By Chris Gunn
Last night Kyoji Horiguchi capped a perfect first year with Rizin by taking the Bantamweight Grand Prix in front of a packed Saitama Super Arena.
After a scintillating performance against Gabriel Oliveira two days prior, Horiguchi entered his semi-final against Manel Kape in a visibly relaxed and confident manner. He had laughed off Kape’s attempts at trash talk and intimidation in the build up to the fight and many expected an early finish. Kape, however, was not simply there for the ride and withstood some huge counter right hands from the favourite. Despite being ahead on points, Horiguchi seemed eager to get the finish and after taking his opponent down and mounting him, Horiguchi won by arm triangle with only thirty seconds remaining of the final round.
In the quarter finals, Shintaro Ishiwatari had also put on a blockbuster performance. However, in the semis, he had to face the incredibly durable Takafumi Otsuka. After being hurt with a big right hand from Otsuka in the first round, Ishiwatari was able to turn on some of his trademark violence, unleashing some huge strikes to a downed Otsuka to finish the first round. He was also able to continue similar assaults in the final round, giving him a unanimous decision victory, and a chance to avenge his 2013 loss to Horiguchi.
This rematch provided the final fight of the evening. After being taken down and subjected to some brutal ground strikes, Ishiwatari got to his feet for a furious flurry before the end of the first round. The fight wouldn’t last much longer however, as Horiguchi countered a jab with a lighting fast right hand only fourteen seconds into the second round.
Dsepite being a heavy favourite, winning this tournament, particularly in such dominant and electrifying fashion is a hugely impressive feat. Ishiwatari is another fighter who has come out of this tournament especially well. Die hard fans are already familiar with his visceral brand of violence, however, his performances at Rizin will draw more attention to the King of Pancrase.
So far, what’s next for Horiguchi is unclear, but Rizin are going to have their work cut out finding someone capable of challenging him.