ring to face off with Iwakawa, and with the win Ikeyama moved onto a world title bout for the then newly created WBO Atomweight title, defeating Jessebelle Pagaduan for the title. Sadly for Iwakawa the loss, by majority decision, seem to cause her career to stall, with Iwakawa spending well over a year away from the ring. Since returning Iwakawa had since gone 4-2 and despite claiming the OPBF female Light Flyweight title has never really managed to generate much career moment.
Despite being almost 50 Ikeyama is well known for her incredible stamina. She has gone 10 rounds in 6 of her last 7 bouts and has done so at a fantastic tempo. Not only that but she's been able to raise the tempo in the second half of fights when she's had to, against much younger fighters. As a champion she has defended the title against some weak challengers, like Norj Guro for example, but also twice against Saemi Hanagata and once against the aforementioned Miyao. She's not a puncher, but she's such an energetic fighter that few will hang with her, especially in the later rounds.
As for Iwakawa her only previous world title bout was arguably her best performance, a losing effort to the heavy handed Yunoka Furukawa in December 2016. Like Ikeyama it's fair to saw that Iwakawa is also a fighter who relies on her work rate and stamina as opposed to her power or defensive work. Given that she likes to let her hands go we're expecting he to go toe-to-toe with Ikeyama in what should make for an all action bout.
This bout will end up being a back and forth slugfest. With neither fighter having much in terms of power we can't see an early finish, but we can see a potential female fight of the year contender with intense action, getting better round by round. We do however favour the veteran to come out on top, with her added experience, especially over the 10 round distance. It'll be frantic and close, but we suspect Ikeyama will be the winner and extend her title reign a little longer.
One of many notable bouts this coming Sunday will see Japan's Tenkai Tsunami (25-12, 14) defending her WBO female Light Flyweight title against Filipino challenger Gretchen Abaniel (18-9, 6). For the champion the bout will be her first defense, following her title win in March against Chaoz Minowa, whilst Abaniel will be looking to finally win a big one and become a world champion, after having come up short in a number of title challenges.
The Japanese fighter is a true veteran, having made her debut back in 2005, and since then she has faced a real who's who whilst becoming a 2-weight champion. Her first reign, as the WBA female Super Flyweight champion, began in 2009 and saw he hold the title until 2012. She would then attempt to become a 2-time champion but failed in title bouts against the likes of Janeth Perez, Mariana Juarez, Zulina Munoz and Jessica Chavez. Given that level of competition there is little wonder why Tsunami began to collect losses but she always put up a good effort, fighting hard for the 10 rounds. Although she was gritty and determined she just kept coming up short to elite level opponents.
In March it seemed like Tsunami was getting her last shot as she took on Minowa for the WBO female Light Flyweight title. At the age of 30, and having had a hard career, it was unclear what Tsunami had left until she out worked and broke down the former amateur standout in 8 rounds, with Minowa being saved by her corner whilst looking completely exhausted by the time they saved her.
The 32 year old Abaniel has been a true servant to Filipino boxing since making her debut back in 2006. Since then she has regularly competed with world champions, fighting the likes of Cho Rong Son, Samson Tor Buamas, Katia Gutierrez, Teeraporn Pannimit, Ayaka Miyao, Kumiko Seeser Ikehara and Cai Zong Ju. Like Tsunami she has often come up short against the best opponents she's faced, but has regularly given good value as a valiant loser.
Abaniel is technically capable, though lacks power and physicality especially given that she's someone who has fought much of her career at Atomweight and Minimumweight. For this bout she's going up to be up at Light Flyweight, against someone who has been a world champion at Super Flyweight. Whilst she's technically very good we see the strength and power difference here being huge and we suspect it will be too much for Abaniel.
We're expecting to see Abaniel start quick, and have moments in the early rounds, but be worn down by the pressure and aggression of Tsunami, who we believe will stop the challenger in the second half of he bout.
This coming Saturday we'll get another female world title fight featuring a Japanese fighter, the third in just a few days. This time it's the turn of Tamao Ozawa (13-4, 5) who battles Raja Amasheh (20-1-1-1, 4) for the vacant WBO female Super Flyweight title, in Karlsruhe Germany.
For the 32 year old Japanese fighter this will be a second world title shot, following her 2017 bout against Su Yun Hong for the WBO female Light Flyweight title whilst Amasheh will be fighting for her first “big 4” world title, though is a former 2-weight WBF world champion, having claim the Flyweight and Super Flyweight titles.
