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The Japan Tragedy: The Effect of the Catastrophe

By Sean Farrell

Destruction has visited Japan, as an 8.9-magnitude earthquake and shortly ensuing 23 foot tsunami tore a better part of the nation from its core, leaving an estimated 10,000 dead and many more missing or displaced. As a minor result following this catastrophe, MMA events across the country have been canceled and it was announced by the UFC that Japanese star Yoshihiro Akiyama has withdrawn from his scheduled UFC 128 bout against Nate Marquardt.

UFC President Dana White has assured that Akiyama and his family are safe and free from harm but many friends and countrymen need him. With the bout scheduled for next weekend, New Jersey native Dan Miller has jumped from his undercard bout against Nick Catone to take on Marquardt in Akiyama’s absence, according to a press release made by UFC president Dana White. “New Jersey native Dan Miller proves once again that he will fight anyone, anywhere, any time by agreeing to step up from the prelims to face Nate Marquardt,” said White. “Marquardt has long been a top-10 ranked middleweight, and Miller jumped at the opportunity to face him.”

It is also reported that the Strikeforce lightweight championship bout between Gilbert “El Niño” Melendez (18-2) and top-ranked Japanese superstar Tatsuya “Crusher” Kawajiri (27-6-2) is still a go for Saturday, April 9 at Valley View Casino Center in San Diego, Calif. The bout seemed questionable due to the earthquake in Japan, and lightweights K.J. Noons and Jorge Masvidal were told to remain on standby in case the bout was canceled.

The bout is a rematch of a fight that Melendez won on a close, unanimous decision on Dec. 31, 2006. It is Melendez’s first fight since scoring a lopsided five-round decision over Shinya Aoki last April. Melendez has been triumphant in his last four fights, including a unanimous decision over Josh Thomson in a rematch to regain the title on Dec. 19, 2009.

Kawajiri is 8-2 since the controversial defeat to Melendez. He unanimously outpointed former Strikeforce lightweight belt-holder Josh Thomson last December. Nicknamed “Crusher” for his devastating power and ground and pound fighting style, the Japanese destroyer holds notable wins over Yves Edwards, Luis Azeredo, Gesias “JZ” Cavalcante and Vitor Ribeiro, from whom he captured the Shooto welterweight championship.

MMA has a huge role in Japan, so it’s not surprising that the devastating earthquake and tsunami that hit the island country would have an effect on fighters. Roxanne Modafferi, an American-born fighter who has fought for Strikeforce and makes her home in Japan, put a note on her Facebook page about the moment the quake hit.

“Then the place freaking starts ROCKING. People start BOOKING it for the door. Come on, grandma, ditch the cart! Like 5 grandmas were like blocking the doors with their carts…
We make it outside and even standing on the pavement, we can feel it. I look up and see antennae waving back and forth wildly, and I SEE THE FREAKING 7 STORY BUILDING SWAYING compared to the one next to it!!

It was so scary! The building was moving! People were pouring out of all the nearby buildings.
Eventually, I went to my office and saw my co-workers with students standing outside. Turns out that we canceled classes for the rest of the day. Well, only two kids showed up and we sent them home. There were aftershocks, and it was really scary.”

The earthquake is the biggest to hit Japan since earthquakes have been accurately measured. MMA Japan tweeted “Aoki is OK,” referring to lightweight fighter Shinya Aoki, and said that Jewels and Pancrase events for this weekend were canceled. Shooto is canceled, as well.

We all hope that Japan can recover from this natural disaster, and hope Japanese MMA which is already struggling can take this time to rebuild and become dominant again.

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