Urantsetseg Munkhbat. Distria Krasniqi. Daria Bilodid. These were all big names in the U48kg division but all are gone now. Mongolia’s Munkhbat has turned to MMA it seems. Kosovo’s Krasniqi has moved back up to U52kg, which was always her preferred weight class. Ukraine’s Bilodid, meanwhile, has jumped up two weight classes to U57kg.
The Japanese are sending two U48kg players to Tashkent: Olympic silver medalist Funa Tonaki and reigning World Champion Natsumi Tsunoda. Actually, the highest ranked Japanese U48kg player is Wakana Koga who is No. 3 on the IJF list but she got bronze in the All-Japan Women’s Weight Class Championships earlier this year (Tonaki came in first and Tsunoda second).
Tonaki, 27, is also a former World Champion and a double World silver medalist, as well as 10 IJF World Tour titles, so she has great credentials and experience. She has only fought once since the Tokyo Olympics, in the Hungary Grand Slam in July, and there, she got gold. She is strong at newaza, especially with turnovers into osaekomi. She doesn’t seem to have a big throw and prefers instead to do a lot of ashiwaza, name ouchi-gari, kouchi-gari and kosoto-gari/gake.
Tsunoda, 30, is also an Asian Games champion and has seven IJF World Tour gold medals, so she has a lot of experience too. She has only competed twice since winning the World’s last year, at the Paris Grand Slam and Ulaanbaatar Grand Slam. She won gold in both. She has a particularly strong tomoe-nage, which is done classical style, and untypical of Japanese female players, she likes armlocks, which is her specialty in newaza.
France occupies the No. 1 and 2 rankings for U48kg with Shirine Boukli on top and Melanie Legoux Clement just below her. However, France is sending only Boukli to Tashkent as they are sending two representatives in the U70kg and +78kg divisions (a team can send a maximum of nine athletes).
Boukli, 23, is a double (and reigning) European Champion and she has won three IJF World Tour events. She has competed twice this year, at the Tel Aviv Grand Slam and European Championships in Sofia. She won both. Despite being a small player, she likes doing major hip techniques and has a really strong harai-goshi.
Boukli has fought Tonaki and Tsunoda once each, both in 2020. She defeated Tonaki but lost to Tsunoda.
We think it’s very likely to be an All-Japan final with Tonaki and Tsunoda, and JudoCrazy’s prediction is that this time it will be Tsunoda who comes up tops.
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