Possessing a record of 12-15-2, Daiju Takase perhaps doesn’t seem like the most formidable opponent in all of MMA and you’d probably be correct in that assessment. He’s hardly a pushover, though. He was always a solid journeyman who showed flashes of greatness, at times, throughout his career. Also, if nothing else, he has one of the coolest nicknames in the sport – “The Grappler King From The Shadows”.
Part of the reason for Takase’s somewhat lackluster record comes from the fact that he often times fought out of his weight class. This is due to the fact that, outside of a few UFC appearances, he mostly fought in his home country of Japan, where the weight classes were much more “open”. How open? Well, in Takase’s pro debut at PRIDE 3, he had to take on the behemoth who was former UFC competitor, Emmanuel Yarborough. For those who don’t know, Yarborough stood 6 ft 8 in and weighed in at over 600lbs! By comparison, Takase is 6ft and weighed in at 169lbs at the time. Obviously, a huge size disadvantage. So much so that it was almost impossible for Takase to even try to fight Yarborough at all.
“The Grappler King From The Shadows” started the fight out the only way he could – he ran circles around the giant, trying to wear him out and also trying to formulate a gameplan at the same time. The entire first round consisted of this tactic. In the second round, Takase ups the ante slightly by landing a few leg kicks. It’s hard to tell if this even had any effect on Yarborough, though. Hell, one of his legs probably weighed as much as Takase did at the time.
When Takase gets a yellow card for stalling, he perhaps goes a little crazy or perhaps he just realizes that he has to try something besides hoping Yarborough will just succumb to exhaustion due to walking. Either way, the result is that Takase attempts an incredibly stupid single leg takedown upon which Yarborough just collapses down on top of him.
At this point, the fight literally looks like the classic film JAWS, as the Leviathan that was Manny Yarborough has his arms wrapped around Takase’s lower body and he’s attempting to slowly inch his way up onto Takase’s upper body. It’s eerily reminiscent of the scene where Robert Shaw gets eaten by the shark. Incredibly, before he gets completely swallowed whole, Takase manages to wiggle out from underneath of the Colossus. At this point, Yarborough is helpless due to his size and Takase finishes him with strikes to the head – Keith Hackney style!
Takase had a few appearances in some early UFC’s but he ended up losing all three battles. It was against tough competition, though (Fabiano Iha, Jeremy Horn etc…), and again, he was fighting out of his weight class against larger fighters.
Takase got the biggest win of his career on June 8, 2003, at PRIDE 26. He took on future UFC legend Anderson Silva who was on a 9-fight win strike, 3 of those wins being in PRIDE competition. Nobody was giving Takase a chance for the win but, just like Buster Douglas, who pulled out a huge upset after dedicating his fight with Mike Tyson to his mother who had recently passed away; Daiju Takase pulled out a huge upset win after dedicating his fight to a terminally ill fan named Rocky and tapped Silva with a slick triangle choke within the first round!
Takase got one more big win by pulling out a unanimous decision victory over Carlos Newton at PRIDE Bushido 3 in 2004. Afterward, he spent the rest of his career as a solid journeyman, trading wins and losses against mid-tier competition. Although he’s not listed as being officially retired; at 40 years old and not having fought in almost 3 years, I’d say that Daiju Takase has pretty much done all that he is going to do. Still, he’s an underrated competitor to discover and a “hidden gem” of the sport.
*Adam Zimmerman (a/k/a The Grappling Gamer) is also a staff writer and contributor to Canadian Bulldog’s World (www.canadianbulldogsworld.com)*