Rizin 28 Card Finalized, Tenshin to Face 3 Consecutive Opponents!

Main Event, RIZIN MMA Rule With Elbows: 5 minutes 3R (66.0kg)

Flamboyant submission specialist Kleber Koike Erbst faces cerebral striker Mikuru Asakura in the main event.

Koike Erbst stepped into the Rizin ring and lived up to the hype, handing both Kyle Aguon and Kazumasa Majima their first submission losses in 38 matches combined.  To say that the submission wizard is dangerous on the ground would be an understatement, 23 of his 27 wins have come by some form of choke or joint lock. While his submission arsenal is impeccable,the Bonzai JuJitsu grappler is particularly adept at Spinning Choke variations (D’Arce, Brabo, Anaconda) and Triangle Chokes. Knowing he needs to close the distance, Koike Erbst fearlessly throws combinations on his feet with considerable power, snaring his opponents in a clinch as they backpedal. A sprinter who explodes in flurries his approach will be tested, as he clashes with on of the best strategist in the game.

The older brother of Kai, Mikuru Asakura is widely regarded as the “brains” behind his brothers ascent to champion status. Analytical, Asakura studies opponents meticulously and devises a blueprint for success. In the ring he is calm and collected, preferring to bait his adversaries into initiating before unleashing an extensively rehearsed counter strike. While his opponent brings the submission flair, Asakura matches with his striking. Finding the perfect moment and timing, the Karate-ka leaps forward with jumping knees or snaps high kicks with pin point accuracy.  Not someone who shows his hand recklessly, the first time Asakura goes for the kill is generally the last. After falling short in his title bid against Yutaka Saito by the narrowest of margins, the deadly striker rebounded with a blistering head kick KO over Satoshi “Dominator” Yamasu. In an antithesis of styles, expect a high stakes battle of wills as both fighters relentlessly try to take the match to their realms.


Co-Main Event, Special Rules Kickboxing Match, Tenshin Nasukawa vs. Kouki Osaki, HIROYA, X

Finding opponents for Kickboxing prodigy Tenshin Nasukawa has always been problematic. The striking genius has either soundly beaten viable contenders or found them unable or unwilling to meet him in the ring. Rizin’s solution? Line up 3 different fighters to take on the superstar!

Kickboxing and Muay Thai virtuoso Koki Osaki steps up first. Bringing the finesse, the BOM Muay Thai Champion and Rise kickboxing contender has exceptional technique, speed and finishing instincts. Despite fighting at a lighter weight class, Osaki may just be one of the kickboxers who can match Tenshin’s quickness and pace. A clever striker who implements combinations and angles, watch out for Osaki’s high kick, his best chance at a shocking upset!

2nd in line is the kickboxer touted as Masato’s successor, Hiroya “Hiroya” Kawabe. Masato took Hiroya under his wing where he honed his skills at a young age. Bursting on the scene as a top prospect “Hiroya” has had a rocky career career of highs and lows. Fighting at higher weight classes, the Kickboxer is coming off an exhilarating mixed rules bout with heavyweight youtube star Atsushi Saito. “Hiroya” rallied late but could not seal the deal as the bout went the distance. Upon reexamination Saito was declared the winner when it appeared that “Hiroya” tapped to an armbar in the opening stanza. Now on a 2 fight skid in Rizin the stocky slugger has little to lose in marching Tenshin down. With a 13kg weight advantage and dynamite in his hands Kawabe could be a bad match up for Tenshin, who has been tested at times by forward pressure heavy hitters.

Assuming Tenshin Nasukawa passes his first 2 trials, he squares off against “Mr X”, an opponent to be revealed on the day of competition. I am sure many curious fans will be predicting the identity of the fighter but only time will tell!


8th Match, RIZIN MMA Rule With Elbows: 5 minutes 3R (71.0kg)

Following a series of unavoidable set backs and delays the inaugural Rizin Lightweight Champion will be crowned! Rizin Lightweight GP winner, Tofiq Musayev returns to the land of the rising sun to go to war with BJJ ace Roberto “Satoshi” Souza.

Tofiq Musayev shocked the MMA world as the unknown warrior from Azerbaijan tore through Rizin’s ranks. Defying the odds, Musayev entered the Lightweight GP and put his firepower on full display. Laying out Damien Brown and Johnny Case, the Orion Fight Club member collided with tournament favorite Patricky Pitbull in the finals. Musayev’s blend of crisp, heavy handed boxing and elite level wrestling prevailed, capping off a sensational run with an unanimous decision win. Up until this point no one has found an answer for the intensity Musayev brings. With his wrestling credentials the GP Champion’s goal will be to keep this one standing, overwhelm his adversary on the feet and look to score another highlight reel finish.

