Rizin 20 New Years Eve Review

An explosive 15 fight card at Rizin 20 saw 2019 end with a bang. A sold out Saitama Super Arena hosted an incredible night of action that provided a taste for things to come in 2020.


There was no love lost between Kai Asakura and the incendiary Manel “Prodigio” Kape but as the first round kicked off there was a glove touch. Each respected the others firepower and remained conservative through the first half of the first round. Kape varied his attack with a clinch attempt that was swiftly shut down by Asakura. A double left from “Prodigio” stunned Asakura who planted his feet and returned the favor. Asakura loosened up and landed his right hand late in the round. With neither fighter at their best going backwards, the aggressor Kape kept Asakura on the back foot with variation and power. Finishing strong with a spinning back fist a confident Kape strode back to his corner.

Asakura found himself in a world of trouble following a right hook counter. He scrambled and fought to claw his way back into the fight but Kape stayed on him. Moving from position to position Kape never let up with a barrage of hammerfists until the referee mercifully called a halt to the match at 38 seconds of the 2nd round. The bantamweight title changed once again in another upset and Kape becomes the fighter contenders will now be gunning for.


Tenshin Nasukawa faced off against one of the worlds best, the 43-3-1 kickboxer challenging for title of Japans best, Rui Ebata. Both fighters fight to their “Ichigeki” karate roots, looking for decisive power shots and while Nasukawa brings the flair Ebata relies on solid fundamentals. Heavy leg kicks as both fighters engaged. Combinations from Ebata and a right hand sneaked through before a Tenshin left knocked his mouthpiece clean out. A phased Ebata turned to the referee as Tenshin lands a brutal 1-2 and his foe hit the deck. Ebata struggled to his feet and decided to fight fire with fire and come back for a shootout. It proved a costly mistake as he folds again from a wicked right, left, bodyshot left combination. Tenshin lets go with the flashiness and showmanship unleashing a tornado kick to start off a sequence of 4 left straights and Ebata eats the canvas for the 3rd time and final time. Tenshin made it look too easy, destroying another legitimate top tier kickboxer at 2.46 of the 1st for his 6th victory of 2019. At his weight class he has all but cleared out the challengers and may start hunting titles at higher weight classes.


Round 1 of the atomweight title match between 2 southpaws, Judoka Ayaka Hamasaki and Kickboxer Seo “Hamderlei Silva” Hee Ham got off to a furious start. Hamasak flipped the script as the elite grappler stormed the sensational striker Ham with blow after blow. In wild and entertaining exchanges Hamasaki regularly scored with accurate 3 punch combinations, step in jabs and uppercuts also found their mark. Ham had her success but required time to establish her distance and timing, she could not find the space between Hamasakis attacks. For most of the round Hamasaki threw from the waist and tagged Ham coming in, freezing her to the spot and beating her to the punch.

The pace was a little more measured to start the 2nd. About 1 minute into the round Hamasaki grabbed a kick, swept the challenger to the floor and fired down punches. In another unexpected twist the Ham locked up a triangle on the submission specialist as she tried to pass. It was deep and resulted in Hamasaki stuck playing defense for the majority of the round. Ham peppered with elbows as she fished for an arm triangle or the right arm position for the tap.The champion proved too technically adept to be finished but found herself going into the 3rd with ground to cover.

After touching gloves it was all business for the final round. Hamasaki scored jabs but it was Ham who struck the first big blow, a perfectly calculated right straight that busted Hamasaki`s nose. “Hamderlei Silva” was seeing the counters and timed 1-2s to rock the champion. Blood streamed from a possibly broken nose as Hamasaki switched gears and went to the ground with a textbook Harai Goshi. For the final half of the round the champion maintained a Kesa Gatame scarf hold hammered away until the final bell.

A scintillating title fight by 2 of the worlds very best went right down to the wire. 1 judge leaned towards the aggression and dominant finish by Hamasaki, the remaining 2 were swayed by the deep submission attempt and damage done by Ham. Overjoyed and somewhat surprised an ecstatic Ham thanked the audience in her Japanese post fight speech and endeared herself even further with the Japanese fans. Hamasaki for the first time ever at 105lbs tasted defeat and will be determined regroup and climb back into contention. The classic encounter will almost definitely be rolled back


In the final Rizin vs Bellator crossover match Mikuru Asakura faced off against John Macapa. The opening round the fighters struggled to find their range throwing single shots or 1-2 combinations. Asakura edged the action with a big jump knee followed by a 3 punch combination.

