Prospect Watch: Yuya Wakamatsu Making His Way To Big Leagues

Instagram Yuya Wakamatsu
By Nolan King

There is something different to be found when watching touted prospects compete inside the chaos of a mixed martial arts cage. There are some who are simply meant for larger achievements, and their performances reflect that motivation. Meanwhile, others who possess developed traits struggle against more experienced competition.

The ones who pass the test move on to face tougher obstacles, and those who struggle discover there is much more work to be done. Let's take a look at some top-ranked prospects who stepped into the cage last weekend.

Yuya Wakamatsu

Flyweight / 9-1 Professional / 22 years old/ Kagoshima, Japan

Despite the emergence of a Korean star in Doo Ho Choi, and a resurgence of another Korean star in Chan Sung Jung, Asian MMA as a whole is still in a bit of a drought when it comes to star production.

Specifically, when quantifying the rate of fighters coming into the world's largest mixed martial arts promotion, it becomes apparent that the former home of PRIDE is lacking new talent. Japan is one of the first countries that comes to mind when thinking of the roots of martial arts, yet in the UFC today there are only a dozen fighters from the "Land of the Rising Sun".

Pancrase has been a key promotional player in producing top Japanese fighters that have made it to big promotions. This past Sunday, they held their 290th event. As usual, the card featured top prospects from all over Asia. One of those prospects was 22-year-old Yuya Wakamatsu, also known as the "Little Piranha."

Replacing UFC veteran Tateki Matsuda as a late notice injury replacement, Wakamatsu took on fellow prospect and countryman Shohei Masumizu (7-3) as part of the night's main card.

Despite being controlled against the cage for much of the first round, Wakamatsu never really encountered any serious trouble. For the minority of the first round, the two were separated. During these brief moments, Wakamatsu stalked down Masumizu, who seemed a bit timid on the feet.

The second round was a bit more of a striking match, with Wakamatsu fully displaying his size, speed and strength advantages.  After chasing Masumizu around the cage for the majority of the round, Wakamatsu was finally able to catch his prey. A brutal one-two combo staggered Masumizu before a mirror image of that same combo sat him down. A flurry of shots gave the referee no choice but wave off the bout in the second round.

FloCombat Grade: B

BREAKDOWN: Skills aside, if you were to try and craft a physical template for a flyweight fighter, it would be Yuya Wakamatsu. The 22-year-old is chiseled, but the muscle doesn't hurt his cardio in the least bit. He is a true athlete with great footwork, speed, and above-average power in his hands.

His stance is a bit odd for his opponents, standing off the center line on his back foot, as if he is looking for a spinning attack at all times. However, Wakamatsu rarely throws flash, but instead chooses to go with substance. His hands are heavy, but he should focus on throwing more combinations. He seems to only throw one strike at a time, instead of putting together two or three punch combos.

Another area in which "the Little Piranha" could improve is his head movement. He does an excellent job with his footwork, but if you watch his trunk and head, it very seldom moves off of the same plane. If he does not make the proper adjustments and has to face off against a strong, technical striker, the Japanese flyweight could find himself in trouble.

At this point in time, Wakamatsu isn't ready for the big show. He needs to make his game more well-rounded, and sharpen the tools that have allowed him to achieve success thus far. However, the foundation is there. Down the line it will be shocking if this athletic, hard-nosed prospect doesn't appear in the UFC, Bellator, or maybe even in his backyard of Japan for RIZIN.

March 24 Preview: CFFC 70, V3Fights 67, Pinnacle FC 16 Info, How To Watch

CFFC/Alliance MMA Ricky-Bandejas-MMA-CFFC-FloCombat

Fact: March 24 is one of the biggest nights in FloCombat history. 

Why PRO? Your FloCombat Subscription Explained

Alliance MMA Brown-Lepe-Shogun-Fights-Florida-FloCombat

You love MMA—that's why you're here.

Tony Ferguson vs. Rafael Dos Anjos Full Fight Video

Etzel Espinosa-USA TODAY Sports Tony-Ferguson-Rafael-Dos-Anjos-MMA-UFC

Tony Ferguson faces undefeated challenger Khabib Nurmagomedov April 7 at UFC 223, but El Cucuy's road to this mega fight was anything but easy. 

Ricky Simon Plans to Wear Out, Finish Vinicius Zani At LFA 36

Jesse Kelley-LFA Ricky-Simon-MMA-LFA

By Lucas Grandsire

LFA bantamweight champion and FloCombat No. 1 bantamweight prospect Ricky Simon had the biggest opportunity of his career when he stepped up to face Donavon Frelow on Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series in August 2017.

Alex Perez Explains Missing Weight, Calls For Roberto Sanchez Fight

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports Alex-Perez-UFC-MMA

By Lucas Grandsire

Alex Perez’s impressive seven-fight winning streak continued at UFC on Fox 28 in February, when the Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series alum defeated former "The Ultimate Fighter 25" competitor Eric Shelton by unanimous decision. 

CFFC 70 Main Event Preview: Ricky Bandejas vs. Askar Askar

Alliance MMA Ricky-Bandejas-CFFC-69

We need to discuss Saturday's CFFC 70 bantamweight title fight between Ricky Bandejas and Askar Askar.

Arjan Bhullar 'Would Love To Be Able To Dip Into' WWE Waters

Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports Arjan-Bhullar-MMA-UFC

By Daniel Vreeland

Countless fighters have made the statement, "If you can’t get excited about a fight, you’re in the wrong business." However, it never hurts to have a little outside motivation to step into the cage. 

UFC 223: Al Iaquinta Happy With UFC, Can't 'Get Over' Some Things

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports Al-Iaquinta-MMA-UFC

By Damon Martin

Al Iaquinta is happy to be fighting in the UFC again—at least for one night.

FloCombat To Host Worldwide Broadcast Of MTGP Presents Lion Fight 41

Walt Zink/Lion Fight Lion-Fight-41-Release-FloCombat

For immediate release: March 20, 2018—Muay Thai Grand Prix and Lion Fight Promotions are pleased to jointly announce that FloCombat will broadcast MTGP Presents Lion Fight 41 on Saturday, April 7, from the Indigo at O2 Arena in London, England.

Cody Stamann Eyes 'Winnable' Fights vs. John Lineker, John Dodson

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports Cody-Stamman-UFC-MMA

By Lucas Grandsire

Cody Stamann has finally been able to shed the “prospect” label.

The 17-1 bantamweight is coming off of the biggest victory of his career, handing Bryan Caraway his first loss since 2014 earlier this month at UFC 222 in Las Vegas.