In a similar vein as Kleber Koike Erbst, Brazilian born Roberto “Satoshi” Souza forged his Brazilian JuJitsu in Japan and is one of the head instructors at Bonzai JuJitsu in Shizuoka. Both competitors pursue the “Ippon”, decisive finish, without leaving holes in their defence or sacrificing position. “Satoshi” has finished all 10 of his opponents in MMA, and not only by submission, the physically intimidating fighter has a lot of starch behind his strikes and very capable of sending opponents to the canvas. Since his first loss and exit from the Lightweight GP, De Souza has string together a ground and pound stoppage from mount over fan favorite Yusuke Yachi followed by a slick triangle choke finish of Kazuki Tokudome, both in the 1st round. With size and strength combined with technical proficiency, “Satoshi” wont be rolled over by his fearsome opponent and may plan to use Musayev’s forward pressure against him. Expect drama and excitement as this bout could swing either way at any time!


7Th match, RIZIN MMA Tournament Rules: 5 minutes 3R (61.0kg)

Former Bantamweight King, the cold and calculated KO artist Kai Asakura will head hunt exceptional back-taker and choke specialist Shooto Watanabe.

Fan favorite and former title holder Kai Asakura carved a name for himself with his exhilarating go for broke striking style. Evolving from brawler to Martial Artist, Asakura, under his older brothers tutelage, learned how to harness his raw talent and make his strikes count. While still holding on to his go for broke KO at all cost style, Asakura also fights intelligently, methodically. With 14 of his 16 wins coming by way of stoppage and 12 of those by T/KO, it is easy to see the appeal Asakura holds. Following his loss to Kyoji Horiguchi in their rematch, Asakura will be keen to rampage through the tournament and face his nemesis.

Shooto Watanabe scored a big upset in his last outing, taking out the technical “Fighting Genius” Takumi Tamaru. Not only did Watanabe win, he became the first fighter to submit the Shooto top ranker. A consummate grappling specialist, Watanabe is steadfast in his approach and strategy. Wasting little time striking he clinches, seizes the back, takes the fight to the mat and executes a choke. Opponents know what to expect but Watanabe is exceptional at what he does and has racked up a massive amount of Rear Naked Chokes. A match with the tournament favorite may bring out the best in Watanabe, he has nothing to lose and should he get an opportunity we may see an even bigger upset!


6th Match, RIZIN MMA Tournament Rules: 5 minutes 3R (61.0kg)

Injury free, Rizin mainstay Shintaro Ishiwatari returns to action to take on the surging Naoki Inoue.

Relaxed in the ring, Ishiwatari blends outstanding grappling defense from his Judo with aggressive forward pressure and powerful striking combinations. Very relaxed In the ring the Ex-Pancrase Champion owns a 4-2 Rizin record, coming off a split decision loss to Hiromasa Ogikubo in a thrilling war. With heavy hands, iron jaw and unbreakable spirit, Ishiwatari is a threat to any fighter.

While Naoki Inoue is has a very well-rounded skill-set, on the mat is where he is most deadly. Crisp and accurate boxing fundamentals create openings for the submission ace to transition to the canvas. On the ground Inoue seamlessly secures positions and locks Rear Naked Chokes and Armbars with textbook perfection. A perfect 3-0 in Rizin Inoue has taken out grappling specialists Yuki Motoya and Shuto Watanabe.


5th Match, RIZIN MMA Tournament Rules: 5 minutes 3R (61.0kg)

No stranger to Rizin fans, perennial top contender Hiromasa Ogikubo draws tough newcomer Takeshi “Kanten” Kasugai.

Hiromasa Ogikubo has consistently climbed to the top but fallen at the final hurdle. Originally feared for his double leg takedowns and stifling positional game, Ogikubo has recently come back to let his Kyokushin Karate roots shine. Bouncing back from a devastating loss to Kai Asakura, Ogikubo was back on form against Kenta Takizawa, content to tackle the striker on the feet. With experience fighting 4 of the tournament participants Ogikubo will be well prepared to reach the finishing line.

Heat Champion Takeshi “Kanten” Kasugai has been a regular on the JMMA scene for over 10 years during which he has fought for a variety of promotions and beaten a lot of their top fighters. With a 26-7-1 record has a victory over Yuki Motoya and a loss to Hiromasa Ogikubo, though both some time ago. The durable veteran has a very physical game, hoisting opponents off their feet with explosive takedowns before relying on a superb top game and constricting chokes. Against Ogikubo a collision in the center is almost inevitable!


4th Match, RIZIN MMA Tournament Rules: 5 minutes 3R (61.0kg)

Shooto Bantamweight Champion Ryo Okada debuts against Rizin veteran Yuki Motoya.

Fresh off a defense of his Bantamweight title in Shooto, the versatile and adaptable Ryo Okada is adept at working around opponents strengths and finding ways to win. A master at countering, Okada is at his best striking, weaving his short pin point strikes through his opponents defense. With a decision win over Takafumi Otsuka and a stunning come from behind finish of Kazuma Kuramoto, Okada belongs in the tournament.

