Unequivocally, one of the most electric athletes in the history of sport, Masakazu Imanari, has earned the right to be given an opportunity to showcase his dynamic skills and unique fighting style in the pinnacle of the sport, the UFC.
His brash machismo, flair and creativity are unrivalled and would surely delight fans internationally.
While fans were flabbergasted by Anderson Silva's bravado during his destruction of the overmatched Stephan Bonnar, it paled in comparison to Imanari's typical fight strategy. No one, not even the great Silva, can match Imanari's original touch. Few athletes on the planet consistently do, stylistically, what the "Ashikan Judan" (10th Dan of Leglocks) can do.
He makes the impossible real.
He is known in esoteric circles that follow non-UFC events but deserves an introduction to neophytes. The reason for this seemingly hyperbolic praise is that he is so unconventional. He will keep his hands low, nonchalantly stroll around the ring and attack his opponent's legs with innovative entries.
He is unpredictable, so every moment is heavy with unbridled anticipation.
Currently, this unheralded genius is fighting for a multitude of smaller Asian organizations: Dream, One Fighting Championship and DEEP. He should be given an opportunity to compete on the most prestigious stage, the UFC. His ring panache would instantly convert sport fans into MMA fans and amaze the most ardent of purists.
Critics will—and validly so—point out his less than stellar record. An impressive but far from dominant record of 26-11 (5-3 in his last eight) do not scream out a "must sign" to Joe Silva and Dana White. His 17 submissions and his 12-plus years in the game do; however, more than afford him his just due.
UFC on Fuel TV 8 is taking place in Tokyo, Japan on March 3, 2013. Inviting the iconic vanguard of MMA would be a touching gesture to show appreciation to the sport's pioneers and to the Japanese infrastructure that helped build the sport.
He is much beloved there and enjoys rock star status. His presence would electrify the Saitama Arena and homes and bars across the globe.
In weighing the risks-reward, this is an easy bet.
Should the avant-garde leglock specialist win, the UFC would then have a new marketable Asian star. Should he lose, a current UFC roster member would have enhanced their profile by defeating a legend.
Imanari has only ever been knocked out twice and will either provide the promotion with a spectacular submission or lose while shocking the fans with his brazen fighting style. In all fairness to objectivity, he often does not engage his opponent, which can become tiresome when done by other fighters.
However, the way he walks around the ring is worth watching.
When he does decide to attack, one witnesses a relentless cycle of chain submission attempts that reveal his profound genius and sublime mastery of the art. It is a thrilling display of set-ups and switches scientifically conceived to force a leglock submission.
The truest one-in-a-kind fighter on the planet should be given his shot at international glory next March.
Worst case scenario, he does not perform well. Consider a few names that have been afforded to compete for the prestigious organization while the Japanese legend has not: Kimbo Slice, Sean Gannon, Gabe Ruediger, Jason Thacker, Rick Davis. The supposition that these athletes earned an opportunity over a local fighter with a proven pedigree is clearly contentious.
There is only an upside to it. Guaranteed, it will pay proper respect where it is due and it will entertain fans as they have never been entertained before. If you agree, send out your sentiments to Dana White via Twitter: @danawhite #IMANARIUFC
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