Pride FC, Strikeforce and Shooto veteran Tatsuya Kawajiri is reported to have signed with the UFC, and is set to compete in the stacked Featherweight division. The Crusher was last seen competing in DREAM 18, defeating Michihiro Omigawa by unanimous decision. The report was first covered by MMAJunkie.com.
Kawajiri’s exciting style has seen him rack up an impressive 32-7-2 record, composed of 12 knockouts, 9 submissions and 10 decision wins. Notable victories include Joachim Hansen, Josh Thomson, Drew Fickett, Gesias Cavalcante, Luiz Azaredo and Vitor Ribero.
His list of accomplishments include Shooto Welterweight champion (defended once), Pride FC fight of the year 2005 vs. Takanori Gomi and he also won the 2002 rookie tourney for Shooto.
While the UFC is yet to confirm the signing, it is likely that The Crusher will debut at the promotion’s January visit to Singapore. Since dropping to Featherweight in 2011, Kawajiri has scored four wins on the bounce, three by submission and one decision.
The fact that he holds a victory of the next man to challenge for a title at Lightweight (Thomson) shows that he has what it takes to win against top flight competition, but will he make an impact on the biggest stage, against the premier division in the organization?
Also noteworthy is that The Crusher has faced Gilbert Melendez on two occasions; the first was a decision loss in 2006 under the Pride FC banner, the second was a much uglier TKO by elbows against El Nino while he ruled the Strikeforce Lightweight ranks.
It has been discussed before that Japanese MMA seems to have died out, so it’s refreshing to see a guy like Kawajiri get a shot at the big leagues.