Itsuki Hirata Vs. Ritu Phogat: 4 Keys To Victory

Oct 24, 2021
Itsuki Hirata meets Ritu Phogat in the ONE Women's Atomweight World Grand Prix semifinals

Itsuki “Android 18” Hirata and Ritu “The Indian Tigress” Phogat used their impeccable grappling skills to get through the ONE Women’s Atomweight World Grand Prix quarterfinals at ONE: EMPOWER last month, but they may be meeting their match in the next round.

Hirata will pit her judo against Phogat’s wrestling in their semifinal matchup at ONE: NEXTGEN this coming Friday, 29 October, and it will be fascinating to see who comes out ahead in such an evenly balanced contest.

Here are the keys to victory that could enable both athletes to best their opponent and move into the tournament final.

#1 Hirata’s Standing Edge

Pictures from the bout between Itsuki Hirata and Alyse Anderson at ONE: EMPOWER

Hirata believes that she has the edge on the feet against “The Indian Tigress” and claims that the Indian wrestler’s stand-up arsenal is limited to her right hand.

“Android 18” does indeed look the more comfortable of the two when upright, and she has a few tools in her arsenal that could help her stay there and score some striking success.

Hirata regularly utilizes feints, which will help to keep Phogat guessing and make it more difficult for the Evolve athlete to commit to her takedown attempts. When the K-Clann representative has her foe twitching, she can step in with her hard overhand right and left hook.

The Japanese star also has good inside and outside low kicks that can take some of the dynamism out of her rival’s shots, thus improving her chances of defending Phogat’s explosive double- and single-leg takedowns.

While “The Indian Tigress” showed that she has a solid chin and a big heart against a heavy hitter in Meng Bo, Hirata could use her patience to accumulate damage as the rounds wear on.

#2 The Battle For Top Position 

Ritu Phogat takes Nam Hee Kim down at ONE AGE OF DRAGONS

Both athletes are primarily top-game specialists who are at their best when they take their opponents down and go to work from dominant positions.

If either of them can gain control on the ground, it would be a huge boost to their chances of victory.

Phogat is aggressive in her search for takedowns, and she will wade in behind her punches to close the distance. Few can stop her once she is in close and moving between leg attacks, trips, and throws.

She also works well from the Circle Wall. However, she’d be better off avoiding upper body clinches against the black belt judoka.

“Android 18’s” trademark harai goshi could be her best chance of landing in a favorable spot if she can use the Indian’s aggressive forward momentum against her and toss her to the canvas. 

Neither athlete is used to spending prolonged periods on their back, so it will be a good litmus test of their ability to work from an unfamiliar position. 

#3 Phogat’s Ground-And-Pound

Pictures from the fight between Ritu Phogat and Meng Bo from ONE: EMPOWER

On top, “The Indian Tigress” is ferocious. She gives her rivals very little chance to escape and combines her positional dominance with ground-and-pound to bludgeon her way to success.

Phogat uses punches to help her advance position and once she is in side control, mount, or back mount, she opens up the taps.

From mount, she is very aggressive with punches and elbows. The Indian is even more potent from side control, where her favorite move is to trap her opponent’s arm between her legs for a crucifix and then pound away with strikes.

Submissions don’t seem to enter the Evolve athlete’s mind in the slightest, as she aims for TKO finishes by putting her opponents in untenable positions.

#4 Hirata’s Submission Threat

Japanese rising star Itsuki Hirata takes a scarf hold position against Nyrene Crowley in February 2020

Hirata is also aggressive with her ground-and-pound, but the way she blends it with her submission acumen could set her apart on the ground.

If “Android 18” can get on top, she can use a combination of her striking and submission prowess to create opportunities.

As a judoka, a scarf-hold control is one of her go-to positions. She will land hard punches and elbows from there and, when her opponents try to block, open up the chance to ensnare an arm for a submission. 

Hirata also has a diverse array of attacks in her locker. From Americanas and armbars to head-scissor chokes and rear-naked chokes, her bag of tricks is deep. And she has worked alongside legendary grappler Shinya “Tobikan Judan” Aoki to make these even more effective.

Wrestler Phogat is not used to being put on her back, so it will be interesting to see how she can handle Hirata’s offense if she gets put there. 

Read more: Stamp Reacts To New Grand Prix Opponent, Predicts Hirata vs. Phogat

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