Against Hong we saw Ozawa fight pretty well, but she was always just a step or two behind the talented Korean. That was arguably the second most notable bout of Ozawa's career, behind a 2016 bout with Mexican icon Mariana Juarez, who took a wide 10 round decision over the Japanese fighter. What those losses showed was that Ozawa has toughened up since her early career. In fact she was stopped twice in her first 8 bouts, an opening round TKO to the Tomoko Kawanishi and a 2nd round stoppage to Kai Johnson. Since then she has improved a loss, avenging the loss to Johnson and claiming the OPBF Super Flyweight title, as well as being competitive with Hong and going 10 rounds with Juarez.
Technically Ozawa is a pretty decent boxer but that's about as polite as you can be. She's slow, a little clumsy, her footwork isn't too sharp and defensively she has holes. She went the distance with Hong but her face took a toll, and her left eye was badly swollen from the consistent shots the Korean was landing, and although gutsy her defensive flaws could be an issue going forward.
Aged 35 Amasheh is possibly getting her only shot at a major world. The German based fighter, originally from Jordan, drew on her debut before going on an impressive run from 2009 to late 2016, going 19-0-0-1, with the only black mark being a split decision loss-turned-No Contest against Amira Hamzaoui. In 2016 we finally saw that unbeaten run come to an end, as Amasheh was defeated by the under-rated Ana Arrazola. She did bounce back from that loss by winning the WBC Silver Super Flyweight title last March, beating the limited Kleopatra Tolnai. Since then however Amasheh has been away from the ring, for almost a year.
From footage of Amasheh she is an aggressive fighter who rushes forward behind a tight guard and looks to fight behind combinations, thrown in flurries. She's defensively open when letting her shots go but seems to fight like she sees her best defense as her offense. When she's not on the front foot she is defensively tight, but looks like she can't transition from one to the other. She's defensive, or offensive.
Whilst we expect to see a bit of ring rust from Amasheh we also expect her to be more aggressive, more crisp and bustier than Ozawa. Ozawa will take a lot to be stopped, but that's not out of the question, especially not late on. We don't imagine Ozawa has the power or speed to be competitive, but she should be able to put up a decent and entertaining effort en route to a clear loss.
All female shows aren't a regular thing, but they have been seen a few times recently in Japan. The next of those will take place on March 8th at the Korakuen Hall, where the main event will be a WBO female Minimumweight title bout between defending champion Kayoko Ebata (11-7, 6) and Korean challenger Ji Hyun Park (22-2, 6). On paper this looks like a mismatch in favour of the challenger, but the reality is that things aren't quite that simple, and Ebata's career has never been quite as straight forward as her record may suggest.
The 42 year old champion has seemingly fought by the mantra “if at first you don't succeed try, try again”. She won an OPBF title in her third attempt, over-coming Cho Rong Son for the OPBF Female Flyweight title in 2013, 4 years after her first shot at the title, and a world title in 6th world title fight, winning the WBO female Minimumweight title last year more than 9 years after her first world title bout. Not only did she have multiple shots at the titles, but her world title win didn't come until she was 41 years old, out pointing the much younger Erika Hanawa for the title last May.
On paper it's easy to rag on Ebata, who has lost more than 33% of her career bouts. Those numbers however don't reflect the fact she has come up short against fighters like Samson Tor Buamas, Tenkai Tsunami, Naoko Shibata, Nancy Franco and Kumiko Seeser Ikehara, twice. They also don't reflect the fact she could have had wins in 3 of those bouts, at least, and was fighting well above her natural weight.
Ebata is a grizzled veteran, she's flawed, limited, but a tough, hard working, experienced fighter who is much better than her record suggests, and had she been able to get regular fights at 105lbs there is a good chance that her record would better reflect her ability. Instead she is saddled with a misleading record and a tough career full of hard luck.
As for the Korean she's the much younger fighter, at 32, but has had a weird career herself. She lost in 2 of her first 8 bouts, losing a Korean Flyweight title bout to Hwa Won Lee in 2005, with Hwa Won Lee later claiming a world title at Featherweight, and would also lose in North Korea in 2007 to Hye Sung Kim, in what is recorded as Kim's debut. Following those losses she has gone 16-0 and is unbeaten in over a decade! Not only that but she was a long term IFBA Minimumweight champion, and she defended that title against accomplished fighters like Hollie Dunaway, Nao Ikeyama, Krisztina Belinszky, Ana Arrazola, Jujeath Nagaowa and Anahi Torres and has a non-title win against Gretchen Abaniel.