A staple of Rizin events Yuki Motoya has a very complete MMA game, possessing similar number of victories on the feet, ground and by decision. A slow starter Motoya is vulnerable in the 1st round where he tends to take a back seat while he assesses and evaluates. By the final round he is almost always dominant, if he has not put his opponent away by then. Particularly known for his creativity on the mat, Motoya has a full spectrum of submissions, including his viral “Tee-Pee” Leg Scissor choke. Coming off a 1st round Rear Naked Choke over rugged veteran Shoji Murayama the innovative fighter got back into the win column. At 4-4 in Rizin, Motoya will want to prove he is still a top contender and Okada is the perfect match up for an intriguing contest of technicians.


3rd Match, RIZIN MMA Tournament Rules: 5 minutes 3R (66.0kg)

Rizin Featherweight Champion Yutaka Saito faces powerhouse Vugar “Vugi” Karimov

After narrowly besting Mikuru Asakura last outing to claim the featherweight strap, Yutaka Saito stays active in a non title bout against a formidable adversary. While a well versed, highly skilled, MMA fighter, Saito shown a penchant for knocking his foes around a lot, whether on the ground or feet. He has the grappling acumen to keep things clinical and secure, if he chooses to, but has become a bit of a risk taker, and a finisher. The balance between fighting smart and fighting to finish may spell victory or defeat for the featherweight champion as he has no easy task in front of him.

Heralded by Tofiq Musayev, Vugar “Vugi” Karimov makes his 2nd Rizin appearance after defeating Kyle Aguon last year. The 2nd Azerbaijan fighter on the card has a style not dissimilar from the Rizin Featherweight GP Champion Musayev. A Pankration fighter, “Vugi” is undefeated in his last 10 bouts, spanning more than 5 years. Taking on the Rizin Featherweight Champion for your 2nd Rizin match is being thrown in at the deep end but I have a feeling Karimov will rise to the occasion. Saito can maintain constant pace and pressure, accurately breaking opponents down before finishing. Karimov is a beast who utilizes raw power, especially dangerous early. This match should turn out to be an absolute war!


2nd Match, RIZIN MMA Rule With Elbows: 5 minutes 3R (120.0kg)

Shibisai Takanofuji vs. Sudario Tsuyoshi

There are no hidden agendas to Shoma Shibisai’s plans in the ring. From the get-go he puts everything into finishing the fight as soon as possible. An equal number of wins by T/KO and submission, all 6 of the heavyweights wins have come in the first round, with an average of about 1 minute. Add to that his Ganryujima wins and you have 10 first round finishes. In his last bout he took out fan favorite Sergey Shemetov with a leg lock in 49 seconds. Shibisai does not play around in the ring.

Former Sumo wrestler Tsuyoshi “Takanofuji Sano” Tsudario also flaunts an undefeated record in MMA. With all 3 of his outings coming in Rizin, Tsudario destroyed Pro Wrestler, Kazushi Miyamoto in just 8 seconds of the first round. The aftermath, where “Takanofuji Sano” showed a disregard for the referees instructions and fighter safety by continuing to attack his opponent after the fight, tarnished a great performance. Perhaps Tsudario felt that his Pro Wrestling opponent was not legitimate, leading to the antics. This time out “Takanofuji Sano” gets his toughest challenge to date. With the stage set, one of these heavyweight prospects must go, and it could be a coin toss as to which. Whoever pulls through, it will almost certainly be by stoppage, and probably early!


Opening Match, RIZIN MMA Rule With Elbows: 5 minutes 3R (73.0 kg)

Satoshi Yamasu Dominator vs. “Black Panther” Bey Noah

Stepping out of his comfort zone in striking only combat sports, “Black Panther” Bey Noah. Makes his anticipated MMA debut. With a Kyokushin Karate training from age 10, he added Kickboxing when he reached 20 and has expressed his desire to test the waters in MMA. The Rise Welterweight Champion is flashy on his feet, throwing a variety of strikes and combinations with a fluidity rarely seen. A physical specimen with natural KO power, “Black Panther” has risen to one of Japans very best strikers. His debut will be a massive trial by fire, but Bey Noah would have it no other way. A fighter who desires to improve and grow stronger, win or lose, the experience will definitely aid him in his journey.

Yamasu “Dominator” Satoshi has found himself in a tough spot. After wrecking havoc in DEEP, capturing the featherweight title he fell flat in his title defense after failing to secure key moments. To make matters worse, he fell victim to an Mikuru Asakura head kick in his Rizin debut. “Dominator” started the bout well but shortly after an inadvertent head butt, which appeared to daze him, he ate a thunderous high kick. Despite the set backs, Satoshi is still top tier fighter, with a phenomenal chin and hands of stone the ex-DEEP  Champion is a proficient grappler and very capable submission artist. “Dominator” may settle for a wrestling heavy game and look for easiest path to victory but the desire to turn fights into brawls could come back to haunt him. Another factor will be his opponents weight and MMA ability. The contest will be 15lbs heavier than Satoshi usually contends, plus Bey Noah is not small at 160lbs. Furthermore, “Black Panther” has been vocal about MMA for some time might surprise the “Dominator”, who cannot let his guard down against the underdog.

About the Author

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

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