Yesterday I boarded the Shinkansen (Bullet Train) and headed off to Nagoya City to see Rizin.1. This was their second event. In the crowd I was happy to see some PRIDE veterans representing. The event was held at Nippon Gaishi Hall. This is requires you switch to a local train and go over a few stops. Nothing too difficult because Nagoya has everything written in English and Korean as well as in Japanese. Getting to the venue was not difficult at all.
Once there we had to deal with the Press lines. It was a little late as they did not have the list of journalists or the badges prepared. Once that was all done it was off to the Press box to watch the show. Upon first arriving at the Press box I was happy to see Kevin Randleman’s family there. RizinFF had flown them in and dedicated the performance to Kevin. Later on in the day they played a highlight reel for everyone to watch and reflect on what Kevin Randleman’s contributions to the sport were and what a tremendous athlete the man was. At the end they did a Tale of the Tape for him and rang the round bell several times in his honor.
The show started with the fanfare that we expect from the people that brought us PRIDE. All the fighters came out on the runway amid lasers, smoke, and House / Techno music loud enough to make your face melt! On top of that they also had pyrotechnics throwing a row of huge fireballs in the air and ending in a huge explosion that was so loud I felt it as well as heard it.
The first few fights went as planned and the fighters were delivering KOs left and right. One stand out fight on the undercard was Murata Kanako Vs. Natalya Denisova. Murata has already built a solid reputation for herself in Japan as a wrestler. In fact we will see her representing Japan in the Rio Olympics. This time she was in the ring to fight under MMA rules against Denisova. Denisova also showed her skills in the ring. She was tough as nails. The two warriors went back and forth with mostly Murata on top trying for armbars and Key Locks (Kimura). At one point Murata had Denisova’s arm to nearly the breaking point, but Denisova has some solid Jiujitsu and escaped. At the end though, Murata was given the Win by the judges. Great fight and great performance by both athletes. Also watching this fight was Japanese female wrestling superstar Saori Yoshida. Yoshida had some nice words to say to Murata after the fight was finished. She also announced at that time that Murata would be accompanying her to the Olympic Games in Rio. The future looks bright for Murata.
The next stand out battle was with the big boys, Chris Barnett vs. Kirill Sidelnikov. The Weight limit was 120kg and these guys looked every bit of it. In fact Barnett came in more than 15kg over the weight limit. Because of the difference in weight Rizin ruled out knees on the ground in this match. Both men moved fast for such big guys and they threw some heavy hands. Sidelnikov seemed like more of a boxer where as Barnett mixed in kicks with his attacks. Eventually this fight went to the ground but both men seemed to not have a strong ground game and the ref eventually stood them back up.
As the round went on both men started showing signs of fatigue. At two points Barnett actually fell through the ropes and out of the ring. Rizin has officials outside the ring to hold the ropes and move them so the fighters will not fall out. However with the fact that these fighters were almost double the size of the officials they quite literally slipped through the cracks. In the Sidelnikov walks away with the Win.
Rizin has hit it big with getting good female fighters. The females that fight under the Rizin banner are sure to get a foot hold on their MMA careers as well as becoming a Japanese TV talent. This is true for Rena. She is awesome at Jiujitsu and has experience as a Shootboxer. In Rizin’s first event Rena won her match with a triangle choke that looked tight as a vice. This time around Rena took on Cyndi Alves from Brazil. Alves has long legs and likes to throw head kicks. This fight went the distance and in the end the judges all gave it to Rena. She takes home her second win in Rizin. She is a force to be reckoned with in the ring. So far she has been unstoppable. At the end of the fight Rena dedicated her prize money to the earthquake victims in Kuwamoto Japan.
The match everyone was waiting for, probably even more than the main event, was a four way grappling match. For the first time ever, Rizin turned it into a tag team match. Each set of fighters was given 5 tags after that they would have to just stay in the ring. The match was Kazushi Sakuraba and Hideo Tokoro vs. Wanderlei Silva and Kiyoshi Tamura. It was good to see Wanderlei back in the ring. He is still dealing with the fall out of skipping out of a drug test in the US and under suspension. He can not be allowed to fight, but apparently that does not include being in a grappling match. Each time Sakuraba fought Silva and Tamura fought Tokoro. Tamura and Tokoro showed some incredible wrestling and Jiujitsu skills in the ring. When the smoke all cleared and the time ran out the match was declared a draw.
For the second time in a row Gabi Garcia was on the card at Rizin. This time it was Gabi Garcia Vs. Anna Malyukova. When Malyukova came to the ring she was stopped by the officials because they noticed that she had applied Vaseline to her face and neck in the locker room. They made her wipe it off. Then they appeared to think that she did not wipe it off good enough and they wiped her face and neck for her. They judges did not take that laying down. Before the start of the fight they issued her a yellow card (foul).
Gabi fought her hard and soon had the fight on the ground. Gabi took mount position and proceeded to Ground and Pound until the end of the round. Shortly after the beginning of round 2 they were back in the same position as round 1 with Gabi taking mount and ground and pounding. Finally half way through the 2nd round Gabi gets in position for an armbar and nails it. Gabi gets the win by submission.
Finally in the main event Rizin does what it does best. It gives the fans clash of the titans fights. This time it was 45 Year old Kazuyuki Fujita vs. 23 year old Jiri Prochazka. It started out and it looked like Fujita’s age and experience may be able to give him an advantage over the younger fighter. However in just over a minute into the first round Prochazka lands a finisher on Fujita and walks away with a KO victory.
Over all a very good event with some exciting fights. We like the idea of just a grappling match like the one with Silva and Sakuraba it adds to the overall excitement on the card. One area for improvement that I can see for Rizin is that the fans in other countries could not easily see the event on PPV. Hopefully this will change, because as we live tweeted the event many people were following us. If you are in Japan, you definitely want to go to a live event.