Macapa continued to invest in the low kicks throughout the 2nd. Asakura found his timing with a beautiful step in jab and left straights to the body and head. Macapa`s low kicks were getting countered and he chose to indulge Asakura with a brawl. Macapa wobbled under the impact of an Asakura right hand before being briefly stumbled by a straight left.

The 3rd saw a change of pace from Macapa as he initiated a bodylock, takedown, back control sequence against the ropes. Asakura used his tried and tested escape before stalking Macapa and connecting with some seriously heavy leather. Asakura with a step in knee and left hand walked Macapa down testing his chin regularly. Macapa to his credit leant heavily on kicks and kept firing back. In the end the well deserved judges decision sided with Asakura.

Out for revenge following a Rear Naked Choke loss in her Bellator debut, Rena Kubota rematched Lindsey VanZandt. In Round 1 Rena walked her opponent down on the feet throwing at every opportunity until VanZandt shot under pressure. Surprisingly Rena pulled guard and worked high with her legs for on armbar, only to be passed by VanZandt. Displaying the improvements in her ground game Rena was quick to reverse out from 1/2 guard before letting loose with strikes on the feet.

Vanzandt found herself in a striking battle in the 2nd and, while being a great striker, she struggled with the skill, accuracy and power that came from Rena. By midway in the round VanZandt was looking to clinch but was denied as Rena sprawled effectively. Initiating her own takedown attempt Rena found herself in deep trouble as VanZandt countered and took her back. VanZandt rotated off the back to lock a triangle choke. The crowd collectively held their breath as Rena willed herself into surviving until the bell.

A onslaught of punches to kick off the 3rd forced VanZandt into desperately telegraphing a shot. Rena took control and threatened with a Kimura. Completely in survival mode VanZandt dug deep to keep attacking but she was outgunned on the feet and taking punishment on the ground. Rena was in command of the round and fight as an exhausted VanZandt dropped to her back again and again. From mount Rena pummeled a covering up VanZandt with punches until the corner throws in the “baton” to save their fighter. Rena evened up the score to 1-1 with a corner stoppage TKO at 4:42.

Lightweight tournament Results:

In the first semi final American Johnny “Hollywood” Case squared off against Azerbaijans Tofiq Musayev. Case measured with the jab as Musayev retaliated to come over the top with his own. Musayev kept switching stances to meet “Hollywoods” kicks with his hands. Musayev launched a 1-2 and the right sent Case reeling to the corner ropes. As he drove in for the finish the Azerbaijan fighter was caught in a body lock as Case rotated him to the canvas. Popping up to his feet a Musayev stiff jab dropped Case again, this time ferocious ground and pound led to a referee stoppage at 2:47 of round 1.

Luiz “Killer” Gustavo met Patricky “Pitbull” Friere in an all Brazilian semi final. A nervous looking Gustavo never really managed to settle down into the fight, a front kick too close in range gave Pitbull the opening that he needed. Blasting a flush 1-2 combination Patricky nailed “Killer” dropping him in the corner. Gustavo made it to his feet but was greeted by a double right hand that sat him back down. A soccer kick secured the TKO stoppage at just 28 seconds of the 1st.


Fresh and injury free from their opening bouts Tofiq Musayev and Patricky “Pitbull” Freire came into the finals both aiming for another highlight reel stoppage. “Pitbull” started strong, marching his opponent down and being first to pull the trigger. Musayev moved his head to escape damage but Freire led the dance over first 4 minutes. Musayev decided to really let his hands go and dropped “Pitbull” with a big combination. He stayed in pocked a little too long however and got tagged back by a resurging Freire. “Pitbull” reversed a takedown only to have Musayev return the favor as he stole top position and scored some loaded strikes.

Musayev resorted to takedowns to gain advantage in the 2nd stanza. The 2nd of which resulted in “Pitbull” going through the ring ropes. Musayev`s cornerman went to the aid of the Brazilian but got yellow carded for his efforts to help. “Pitbull” jumping knees were met with hands from the Azerbaijan fighter. Back control, hooks and ground and pound helped Musayev pull away in the round.

