On Friday, 7 February, the Japanese athlete rebounded from his unsuccessful ONE Featherweight World Title challenge with a spectacular, third-round TKO of “The Fighting God” Kim Jae Woong.
Matsushima knew the South Korean knockout artist would pose a tough test, but he delivered on his promise to mix up his striking and grappling attack and leave Jakarta, Indonesia, with a stoppage victory.
Though he says his strategy worked “perfectly,” the 27-year-old had to absorb a few hard strikes to get his rival onto the mat, and he also admits Kim was a difficult man to pin down.
“I had an idea his scramble was strong. I knew more or less it would go down like that,” says “Moushigo.”
“Of course, I knew his striking is very skillful. I felt in the second round the distance suddenly closed in more than the first round and thought, ‘Oh, he’s good!’ as he was able to adjust the distance. Also, he probably knew I was looking for the takedown, so he threw the jumping knee. I’d studied that carefully. He was hard to deal with.”
Despite the danger posed by the man from Seoul, Matsushima was not afraid to exchange punches with him and found a home for his right hand. One strike halfway through the second round put Kim on his back, but he did not go away easily.
By the end of the second round, he was looking just as dangerous as he had before.
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“From the first round I was looking for the takedown and using that as a feint for the right hand and that [punch] in the second round went in the cleanest,” he explains.
“After that, I thought, ‘I can use this!’ and closed the distance, but that had the opposite effect because I got a bit frustrated and lost control. That’s my own mistake with my strategy.”
“The Fighting God” had the chance to regroup before the third round began, but in that time, the Japanese athlete also enjoyed a few valuable moments to recalibrate and come out of his corner focused on bringing the contest to a close.
The first punch Matsushima threw after the restart was a huge overhand right that caught his rival on the button and put him on rubber legs. The finish soon followed, and Matsushima’s training had paid off.
“He came out in the third round wanting to make an impression with his attacks, and I think because of that, I was able to catch him with that punch and timing,” he adds.
“Clearly, my boxing training has [paid off], but of course, my grappling training is also linked to the result. I was training not to be conscious of landing the right hand strongly… I drilled and sparred [to perfect my] timing so that I could use it without thinking during the match, and I felt I was able to.”
“Moushigo’s” performance was much more like fans had come to expect after his run through the Japanese circuit, and his phenomenal debut against former ONE Featherweight World Champion Marat Gafurov.
However, he is quick to say that ONE: WARRIOR’S CODE did not see the return of the ‘old’ Matsushima. Instead, he is a new and improved athlete who is ready to take on the best the featherweight division has to offer as he renews his quest to reach the top.
“I think I’m better than before. I want everyone to expect an even better me next time. Of course, I’ll keep assessing my striking, but I want my mixed martial arts to be even more efficient,” he says.
“Right now, there’s no one I’d especially like to face. Of course, there are lots of strong guys out there, so I’ll be happy with whoever I’m offered. I was asked a little while ago about (Garry) Tonon, so he is one. Also, Thanh Le. They’re all strong, and it’ll be exhausting whoever I fight, so I can’t say more than that!”