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  • Writer's pictureChris Presnell

Rei Tsuruya climbs to 10-0 with cyclone of a fight with Hernandez at UFC 303

Rei Tsuruya at UFC 303

Taking advantage of the seismic platform of UFC 303, Rei Tsuruya introduced himself to the broader UFC fanbase with a grappling feast of a fight.

After winning the second Road to UFC flyweight tournament, young Japanese prospect Rei Tsuruya secured a unanimous decision in his UFC debut against Carlos Hernandez. The fight was the second fight of the UFC 303: Pereira vs. Prochazkha prelims in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Rei Tsuruya started the fight in the southpaw stance, feeling out Hernandez. A failed single leg from Tsuruya eventually led to Hernandez snatching a reversal and slamming Tsuruya to the mat. A scramble ensued and Tsuruya grabbed a leg of Hernandez to try and finish the fight early with a leg lock.

Overall, Rei Tsuruya seemed much more reigned in than his Road to UFC fights, looking to clip Hernandez with a straight left on the feet and set up the takedowns. Hernandez's takedown defense held up until Rei landed to throw with ninety seconds left in the first round. Hernandez would never cede a position, and was able to pull Tsuruya from the side mount back into half guard, and the two continued to scramble to the end of the round.

Hernandez and Tsuruya continued to exemplify the fast-paced whirlwind of a flyweight battle to open round two, with Tsuruya working for a single leg, but Hernandez fighting out of every threat. Every time to Tsuruya had Hernandez in a compromised position, Hernandez kept moving and scrambled out, even as Tsuruya took the back of his American opponent. 

Just as Rei Tsuruya seem to have Carlos Hernandez in a bad spot with his patented twister submission, Hernandez rolled out and Tsuruya reclaimed the side control position. While damage was often lacking through two rounds, Tsuruya finished the second frame landing elbows from the inverted triangle position.

Round three began with a shift in momentum, as Hernandez took Tsuruya down to the half guard position. Carlos Hernandez did not come to lose.

A clash of heads in the opening scramble appeared to open a small cut on both fighters' foreheads. Hernandez worked to accumulate some kind of damage with some open palm strikes, but Tsuruya controlled the posture of his opponent, avoiding any impact for strikes.

However, the advantageous position of Hernandez would soon slip away from him, as Tsuruya built back to his feet, and pushed Hernandez to the cage wall with two minutes to go. Hernandez was clearly ahead in the round but likely needed to finish to get the victory. The fight stayed in the clinch for the rest of the fight with Hernandez throwing elbows from the clinch.

All three judges were unanimous in their verdict, scoring the fight 29-28 for Rei Tsuruya. With the win, the 22 year-old moves to 10-0 and follows in the footsteps of contender Tatsuro Taira representing Japan in the UFC flyweight division.

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