It’s always sad to see a great fighter retire from the sport of MMA, especially on a loss. Fan-favorite Shintaro Ishiwatari (26-9-4) has been a ubiquitous fighter in the JMMA scene since 2006 and has been putting on fun fights ever since.
He announced his retirement on the Rizin Confessions #73 YouTube video right after his KO loss to Naoki Inoue at Rizin 28. It became official at the Rizin 30 press conference on July 20. He said “I have been sustaining damage to my body throughout my career, and my neck has not been the same for quite some time. I can no longer see myself competing against the top-level fighters anymore so I decided it is time to call it.”
In a career that spanned over a decade in multiple organizations (Deep, Pancrase, Shooto, just to name a few), he was a fighter who always put it on the line and never coasted. He could strike with powerful punches and had an underrated grappling game that was able to sub some of the best in the game. He also fought in multiple divisions, being at 135 pounds mainly, but as far up as 155.
He has had so many fights to consider his best but I’ve narrowed down to five that will hopefully either introduce you to a great fighter or remember him at his best.
Hiromasa Ogikubo vs Shintaro Ishiwatari
Two of the top bantamweights in Rizin clashed in this Fight of the Year candidate. Hiromasa Ogikubo came into this fight looking to use wrestling and volume striking to get him a win. Ishiwatari came in looking for that finish and was going to use his hard strikes and soccer kicks to get the win. Both fighters showed incredible and tenacity and refused to go down. The third round was an exciting back-and-forth that made it hard to decide who won on the scorecards.
Kyoji Horiguchi vs Shintaro Ishiwatari 1
In their first meeting, Kyoji Horiguchi defended his Shooto BW belt against Ishiwatari for Vale Tudo Japan. This was the fight that got Horiguchi signed to the UFC. A Top-10 bantamweight at the time, Horiguchi had been defeated only once before. While Ishiwatari did not come out the winner in this fight, he put up a hard-fought fight against Horiguchi and came close to putting him away a few times. Even up until the last round, Ishiwatari was pushing forward, looking to get Horiguchi with that one shot.
Ulka Sasaki vs Shintaro Ishiwatari
In this fight, Ishiwatari was able to show off how underrated of a grappler he was. On paper, Ulka Sasaki would appear the more likely candidate to have submitted Ishiwatari. Instead, Ishiwatari submitted Sasaki with a rare north-south choke. The north-south choke is a very hard submission to lock-in, because it needs a perfect grip and position for it to work. Ishiwatari, though, made it seem easy.
Caol Uno vs Shintaro Ishiwatari
In this Pancrase vs Shooto superfight, then Pancrase bantamweight champion Ishiwatari faced off against former UFC lightweight title challenger and still-active fighter Caol Uno. This was a huge fight at the time and we even covered it on the site. Uno was known for his strong submission game and should have had all the advantages on paper for this fight. Instead, Ishiwatari dominated Uno in all aspects of the game. He knocked down Uno multiple times and was able to take down the veteran fighter numerous times much to the shock of the Korakuen audience. It is an incredible fight and to see the undersized Ishiwatari manhandle Uno with ease shows how much of an exceptional fighter he was.
Full fight is available on the UFC Fight Pass.
Kazuhiro Ito vs Shintaro Ishiwatari
This fight doesn’t go the distance, but it showcases what made Ishiwatari a great fighter: he was always thinking. Even in a losing situation, he thought of creative ways to escape or keep pushing through adversity. After getting caught in an armbar by Ito, instead of punching, wiggling his arm out, or another typical escape, what does he do? He picks up Ito and slams him down face-first, immediately knocking him out. It might have been the most disgusting KO slam up until Jessica Andrade slamming Rose Namajunas to win the UFC strawweight title.
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