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[2022-06-05-Kotaro Nasu Produce] Kotaro Nasu vs Hitamaru Sasaki


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Starlane rules, as far as I can tell, are similar to UWF rules. Both competitors get five points, with knockdowns and rope breaks each using a point. If you use all of your points, you lose via TKO. Both scramble for holds immediately, with Nasu targeting the leg and Sasaki going after the arm. We're in the intimate venue of Basement Monstar. There's around 20 or 30 people in the crowd if I had to guess, so we get a nice, up-close look at the mat work.

Sasaki switches up his game plan briefly, going after the leg, and forces Nasu to use his first escape. Nasu ties things up with a leg lock of his own. Nasu gets rocked with a knee, but like a shark smelling blood in the water, circles Sasaki and regains control. Nasu gets overzealous, slapping Sasaki in the face, but Sasaki sticks with the ankle lock, and this time Nasu's able to get out of it. A flurry of kicks follow, and that's three downs remaining for Nasu.

Nasu caught Sasaki off-guard with a kick of his own, and Sasaki made it to his feet just in time for the referee to hit ten. A cross armbreaker from Sasaki followed, and suddenly Nasu was down to two points. Nasu can barely stand at this point, but he's still throwing errant kicks in an attempt to catch Sasaki unaware. Nasu goes for an ankle lock of his own, but Sasaki reverses the pressure and turns it into a sleeper. Exhaustion is setting in for both at this point, and Sasaki employs a deep side headlock to try and drain the energy out of his opponent, but Nasu reverses with a back suplex. Nasu makes the rookie mistake of getting into a striking battle with Sasaki, who nearly ends the match with a rolling Koppo Kick. Nasu sticks with the leg lock that's worked for him so far, forcing Sasaki to use his final rope break. Nasu goes for a backdrop driver, but Sasaki rolls through into a Boston Crab, forcing him to submit.

Another banger from Sasaki, who has a great understanding of fundamentals and selling. Too often in shoot-style-inspired settings, I see people rely on rope breaks for drama. But in Sasaki's matches, they feel like a meaningful glimmer of hope for both competitors. There's always a sense of struggle to Sasaki's mat work, which I also appreciate. He's not out there feeding opponents his limbs so they can lock in a submission; he makes them fight for it. This was a feather in Sasaki's cap, but be sure to make note of Nasu. He was no slouch here either.

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