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Tatsuya Kawajiri Looks to Hit the Ground Running in UFC Debut

Photo Courtesy UFC Facebook page

Fighter nicknames don’t always fit the bill. Catchy titles or ones that simply stuck early in a fighter’s gym days are common.

Then you have ‘The Crusher,” Tatsuya Kawajiri.

Once in a while these names work and with Kawajiri (32-7-2), he has earned that nickname through over a decade of fighting.

The year is 2000 and a 22-year-old Japanese kid made his professional fighting debut in MMA under the Shooto banner. Little did he know that one day he would be the most recognizable name on the card.

Unfortunately for him, he lost that fight by rear-naked choke in just under three minutes. His opponent was making his debut as well.

It would be an entire year before Kawajiri returned to fighting, this time against Yohei Suzuki. The two men fought to a draw making the start of Kawajiri’s career a slow one.

A month later that coveted first professional win came for him and it was far from his last.

Seven straight wins over two years brought Kawajiri into the spotlight. He eventually won the Shooto lightweight title in 2004, and although he would go 1-2 in title fights since then – he defended his Shooto title once then later vacated it from a hand injury – he would never fade in popularity.

Kawajiri has now put in over 40 fights against some of MMA’s stiffest competition from every corner of the globe, never losing two in a row.

Kawajiri now awaits his debut in the biggest promotion as he debuts in the Octagon this Saturday at UFC Fight Night 34 in Singapore opposite fellow promotional newcomer Sean Soriano.

This isn’t Kawajiri’s first foray in to fighting under the Zuffa banner though as he was the unlucky title challenger to Gilbert Melendez in Strikeforce on the first event that allowed elbows to a grounded opponent as Strikeforce adopted the unified rules of MMA after its acquisition by Zuffa. Kawajiri was put away with these elbows.

Kawajiri’s career was in full sprint however and he would not lose again as he strung together 5 wins including 4 at featherweight, the division in which he makes his UFC debut.

His opponent Soriano is undefeated at 8-0, and a win over Kawajiri would be one of the biggest jumps such a new fighter has ever made. At 24-years-old the hunger for victory on such a big stage is one that isn’t to be questioned but the tall task of dispatching a red hot Kawajiri is as unenviable a task as any.

If Soriano lets up on Kawajiri just for a moment, ‘The Crusher” will do just that and roll on to a victory in his UFC debut. If you’re one who believes in Octagon jitters, then Soriano holds a distinct disadvantage going in against a man who is no stranger to the bright lights of professional MMA and who stated that he will go in to his next fight as if he were fighting for the featherweight title, adding to the tenacity that he brings naturally.

Do not miss this bout, exclusively on the UFC Fight Pass.

UFC Fight Night 34 takes place Saturday at 9 a.m. ET/ 6 a.m. PT live from Marina Bay Sands Resort in Singapore. Kawajiri will fight in the co-main event slot.

For coverage of UFC Fight Night 34 visit SciFighting.com.