Both fighters bombed hooks in the 3rd with Musayev coming out on top. The wrestling exchanges took their toll on the Brazilian and as he slowed down Musayev pounced. Dropping “Pitbull” Musayev clipped him again on way down and poured on the punishment to almost put the durable veteran out. With 1 minute left they returned to the feet where a fresh Musayev had Freire back peddling from straight punches. “Pitbull” pinned Musayev in the corner for the last 30 seconds to leave the fight in the judges hands. Musayev walked away with an unanimous decision and the 2019 Lightweight champion.


In the 3rd title fight of the evening C.B “The Doberman” Dolloway entered Rizin looking to dethrone Light Heavyweight title holder Jiri “Denisa” Prochazka. “The Doberman” capitalized early on Prochazkas aggressive heavy on the front foot style with some destructive leg kicks. Prochazka bucked and limped, switched stances to avoid damage and appeared to be in a lot of trouble. Showing why he is the champion "Denisa" threw a step in rear uppercut front left hand that switched Dolloways lights out. Wrestling victory from the jaws of defeat Prochazka showed once again with his heart and fearsome striking he can never be counted out of a fight. The back and forth drama lasted just 1:55


Vitaly Schematov received a chance at Rizin following a highly entertaining social media campaign. While audience warmed to the Russian fighter very little was known about his opponent, EFC Heavyweight champion Simon “Hemle” Biyong. Schematov threw 1-2s and frequently landed the right hand. Uncomfortable on the feet Biyong kept composure, working his way into a double leg takedown to plant his opponent on the canvas. A lightning quick armbar attempt from Schematov had him go belly down looking for the finish. Biyong kept his elbow safe and slowly worked free, from there he punished Schematov with loaded knees, punches and elbows to body and head.

Round 2 and Schemetov charged forward with an overhead right. A knee attempt in the clinch allowed Biyong to push through the takedown and into the mount. Biyong battered Schematov with ground and pound from the mount until a very bloodied Schematov tapped out.


Elite bantamweights Shintaro Ishiwatari and Hiromasa Ogikubo put on an epic fight that saw an ebb and flow of momentum shifts. Both mirrored each other with rear hands. Ogikubo added lead kicks while the southpaw Ishiwatari went with left hooks. Ogikubo blasted a right hand while grabbing a leg and wrenching his opponent down. Ishiwatari posted to stand a scored a big knee as Ogikubo came forward swinging. Ishiwatari with one hand around the head brought his knee up the middle but was blasted by 2 right hands. Ogikubo swung wild in the corner as Ishiwatari kept calm and went for short counters. At distance Ishiwatari was able to get his straight right going. Ogikubo shifted head off center line well and returned with clubbing hooks. Ishiwatari doubled up on the straight down the pipe to sting Ogkikubo as time expired.

Both fighters got right back to where they left off in the 2nd. Ogikubo found a home for a right hand that riled Ishiwatari up. Step in elbows, straights and knees were effective for Ishiwatari. An Ogikubo overhead hook bounced off the head of Ishiwatari who gestured his foe to “bring it on”. A brief takedown from a double leg for Ogikubo and another overhead lead hook got Ishiwatari`s attention. Ishiwatari spent a lot of the round pursuing and landing the left straight while Ogikubo finished with an impressive flurry.

Ogikubo hits the takedown in the 3rd but again cannot secure the position, getting right back in on a 2nd double brought more success. As Ishiwatari got arms stuck a little in ropes Ogikubo hauled him out and soccer kicked him, barely grazing his head. Another soccer kick Ishiwatai struggled to avoid give Ogikubo the opportunity he needed to take the back. Using the “hula hoop” escape Ishiwatari swung Ogikubo around and into guard. Busy from top Ishiwatari pounded away then passed to side. Ogikubo with a slick escape fired an impressive 1-2 roundhouse kick spinning back fist combination that did damage. Ishiwatari covered up and they both threw caution to the wind and swung for the fences. Both smiling they winged hook after hook as neither backed down. Ishiwatari started to get the better of the exchanges and his left straight right hook could not miss as Ogikubo tired. A rally by Ogikubo and more 1-2s from Ishiwatari as they ended the round brawling.