Sadly for Park she hasn't actually fought since August 2015, when she beat Abaniel. That sort of lay off can be career ending for some fighters, and it's going to be very interesting to see what she has left here. At her best, she would probably be a little bit too good for Ebata, but she's certainly not going to be her best with so much ring rust, and her timing, speed and sharpness might be a little bit off. For a boxer like Park, who doesn't have much in terms of fire power, the ring rust will likely play a major part in the bout.
At the primes the bout would be a close one, where Park would be favoured. Now however with Ebata beyond her prime and Park inactive we'd go with the active champion, especially at home. We don't see Park being stopped, but we do see her being out worked and Ebata earning her first defense.
This coming Thursday is a big day for women's boxing in Japan, with a show featuring 6 title bouts, including 2 world title bouts. On paper the better of those bouts is a WBO Light Flyweight title bout, as the unbeaten Chaoz Minowa (5-0, 4) takes on veteran Tenkai Tsunami (24-12, 13), with the two fighting for the currently vacant title. On paper the bout might not look anything special, but given the styles of the two women and their experiences, both amateur and professional, we're expecting to see something very special.
Of the two fighters it's Tsunami who is the more proven and experienced, which should be no real surprise given she has 7 times more fighters under her belt. In fact not only that but she also has more world title fights than Minowa has total professional bouts. She might also have more losses, but when you get a fighter like Tsunami the losses only tell a fraction of the real story, and don't have context. The real context to those losses is that she has fought a real who's who of the female boxing world and suffered losses to world class fighters like Naoko Yamaguchi, Janeth Perez, Mariana Juarez, Jessica Chavez, Zunila Munoz, Arely Mucino and Carolina Rodriguez. She could have padded her record, but instead fought a who's who, often above her natural weight.
Whilst it's easy to focus on the losses of Tsunami we can't ignore the fact she's a formerworld champion, having held the WBA female Super Flyweight title from February 2009 to July 2012. During her reign she made 5 defenses, beating the likes of Kayoko Ebata and Rie Fujimoto ahd she showed her world class ability.
In the ring Tsunami is an all action fighter. She is technically limit, but has a great engine, a fantastic work rate, a gritty determinedness, a solid toughness and always makes for good action bouts. She lacks the speed or skills to really test the very best, hence her double digit losses, but is a hard night for pretty much anyone, and could easily have had a better looking record with just a tiny bit of good luck.
Whilst Tsunami has fought almost everyone of note the same clearly can't be said of Minowa, who has only been a professional for about 18 months. So far she has faced very limited opponents from across Thailand, Korea and the Philippines and really not been tested that much. The one test she had came from Carleans Rivas, who Tsunami stopped in 2, and even then she took a clear 8 round decision over the Filipino. In the ring Minowa is an ultra-aggressive fighter who looks to stop every opponent as quickly as possible. So far it has seen her stop 4 of her first 5 opponents and she has racked up only 18 rounds in her first 5 bouts, but she has looked very aggressive and very exciting so far.
Minowa has impressed, but also left us with a lot of questions. We don't know what she's like in the later rounds, how her stamina holds up, what she's like under pressure, how copes with a step up in class and a lot of other questions. From what we've seen, and from what we know of her amateur background, we expect that she'll be able to step up and rise to the challenge, but this is a huge step up in class.
The bout really comes down to whether Minowa can fight at a high pace for 10 rounds, whether she can avoid the heavy shots from Tsunami and whether she has the skills to out box someone of Tsunami's ability and experience. The step up is what makes this so interesting and such a hard to call bout. We edge towards Minowa having the movement and amateur background to out manoeuvre, though can certainly imagine Tsunami's pressure getting to Minowa and the veteran taking a notable win over her younger foe.
One of the top, if not the top, female fighter in Japan has long been the sensationally talented Naoko Fujioka (16-2, 7), who became Japan's first ever 4 weight champion earlier this year. The 42 year old Japanese veteran has claimed titles at Minimumweight, Super Flyweight, Bantamweight and Flyweight. To end 2017 Fujioka drops down to Light Flyweight, to face Yokasta Valle (13-0, 5) in a bout for the WBO female Light Flyweight title. Interestingly Fujioka is dropping down from Flyweight for this bout, whilst Valle is a former IBF Atomweight champion, having claimed that title last year.
