ONE Championship fighter Masakazu Imanari is kind of a big deal in mixed martial arts and grappling circles. He is credited as the inventor of the Imanari Roll, a leg lock entry that is used in MMA and submission grappling. Several fighters use the move, including Ryan Hall and Tony Ferguson.
Imanari recently spoke with Dylan Bowker for Sportskeeda MMA. When asked about his pick for the best Imanari Roll he's executed in his long and storied career, the Japanese fighter said:
"I guess for myself it will be against Mike Brown."
Catch the interview below:
In late 2005, future WEC champion Mike Brown met future DEEP champion Masakazu Imanari. In this bout, Imanari hit the perfect Imanari Roll and won the fight via heel hook submission. The move involves doing a backwards roll into your opponent’s legs to initiate a takedown, which opens up leg submissions.
His opponent that day would himself go on to have a successful MMA career. Following the loss, Mike Brown went on a 10-fight win streak, which included winning the WEC title by knocking out Urijah Faber. Today, Brown is a notable trainer for fighters such as Amanda Nunes, Dustin Poirier, and Jorge Masvidal, among others.
On April 22, Masakazu Imanari will have a submission grappling match against five-time Brazilian jiu-jitsu champion Mikey Musumeci. The bout is scheduled for ONE 156.
Masakazu Imanari and the Imanari Roll
The Imanari Roll is not a very natural maneuver. In a sport with direct strikes, people typically initiate a chest-to-chest clinch to try for a takedown. Fighters also use a tackle to take their opponent to the ground, which has several variations.
So, how did Masakazu Imanari invent a reverse roll to initiate a grappling exchange? In the same interview, he explained that the move was born out of necessity. Imanari said that he was not good at wrestling, in particular takedowns. This meant he had to create something that he could use to get the fight where he wanted:
"That's a great question. It was definitely before the 2000s. I want to say maybe '99 or '98... I wasn't great at wrestling [or] just takedowns in general. So, I figured there's something I could do, I guess. Looking back, yeah, that's my inspiration."
Imanari will face Mikey Musumeci in a submission grappling bout at ONE 156. His opponent has been preparing to counter the famous Imanari Roll.