December 29th, 2017, saw the first of two end-of-year fight cards from RIZIN including single matches and the quarter finals of the men’s Bantamweight Grand Prix.
First up was one of the most slept on Japanese fighters, Satoru Kitaoka, taking on a much taller Kiichi “Strasser” Kunimoto at 165lbs. Kitaoka, Pancrase, DEEP, and Dream veteran was the first Sengoku lightweight champion, and has nearly 70 professional MMA bouts to his name. Strasser, who went 3-2 in the UFC, showed he was not fazed by Kitaoka’s experience and reputation, and took the fight straight to Kitaoka throwing vicious, long right crosses. Both exchanged solid blows early on, and Kitaoka was replying with his lead right hook, throwing a nasty looking 3-2 while in the pocket. Strasser went to his long high knee looking for the chin of Kitaoka, but it was a hard jab that sat Kitaoka down briefly in the 1st round of 10 minutes. The second round, moving to 5 minutes long, saw Strasser demonstrate his latest prowess and skills as he out-grappled the grappler. Kitaoka was struggling to find an answer for anything Strasser threw at him, and the pace slowed a little, prompting a heckler to shout, “You’d better do something, or this will be in the digest!”, referring to the major network Fuji TV, who will be broadcasting a 6-hour RIZIN special domestically on New Year’s Eve. The fight finished and Strasser got the nod, taking his first win since leaving the UFC. He’s looking strong.