Judo lightweight Ryo Kawabata defeats 115kg heavier opponent

    Judo lightweight Ryo Kawabata defeats 115kg heavier opponent

    5 Aug 2020 08:40

       Christian Fidler


    Judo is one of the most popular combat sports around. One challenge is how to make matchups as fair, and not to give one competitor the edge over the other. The way it is differentiated is by the various weight classes, and this approach works across most combat sport disciplines. Recently though, former Grand Slam Tokyo finallist Ryo Kawabata has bucked this trend somewhat.

    Kawabata, 30, who weighs in at 65kg and is a former top athlete in judo, hails from Japan. As you will expect, judo is a popular sport in the country, and this is reflected by the number of fans visiting trusted companies such as William Hill Japan to bet on the action. While there are times when smaller opponents will face off against larger ones, Kawabata decided to take on a Brazilian Ju-Jitsu white belt weighing in at 180kg, 115kg heavier than himself.

    In 2014 Kawabata also defeated the 2016 Olympic Champion Beslan Mudranov in Jeju and won against Ludwig Paischer in Austria's European Open in Oberwart. At the 2011 Grand Slam in Tokyo he overcame the 2012 Olympic Champio Arsen Galstyan as well.

    Kawabata’s reasoning for taking on a much heavier man was a determination to put his skill to the test while proving his judo ability to himself. If you’re more familiar with pounds, Kawabata weighs 143, while his opponent, who goes by the name of Big Joe, comes in on the scales at 397lb. Big Joe, who is from America, practices mixed martial arts. He made the move to Asia as he wanted to become a better fighter, and felt it was the ideal place to hone his craft further.

    The question everyone was asking before the open weight matchup is whether the size and weight difference will come into play at any point. As Big Joe is the much larger man, there was a feeling he could use his size to his advantage to gain the upper hand over national judo champion Kawabata. But there was another gap between the pair to consider heading into the bout.

    The skill gap between Kawabata and Big Joe was very much on par with the difference between the competitors in size and weight, and it was always going to be pivotal at determining the outcome of the open weight match up. Kawabata taking on an amateur in Big Joe was always going to stand him in good stead if he could get his skills and ability into play early on.

    As the action unfolded, Kawabata used his trademark patience to work immediately, He exercised fantastic positioning and control, as well as focus, and it enabled the 2013 All Japan champion to react when the time was right. Kawabata was able to get topside of Big Joe several times during the contest, and he successfully locked in an armbar which saw him win the initial bout.

    The pair went at it again after the first fight, with Big Joe immediately asserting his size and weight advantage over Kawabata. After getting topside of his Japanese opponent, he used his physicality to control the action, with Kawabata tapping out to give Big Joe a taste of victory. After the battle, Big Joe said, “I did not want to get arm barred again.”

    More and more judoka turn into other martial arts such as Brazilian Ju-Jitsu, but the intensity of rivalry in judo is unmatched which is why judoka are so successful in other combat sports.

    This article was originally published on

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