Rizin 2017 Sakura Review and Results

Today we attended the latest RIZIN Event, Rizin 2017 Sakura – the promotion’s spring event. Sakura (Cherry Blossom) descibes the event because this time of year in Japan all of the cherry trees are in full bloom. Rizin continues to up its game. Not to be out done by the beauty of all the cherry trees in Japan, Rizin put on their fantastic light show for all the MMA fans.

The show kicked off with Seiichiro Ito vs. Kizaemon Saiga. Ito won the bout by unanimous decision, mostly dominating the fight by staying on top of Saiga. Ito came down the Warrior’s Path wearing a white Gi and to the walkout song “We Will Rock You” By Queen, a nod to deceased fighter and Kyokushin Karateka legend, Andy Hug.

The next fight, Kanna Asakura defeated Aleksandra Toncheva by unanimous decision. Asakura has been going strong in RIZIN since she started with the promotion after Pancrase. Her fights are not easily won. She is putting the work in and obviously developing as a fighter. Still very young and with a bright future – keep an eye on her. Having just graduated, she has shed her “High School Girl” image in the promotion.

Following this fight was another woman’s MMA match. Saori Ishioka vs. Bestare Kicaj. Ishioka would end up winning by submission (rear-naked choke) in Round 1. Ishioka is a legend in Japan. She is one of the pioneers of female MMA. She has been fighting for over 10 Years. She is also a full time mother and is known as the “Karate Mom”.

The next fight was what some consider to be the fight of the night. Two fierce strikers, both with the abilty to sleep their oppoents with a single punch. Yusuke Yachi vs. Daron Cruickshank ended quickly by knockout (right hook) in Round 1. Yachi landed his punch directly on the jaw bone of Cruickshank and turned him off like a light.

One of the fights that everyone was looking forward to was Reina Miura vs. Jazzy Gabert. It was very interesting to see both of these fighters come to the cage. Jazzy’s walk out was full on metal; her background in Pro Wrestling. She burst on the scene at the last Rizin event. After Gabbi Garcia finished off her pro wrestling oppoent, Jazzy rushed the ring and challenged her to a fight right there and then. She was told that she would get her chance to fight Gabbi, but first she had to prove herself.

She put up a good standing match with King Reina. In most people’s opinion she could have one if she had kept the fight standing. However, Riena being an experienced Judoka, decided to take it to the ground instead. Eventually Reina won by submission (armbar) in Round 2.

Next it was Satoshi Ishii vs. Heath Herring. Normally Herring puts on a good show but this time it was like he had lead in his pockets. He could not move to save his life. He was sluggish and kept ending up in position that a fighter with his ring experience should not end up in. Ishii on the other had has never been and exciting fighter. His experience in Judo is very impressive, however it is not transitioning over well into MMA. Clearly he is still not comfortable with striking. There were also several times that he could have capitalized on Herrings weak positioning but didn’t. Overall not the most exciting fight on the card that evening, but Ishii ended up with the win by unanimous decision.

The fight following that was lighting fast. Tenshin Nasukawa vs. Francesco Ghigliotti. Nasukawa dominated the fight winning by knockout (strikes) in Round 1.

The fight that everyone wanted to see on this card was Rena Kubota vs. Dóra Perjés. This was one of the hardest fights to date for Rena. Dóra Perjés is a strong fighter with excellent grappling skills. She quickly put Rena in an armbar and it was tight. Rena had to struggle out but eventually got in to a strong position and was able start stomping Perjés.

Rena ended up using her front leg liver kick to stun Perjés. She later followed up that liver kick with a liver punch. That final punch eneded up being too much for Dóra Perjés and the ref stopped the fight giving the win by technical knockout (left hook to the body) in Round 1 to Rena.

The next fight was Kyoji Horiguchi vs. Yuki Motoya. The fight went the distance and Horiguchi was announced as the winner by unanimous decision.

Then the return of Amir Aliakbari against new comer Geronimo Dos Santos. Amir ended up doninating the fight by getting a top postion and peppering in some ground and pound. Once the ref felt like Dos Santos couldn’t fight back he stopped it, giving the win to Amir by TKO (ground and pound from crucifix position) in Round 1.

The final fight of the evening and the main event was Tatsuya Kawajiri VS Anthony Birchak. Both fighters made this fight very exciting. They were swinging until the end. Kawajiri spent most of the fight in a top position. In the end Tatsuya Kawajiri was given the win by unanimous decision.

Overall an excellent night of fighting. Rizin events are quickly setting the standard that JMMA can produce. The level of the showmanship mixed with excellent athletes makes for a great production everytime.

About the Author

Jeremy Deschner

Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do from the Texas Karate Institute, and Host of Pancrase Radio Podcast. Commentator for Pancrase MMA on UFC FIghtPass. Now training in Brazilian Jiujitsu in Japan.
Pancrase Radio Podcast is available on Stitcher and ITunes.
Twitter: @mmajpn1 @jiujitsu_Jedi @PancraseRadio