Fujioka has had a genuinely remarkable career and is regarded by some as one of the top 10 female fighters, pound-for-pound, in the sport. She debuted at the age of 34 and after just a year in the sport claimed the OPBF Minimumweight title. The following year she claimed the WBC title, stopping Anabel Ortiz. In 2013 Fujioka claimed the WBA Super Flyweight title, she added the WBO Bantamweight title in 2015 and then the WBA Flyweight title earlier this year. Whilst Fujioka has obviously been collecting titles she has also been facing stiff competition, with bouts against the likes of Naoko Shibata, Anabel Ortiz, Victoria Argueta, Naoko Yamaguchi, Susi Kentikian, Mariana Juarez, Shindo Go and Jessica Chavez.
In the ring Fujioka can fight, box or brawl. She's the type of fight who can adapt, and when she needs to make things rough she can, as she did in the final stages against Mariana Juarez. Although she has two defeats against her name both were close and controversial, and more importantly on the road with the loss against Chavez being one of the most questionable decisions of recent years. At 42 there is some question marks about how many more top performances she has in the tank, but she's not yet showing signs of slipping.
Aged 25 Valle is one of the stars of Costa Rican boxing, and has ben a professional since mid 2014. Much of her career has been spent at home, in Costa Rica, though she did venture to El Salvador for a bout last year. It was at home last year that she defeated Ana Victoria Polo to claim the IBF title at 102lbs, though since then she has moved up to 105lbs, where she beat journey woman Yadita Perez. Sadly the key thing to note about Valle is her level of competition, and it has been dire, with none of her opponents having any name value, and very few having any sort of a record.
Although Valle's best win has been down at 102lbs she is actually a big fighter for the lower weights and shouldn't have any issues making 108lbs and being a fully fledged fighter at the weight, in fact she may be stronger than she has been whilst draining herself down. The problem for her however is that she's not really shown herself to be world class. There is some ability there, and it's clear that a really top level trainer could take her quite far, but the fact she's so untested and stepping up in such a huge way that it's hard to see he she can win here.
We don't think Fujioka is a huge puncher,but she certainly holds solid power in both hands, and we suspect that power will have telling effects late on, with a stoppage for the Japanese in the later rounds.
Recently we saw the legendary Manny Pacquiao show his age as he came up short against Jeff Horn. Whether you agreed with the decision or not it was clear that Pacquiao wasn't the fighter he used to be, in fact it was obvious that father time had well and truly caught up with the fantastic Filipino icon. This coming Tuesday we see another veteran attempt to continue their fight, not just against opponents but also against father time.
That fighter is the 47, soon to be 48, year old Nao Ikeyama (18-3-2, 5) who looks to extend her reign as the WBO Atomweight champion and continue being the oldest active world champion in the sport. In the opposite corner to Ikeyama will be former foe Saemi Hanagata (13-6-3, 7), who fought to a draw with Ikeyama last year in a real thriller.
At her best Ikeyama has proven to be a truly fantastic veteran. She might not be the best Atomweight on the planet but she's managed to make a real career for herself, having won the WBO title back in 2014, becoming the inaugural champion at the time. Since winning the title she has impressively run up 5 defense, scoring notable wins over Masae Akitaya, Hanagata and Ayaka Miyao.
In the ring Ikeyama has shown a lack of power, but a great engine, a real will to win an has gone almost 7 years without a loss, showing how great she has become in recent years, following real struggles early in her career. At one point Ikeyama was 11-3-1 (4) but has gone 7-0-1 in recent times as her career has had a brilliant Indian summer. She probably would come off second best, by some margin, against Momo Koseki, but against anyone else at 102lbs she's certainly got more than half a chance against.
Although relatively unknown outside of Japan Hanagata is a real warrior with a great engine and aggressive style and a real gritty determination. She's a rough around the edges fighter, with aggression being her key to victory and her toughness being genuinely impressive. Whilst she's certainly not an incredible fighter she's a real handful for most, and gave hell to Naoko Shibata in 2015 and hell to Ikeyama last year, with plenty of fans feeling that Hanagata deserved both wins.
Coming in to this bout Hanagata has gone 4-0-1 (3) and at the moment she is looking the best she has ever looked. Not only is she in great form but at 32, and with a record of 0-2-1 in world title fights she will know that this could, potentially, be her last shot at a world title crown, and she cannot another set back at this level. With that in mind it's clear she will have put everything in this bout.
Although Ikeyama is the better fighter, we can't help but think she has been caught by father time and that Hanagata will be too hungry for her this time, taking a narrow, but very well earned, decision...and the title
Here we preview the key female title bouts involving an Asian fighter.