Ashikan Judan: Masakazu Imanari
Back in the early 2000’s, leg locks did not have the same popularity that they enjoy today. They were seen as dirty, and less valuable that upper body submissions. But there was one man that had a staggering amount of wins by them in MMA. That man was, Masakazu Imanari. Imanari was dubbed Ashikan Judan, which is roughly translated to 10th Dan of Leg Locks. While he originally studied Catch, he would later become a BJJ black belt under Marco Barbosa. He has some of the best highlight win submissions in all of MMA. But October 29th, he returns to Polaris Pro for another Submission Wrestling match, this time against Eddie Bravo’s first black belt, Denny Prokopos. Before that happens, let’s take a look at some of his finest submission victories in MMA.
Masakazu Imanari vs Jorge Gurgel
Back in 2003, Imanari was the king of an organization known as ZST. ZST was a peculiar organization that allowed a competitor to wear gloves to closed with a strike fist, or no gloves for open palm striking. They also hosted tag team MMA matches, that can still be seen on YouTube. Anyway, back to the fight. Masakazu was set to face BJJ black belt and MMA fighter, Jorge Gurgel in the opening round of the ZST Grand Prix. Imanari did not wear gloves, so he could more effectively attack Gurgel’s legs. Jorge rushed in after the bell rang, trying to hit Imanari with a flying knee, which would turn out to be a huge mistake. Masakazu simply fell back and started attacking his opponent’s legs. In two minutes, Imanari had submitted the BJJ black belt with a heel hook. This would be a classic Imanari tactic.
Masakazu Imanari vs Robbie Oliver
In 2007, Imanari would venture to London, England to fight Robbie Oliver for the Cage Rage Featherweight title. Oliver was a tough bloke, and had rightfully earned the title shot, as did Imanari. The match started by Imanari flying across the cage with an aerial kick at Oliver. As they both took the middle of the cage, Imanari had his hands down, trying to bait Oliver into a ground war. Masakazu would throw another flying kick, with Oliver taking Imanari down, but was immediately put into an armbar by the Japanese fighter. As he lifted Imanari into the air, he tried to slam him to bust out of the armbar, but it was to no avail. Imanari would win the title, as Oliver tapped to an armbar once the fight hit the mat again. This was another lightning quick victor, at only 30 seconds for the Ashikan Judan.
Masakazu Imanari vs Jean Silva
Masakazu would venture back to London in 2008 to defend his Featherweight title against Brazilian challenger, Jean Silva. In what would be the longest fight of his on this list, he was ready to prove why he was the Cage Rage champion. Jean Silva was doing good in the stand up, but got cocky and decided to engage Imanari on the ground. Silva tried to go for a toehold on his opponent, but Imanari showing his superior leg skills, tapped Silva out viciously with a heel hook, retaining his title.
I know for many people, Imanari was one of the first grapplers, especially in MMA to show the superiority of leg lock attacks when truly mastered. He was someone that would put you in awe of his ground skills. He has been active in MMA still, and has now started to do more pro Jiu Jitsu bouts. Let’s hope for another win for the leg lock master in October!