Santiago vs Nakatani Predictions: Cometh the hour, cometh Japan

 | February 23 | 

3 mins read

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Junto Nakatani looks to become a three-weight world champion this weekend as he steps up to face Alexandro Santiago for the WBC bantamweight championship. A power vacuum has opened up at the weight since pound-for-pound star Naoya Inoue moved up to super bantamweight. Nakatani fancies himself as the man to fill the void and he has the track record to back it up.

Santiago vs Nakatani Odds

  • Santiago to win @ 5/1
  • Nakatani to win @ 1/8
  • Draw @ 20/1

Nakatani is 26-0 with 19 knockouts. Still only 26, he has reigned as a world champion at flyweight and super flyweight. The Kanagawa star was a particularly destructive force at flyweight, winning all three of his world title bouts at the weight by knockout. Two of his three super flyweight contests went the distance while the third ended in the final round, when he knocked out Australia’s Jason Moloney.

While his countryman Inoue has become an icon for the way his destructive power has accompanied him through the weights, it looks like Nakatani may have to adjust as he prepares to compete at this heaviest yet. Such an emphasis may not hurt considering the fact Santiago has never been stopped in his professional career.

While Nakatani’s rise has felt destined, Santiago is perhaps an unlikely world champion. Three defeats and five draws blotted his record before he secured his shot at the vacant WBC bantamweight crown. Santiago was the clear B-side in that promotion, with Nonito Donaire’s bid to break his own record as oldest bantamweight champion ever the focus.

But despite his underdog status, Santiago spoiled the party. After Donaire’s strong start, ‘Peque’ fought his way into proceedings and seized control. A dominant final six rounds tipped the balance in Santiago’s favour. The underdog was a champion, with a Hall of Fame scalp on his record to boot.

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Make no mistake, while Donaire is one of the all-time greats, facing Nakatani will be tougher. ‘The Filipino Flash’ remains impressive considering he is 41 years of age, but he was coming off a second-round knockout defeat to Inoue. Nakatani is a fresh 26 and firmly in his competitive prime. 

Santiago is in his too, those early career losses will be behind him in his mind at the age of 28. They match them tough in Mexico so a few losses and draws early in your development are not uncommon. It is a different ethos to the protection of unbeaten records you see in the US and UK. But there still isn’t anything that stands out in Santiago’s game as something for Nakatani to worry about.

I don’t think the Japanese star gets Santiago out of there. His power didn’t carry to super flyweight so it is hard to envisage him packing a heavy punch at the weight above. Even if he does bring the thunder, Santiago is durable. But I expect Nakatani to have the better of things over the course of the fight, winning via decision priced at 11/8. The champion will ask the challenger some questions, for sure. But I feel Nakatani will find the answers and emerge as a three-weight world champion.

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