Both fighters left everything in the ring after a sensational fight. Ishiwatari edged the control for much of the match and was more active, notably with the straight right. The eye catching moments came from Ogikubo though who clubbed Ishiwatari with overhands and hit takedowns. Judges were torn but 2 felt Ogikudo had done enough to gave him the split decision victory.


Satoshi Ishii had a chance early in the first round, the Judoka scooped a leg and took Jake “The Honey Bear” Heun`s back. Heun showed his athleticism and rolled out to return standing. Heun pulled the trigger on 3 well placed, brutal uppercuts that floored Ishii for the stoppage at 1:12 of round 1.


Elite grapplers Patrick “Patchy” Mix and Yuki Motoya took to the canvas moments into the 1st round. Mix seized side control but Motoya rotated and found his way back to his feet. With a body lock secured an inadvertent rope hook by Mix appeared to hinder a Motoya takedown. Motoya gave up standing position in an attempt to drop and take back at the same time but “Patchy” was wise and shut it down. Having tested the waters already Motoya threw his legs up for a triangle and, as mix postured, went for a modified arm lock to gogo plata, both of which Mix expertly countered. As Motoya turned to his knees and pressed forward he got caught in an arm in guillotine, rolling to his back against the ropes to ease the pressure was not enough. “Patchy” got the tap and won the battle of submissions at 1:37 of the opening round.


In a kickboxing rematch heavy hitter Taiga Kawabe took on the technician Taiju Shiratori. A reserved first round by both fighters saw Taiju take the lead first, establishing range and control with a measured lead left kick and popping jab. Taiga jabbed to the body before finally landing a rear leg kick to the knee that had Shiratori buckle and wince. Shiratori with a speedy 3 punch combination but Taigas arms are up and defense tight. A final leg kick to the knee by Taiga and Shiratoris leg stiffened as he returned fire.

Round 2 got underway with Taiga hunting the legs and Shiratori relying on the lead leg kick. One minute in and Shiratori showed his fantastic boxing skills, 1-2s to the head before going downstairs to the body. As Taiga tried to feint his way in to land a big blow Shiratori circled and evaded and let go with lightning fast combinations. Mixing uppercuts with 1-2s Shiratori started to break through the tight guard. With 30 seconds left a 1-2 rocked Taiga and a 1-2, knee combination landed flush. A 2nd knee cut Taiga and triggered a brawl to finish the round. The cut was big and above the eye and Taiga was ruled unable to continue by the doctors signaling an end to a bout that left fans eager for more.


Showing a continually evolving mma game Miyuu “Fighting Queen Bee” Yamamoto came out striking effectively with Suwanan “Amp the rocket ” Boonsornfor. A few minutes into the match a takedown opportunity presented itself and Yamamoto instinctively and smoothly took her Thai opponent down. Yamamoto kept her arms on the inside in a safety first approach on top and the referee decided to reset. Both exchanged cautious strikes on the feet until the round concluded.

In the 2nd Yamamoto capitalized on a clinch and cinched a takedown almost immediately. Active on top the wrestler hammered and fired straights until “Amp the Rocket” settled into guard and went for an arm. Electing to avoid playing with fire Yamamoto let her opponent up. The “Fighting Queen Bee” let her hands go with a long flurry, hurting the Thai with right hands. Getting her arms around “Amp the Rocket” Yamamoto wrestled her to the canvas. In the corner Yamamoto pounded away with hard strikes until the last 10 seconds where she stomped on her opponent.

Behind in the fight “Amp the Rocket” loaded up a big right hand which Yamamoto ducked, securing a big double leg takedown. Yamamoto progressed to the side and locked up the crucifix to do lot of damage before ending in guard. Yamamoto elected to posture up for strikes instead of stay safe and let Boonsornfor up. It was a short respite though as Yamamoto flipped her back to the canvas. More hammerfists from side control before the fight concluded with Yamamoto surprising the submission specialist with a straight armbar. The final result was a clear victory for Yamamoto 3-0.

About the Author

Peter Leghorn
Writer and photographer sharing my passion for Martial Arts. instagram: peter_mmajapan

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