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[2004-02-04-U-STYLE] Kiyoshi Tamura vs Tsuyoshi Kohsaka

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So I'd seen the heavily pimped Tamura vs Ito match before and it's a pretty awesome hard fought war with an interesting hierarchical angle. In many ways it felt like a shoot style Misawa vs Kawada match. It's a bout between rivals within the same generation of fighters, one of whom is a cool, calm, and collected ace and the other is a more emotional challenger. I'm a fan of Tamura from his best RINGS matches but he is out of this world as a shoot style ace at this point in his career. When he gets caught in holds he subtly sells pain while also remaining focused and actively looking out for his opponent's unprotected limbs or the nearest rope break if needed. I love the tense jockeying for position in the early going but this really escalates after the first rope break. Tamura coming back from that rope break with the high kick and Kohsaka's selling of it are incredible visuals. Despite a few cool moments during stand up this was mainly a grappling match and it was as spectacular as almost any grappling match I've seen from this time period.

I'm not sure if I'm overrating this because I decided to watch this after I got bored with NOAH matches so we'll see if that impression sticks.

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Tamura vs Kohsaka, U-Style February 4th 2004

 

Background: Two of the best shoot-style workers of the '90s were eventually forced to do shoots, with some interesting results. U-Style was a worked promotion started in 2003 so that Tamura could return to worked bouts.

 

Why I think it's underrated: Shoot-style in general isn't as popular as other styles, for reasons that probably don't need explaining. Tamura and Kohsaka go at it with such speed and fluidity that I think most people will be able to appreciate this.

 

What it deserves: Top 100, and top 50 consideration for shoot-style fans.

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Kiyoshi Tamura vs Tsuyoshi Kohsaka - U-Style 02/04/04

 

Tamura piqued my interest in his match with Ito. I always put delving more into Shoot Style off so I thought I take advantage of another Tamura match among the nominated matches. As a shoot-style novice, I do not know if I really could appreciate the beginning of this match. The work was really smooth and they were always moving, but it felt a little too showy like they were putting on an exhibition. I got the sense that Kohsaka was outworking on Tamura on the ground as he was chaining his moves together better and forced the first rope break at around the 10 minute mark with the guillotine choke. As good 'ol JR would say business is about to pick up as they fired off a thrilling a finish sequence. I liked Tamura responding to the first point loss with a stand up barrage to secure a knockdown and loved the knee that caught Tamura in the midsection in the fracas to put Kohsaka up 4-3. They sequence felt really organic. This is where my shoot style naivete maybe rearing its ugly head, but how come Kohsaka did sell Tamura's deep half crab after the hold. He was screaming and selling in the hold and the nothing. I get the "real" sports argument you dont show weakness but just a little limp or favoring of that knee would have added. Also are closed fists allowed because Tamura used them liberally to break up submissions late? With Tamura down 2-1, Kohsaka goes for the home run, rolling heel hook, that Tamura counters into a cross-armbreaker in the center of the ring. I thought there were better submission sequences earlier that could have been used as the finish. I will probably appreciate this more once i watch more RINGS. Still I love great matwork and this was very well-executed. ***3/4

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The structure of this match is what really sold me on it. The opening matwork stuff did seem a little too fluid. But then it came to the point where it was very clear that Kohsaka had the advantage on the ground despite Tamura's jujigatame being the focus of the match. He gets a few close calls on tamura needing to hit the ropes and finally forces it. Tamura switches it up and goes to stand-up to take away the advantage, but Kohsaka shows that he's got weapons there too. So Tamura starts trying to do quick takedowns into holds off of stand-up, which Kohsaka also counters. As the match progresses, you can see Kohsaka becoming a bit more vulnerable to Tamura's grappling on the mat and finally the jujigatame that Kohsaka had been fighting off the whole match happens and we have a finish. This was really beautifully done from the standpoint of fighting strategy as well as using Tamura's jujigatame as a focus for the build. Really good match that should make my top 50 or higher.

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Finally watched this last night and was reminded again just how incredibly smooth and quick Tamura is on the mat. I'm sure I'd appreciate it more if some of the nuance on the mat came to me more easily, but he's still operating at a ridiculous skill level. I can't rate it much higher because outside of a few big strikes this never felt like much beyond a tremendous exhibition, but can totally see why fans of the style would love it.

 

***1/2

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I love a slow burn when it's done right and these two know how to do just that. The tension builds to the initial takedown before Tamura starts maneuvering his way around the mat. TK isn't as spry as Tamura but he's still scrappy and able to grab a hold whenever while still doing a little fancy maneuvering himself. Cool stuff from Tamura as usual, including a great front necklock counter, and TK busting out a bunch of great kneebars trying to submit the hometown hero. Loved the part where he's got Tamura in a kneebar, Tamura tries punching his way out and then TK creeps up and pops him in the face with slaps. The scrambling intensifies, the striking picks up, especially from Tamura, who lays into TK with big body knees and killer head kicks. And in the end, they're dancing around the mat, trying for a few different things in a final attempt at victory. Tamura's single leg crab doesn't do the trick but he's ultimately able to snap off the jujigatame for the submission. 

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