Mix Martial Arts (MMA) champions are not born – they’re built. Possessing incredible discipline, strength and endurance, these well-rounded fighters are constantly perfecting their multi-skill sets in order to win competition after competition. In this issue, Top 10 of Asia presents its list of Asia’s top male MMA fighters (presented in no particular order) who are gripped with the passion to win, no matter what challenges may come before them.
Before making the switch to MMA, Takumi Nakayama, 42, competed in the All Japan Combat Wrestling and All Japan Shooto Amateur Welterweight Championships and emerged as a runner-up for both. Also known as “Da Japanese Ironman”, Nakayama enjoyed a long stint in Shooto where he fought with Vitor Ribeiro, Joachim Hansen, Rumina Sato and Tatsuya Kawajiri. Later on, the featherweight fighter began touring and competing in other promotions across the world including KOTC and Pancrase where he found success. To date, he has achieved a record of 19-16-6, 1 NC (Win-Loss-Draw, No Contest).
Inspired by MMA’s popularity in Japan, Takeya Mizugaki, 32, decided to give it a go after finishing his high school sports sessions and he has never looked back since. In 2005, he became a professional MMA fighter with Shooto and was honoured as “Rookie of the Year”. He began fighting for Cage Force in 2007 and earned the Bantamweight Championship. In 2008, he started competing for WEC and won the “Fight of the Night” honours twice for bouts against Miguel Torres and Scott Jorgensen. He then moved to the UFC in 2011 where he enjoyed an impressive five-win streak from 2012-2014 in the bantamweight class with a record of 21-9-2.
Masakatsu Ueda, 38, currently competes in the bantamweight division in Shooto. He was named the Shooto Featherweight Champion in March 2008 after defeating Koetsu Okazai. He defeated Norifumi Yamamoto while competing in college-level wrestling in Japan, and Kyoji Horiguchi in 2012 with his great grappling skills. Over the years, he garnered numerous combat wrestling national titles as well as winning the Shooto Rookie Tournaments (for both A and B class) and All Japan Shooto Grappling Championship. Currently on a four-win streak, Ueda’s record now stands at 22-4-2.
Dong Hyun Kim
“Stun Gun” Dong Hyun Kim, 34, is the second South Korean to fight in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) and the first to win a UFC match. Since joining the UFC in 2008 under the welterweight division, he won “Knockout of the Night” in his fight with Erick Silva and “Performance of the Night” for a spinning back-elbow TKO against John Hathaway. Until his defeat to Carlos Condit in 2011, he was on a winning streak in his seven-year career in MMA. His current record stands at an impressive 21-3-1, 1NC.
Yui Chul Nam
While serving in the Korean army, Yui Chul Nam, 34, loved watching combat sports on TV. After his military stint, he made his foray into MMA in 2004 as part of Korean Top Team. Due to his aggressive fighting style and intimidating demeanour, he quickly became known as “The Korean Bulldozer”. After enjoying an eight- win streak in Spirit MC, Nam signed up with the UFC in 2013. He won his UFC promotional debut against Kazuki Tokudome and earned “Fight of the Night” for it. However, he was released from the UFC after two back-to-back losses setting his current record at 18-6-1.
Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto, 39, was a wrestler like his father, Ikuei Yamamoto who represented Japan in the 1972 Olympics. At 24, Yamamoto made the switch to MMA. His rise to success was phenomenal with a 17-1 record by defeating Jeff Curran, Caol Uno, Royler Gracie, Bibiano Fernandes and the like. He also holds the fastest KO in K-1 Hero’s history at 4 seconds against Kazuyuki Miyata in 2006. Signs of decline began to show in 2009 and he lost five out of the last seven fights. After taking a three-year break to focus on training fighters out of Krazy Bee gym’s Kyoji Horiguchi, he is slated to fight Chris Beal sometime in 2016.
Yuusuke Yachi, 26, is a featherweight division fighter who competed for Shooto and Vale Tudo Japan. Among his achievements were winning the 143 lbs Shooto Rookie and 143 lbs Shooto Pacific Rim Lightweight championships. He currently fights for Pacific X-treme Combat (PXC) who welcomed him into their fold as an ‘exciting technical fighter’. Yachi’s current record stands at 14-5.
Gripped with a passion to be a professional MMA fighter, Kyoji Horiguchi, 25, joined the Krazy Bee team straight after high school. Prior to that, he was already training at the karate school run by his father. Horiguchi made his amateur MMA debut in 2009 where he won four fights in the Shooto Amateur Open Tournament East 6th. He went pro in 2010 and racked a record of 11-1 before signing up with the UFC. He won his first UFC fight against veteran Dustin Pague via TKO on the second round. His current record stands at an impressive 17-2, having won 11 out of the last 12 fights.
Chan Sung Jung
Fondly known as “The Korean Zombie”, Chan Sung Jung, 29, is one of the most popular and entertaining MMA fighters in the world. He earned the nickname via his determination in pushing up the pace in his fights in spite of injuries. His first U.S. fight against Leonard Garcia during WEC 48 was legendary and gained him immense popularity, despite Jung losing. Jung’s fight awards include two “Fights of the Night”, two “Submissions of the Night” and one “Knockout of the Night” and his current record stands at 13-4. Jung won three out of four fights for the UFC before he was called for a two-year mandatory Korean military service in 2013. Rumour has it that he’ll be back in the MMA scene before hitting 30.
As the heaviest fighter in this list, 31-year-old Middleweight fighter Dongi Yang’s nickname “The Ox” certainly befits him. Skilled in Judo, Yongmoodo and Taekwando, Yang became a professional MMA fighter in 2007 and defeated three opponents within one night. When he joined the UFC in 2010, his record was a perfect 9-0. Unfortunately, he was cut off from the UFC in June 2012 after losing three out of four matches. Undeterred, Yang kept improving his game and won two fights out of two since leaving the UFC. The well-rounded fighter was given a second chance to fight for the UFC in November 2015 where he emerged victorious.