Takashi Uchiyama further stamped his claim as the best super featherweight in the world when he broke down Bryan Vasquez through 8 rounds. Vasquez, a 25 year old interim WBA champion, fought well enough to show that sometimes sanctioning bodies do get it right when it comes to appointing mandatory challengers. Vasquez was both busy and clever but was simply out gunned by the ever dangerous Uchiyama. Ultimately Uchiyama walked Vasquez down and pounded him until the ref stepped in while Vasquez was still standing. But it was not without controversy.
Through 5 rounds Vasquez was very much in the fight with Uchiyama and even won a couple of them. His timing proved effective against the plodding Japanese knockout sensation. Stylistically Uchiyama has a flaw of leaving his left hand low, making it easy for Vasquez to counter over the top of his jab with a right hand or a left hook. Vasquez's quick reflexes and fast hands were a problem. I'd go as far as to say if Uchiyama didn't have a height and reach advantage he would have really been in trouble in this fight.
On the other hand, Vasquez's main shortcoming besides not having the size or power of Uchiyama was his reluctance to adopt an inside fighting style. Vasquez still preferred to fight upright and from range (where he was clearly at a disadvantage) and didn't have enough head movement to stop eating Uchiyama's long, straight shots. To make matters worse Vasquez often pulled straight back after landing a punch and usually had his hands too low to properly defend himself.
Eventually Vasquez went from winning rounds to looking good in spots to just taking a beating, most notably the last 40 seconds of the fight. Vasquez could hardly even return fire in the last 34 seconds as Uchiyama flurried with about 60 bombs and landed half of them. The referee was well within his rights to stop the fight, but he was late. The round ended before the ref stepped in. It was the right call, but it was a late call. Raul Caiz Jr (the ref) might as well have given Vasquez a minute to recover on his stool and reassessed the situation at the beginning of the next round. Or he should have just stopped the fight sooner. But by no means is being a referee an easy job and this looked more like a mistake than sheer incompetence.
In any event the unbeaten Uchiyama made the 6th defense of his WBA super featherweight title and now has 16 stoppages in his 19 career wins. This is the 2nd time in a row that Uchiyama has fought on New Year's Eve. In 2011 Uchiyama had a bona fide knockout of the year candidate when he stopped a faded Jorge Solis in the 11th round. This year Uchiyama had to settle for an accumulation stoppage, but at least the opponent was a live dog. Provided he recovers from this fight physically and mentally, I look forward to Vasquez's future.
Kohei Kono KO4 Tepparith Kokietgym [WBA super flyweight title]
This was a pretty big upset. The Thai champion started strong but the Japanese underdog weathered the storm and dropped Kokietgym 3 times in round 4 en route to the ref rightfully waving it off. Kokietgym never recovered from the first knockdown, the result of a big left hook. Tepparith was coming off an 18 fight winning streak over the likes of Rey Migreno, Drian Francisco, Daiki Kameda, Tomonobu Shimizu, and Nobuo Nashiro among others. Kono on the other hand was 2-3 in his previous 5 bouts and had never beaten a world class opponent before, although he had a split verdict with Nobuo Nashiro in 2008.
Yota Sato UD12 Ryo Akaho [WBC super flyweight title]