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Itsuki Hirata: One Championship’s next big star?

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ONE Championship may have found a new global star at atomweight in 19-year-old Japanese Judo specialist, Itsuki Hirata (4-0).

Hirata made her ONE Championship debut at Legendary Quest with a lot of hype surrounding her. This hype was built around her 100 per cent finishing record throughout her amateur career and her victory in the Agent War tournament. During this tournament, Hirata secured a second-round and two first-round submission victories. These victories came against Bo Hyeon Park (2-2), Mio Tsumara (2-1), and Mizuki Furuse (5-7) respectively.

Usually, when a new prospect makes their debut with a major promotion they are fed a gimme opponent. However, this was not the case for Hirata who was matched up against Angelie Sabanal (1-2). Sabanal is a Phillipino national silver medalist in Muay Thai who came into the bout with a professional record of 1-1. Sabanal’s victory came over fan favourite Rika Ishige (4-3).

The occasion did not seem to faze Hirata in the slightest, as she seemed to be in a zen-like state during her walkout. The fight began with Sabanal looking light on her feet as she managed to land a few strikes. These strikes were absorbed well by Hirata who continued to pressure Sabanal.

As Hirata continued to press forward she threw a wild overhand right which helped her secure a takedown. The takedown resulted in the fighters landing too close to the ropes, meaning the ref had to reposition them in the middle of the ring.

When the fight restarted Hirata was inside Sabanal’s full guard, although she would not remain there for long. Hirata immediately stepped over into side control and secured an Americana for the finish.

The drastic difference in the two fighter’s ground games was made clear during this exchange. The fight lasted less than 40 seconds once Hirata secured the takedown and 2 minutes 29 seconds in total.

No opponent has managed to stop Hirata from securing a submission victory within the first two rounds so far. This stat highlights her grappling prowess.

Hirata’s performances to date would suggest that she is likely to be a threat in the atomweight division. However, if she does want to win a title in the future I can’t help but feel her striking will have to improve significantly.

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