When discussing who the top featherweights are in the world, names that are always thrown around include Jose Aldo, Chan-Sung Jung and Chad Mendes, among others. One name you will rarely hear is that of Tatsuya Kawajiri, which is an absolute shame given his size, talent and resume.

Kawajiri is possibly best known by fans as the guy who unsuccessfully challenged Gilbert Melendez for his Strikeforce lightweight championship back in mid-2011. Since that time, “The Crusher” has found himself a new home at 145 pounds.

With Kawajiri’s drop to the featherweight has come a reign of terror overseas for overmatched opponents. By overmatched, I do not mean that they are bad opponents. By overmatched, I mean that Kawajiri has been so impressive that his competition has looked awful in comparison.

His first victim was respected veteran Joachim Hansen. The Norwegian is seen very highly over in Japan for the overall skill set he brings with him to the ring.

Kawajiri brought it to Hansen. The usually well-versed ground technician was tapped out by Kawajiri. The Japanese star’s weapon of choice in the fight was an arm-triangle choke. This was just the first example of Kawajiri’s potential dominance in the featherweight division.

After Hansen was dispatched of, Kawajiri was put in the cage against a tough, underrated Kazayuki Miyata. Again, Kawajiri would dominate the fight, using another arm-triangle choke to submit his victim.

His latest outing took place in March against American Donald Sanchez. Sanchez is another overlooked, underrated featherweight in the MMA world. Acting as if he did not care how good Sanchez was, Kawajiri yet again submitted the opposition with a triangle choke to go three-for-three with three submissions as a featherweight.

This alone should get Kawajiri respect and publicity as a top featherweight. However, he still remains the forgotten man at 145.

New Year’s Eve is when Kawajiri returns to the ring. He takes on UFC veteran Michihiro Omigawa at Dream.18 in Japan. If he can convincingly win his fight, and assuming his contract does not make it impossible, he should get an invitation to the UFC.

His skills would likely bring him great success inside the Octagon. He is a strong submission fighter on the ground and has solid stand-up to go along with it. He has good takedowns as well, which would help him transition nicely into his submission game. His aggressive, physical style would likely see him outclass a lot of the men in the division. He was successful doing it at lightweight, and he can be even more successful in his new weight class.

But above all, given his background at lightweight and his success thus far at 145 pounds, Kawajiri should get the recognition he deserves as a top-10 featherweight.

Photo: Tatsuya Kawajiri (Taro Irei/Sherdog)

About The Author

Riley Kontek
Staff Writer

Riley Kontek is a Chicago-land native that has been an addict of mixed martial arts since the first Chuck Liddell-Tito Ortiz encounter. He has been writing on MMA for the last year and is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report MMA. In addition to that, he used to host a weekly radio show on MMA. Though he has no formal training in mixed martial arts, Riley is a master in the art of hockey fighting.