Yoshitaka “Nobita” Naito used his lone career blemish to light a fire within him.
After dropping the strawweight world title to Alex “Little Rock” Silva last December in a five-round thriller, the 34-year-old Japanese competitor rededicated himself to his craft, in the hopes of avenging his loss and reclaiming the belt.
On Saturday, 12 May, he accomplished both of those feats.
Naito challenged Silva in the main event of ONE: GRIT AND GLORY at the Jakarta Convention Center in Indonesia, and controlled much of the bout en route to defeating his Brazilian adversary via split decision to recapture the ONE Strawweight World Title.
“I was worried the fans in Jakarta were not going to remember my name, but they did,” Naito told Mitch Chilson in the post-bout interview. “There were some dangerous parts, but I showed some good grappling, and I was able to get [the win].”
“Nobita” clearly learned his lessons from his first career defeat, and came back stronger and more determined in the second bout.
The Paraestra Matsudo representative promised to start faster this time around, and he delivered on that, as he looked lively early in the first round.
Silva, a BJJ world champion who originally defeated Naito thanks to his striking prowess, worked his low kicks to good effect. But his Japanese opponent learned his lesson from their first meeting.
Sensing danger on the feet, the story of the opening stanza was a well-worked takedown, and “Nobita” then controlled the bout from top position until Silva managed to scramble back up with a kimura grip late on.
Naito kept the pressure on in the second-round stand-up exchanges, staying busy enough to force Silva backwards. The Brazilian initiated the shot for the first time, but could not finish it on the exceptional Japanese wrestler. Instead, he found himself on the bottom.
The rest of the frame was a back-and-forth scramble, with both men trying to hold a dominant position to earn the judges’ favor.
The challenger had found a working formula, and stayed with it for round three. Busy and mobile on the feet, he peppered “Little Rock” with strikes, until he could force a clinch. They exchanged positions on the fence and on the ground, with Silva attempting leg locks.
However, it was Naito who had the lion’s share of dominance, as he controlled the champ, and landed ground and pound.
Silva appeared more and more frustrated, and was keen to land hard shots at the start of round four, but it gave “Nobita” the opportunity to grab a leg and drag his foe to the ground once more.
As the Brazilian once again looked for a leg lock, he could not establish control to complete his attempts. Naito would grind out the round from the top.
It seemed like all the challenger had to do to bring the belt back to Japan was stick to the formula of the first four rounds, and that is exactly what he did in round five.
Silva chased the one-hitter-quitter, but he was taken down more easily, with Naito riding him and landing sporadic punches.
Ultimately, Naito did enough to grab a split-decision victory, and now, he holds the ONE Strawweight World Championship once again.