Rizin 28 Returns to Tokyo Dome in Sensational Style! Lightweight Champion Crowned, Knock Outs, Submissions, Back and Forth Wars

The return of MMA to the monumental Tokyo Dome after 18 years was met with great anticipation. From the opening flames, lights and fireworks to the closing bell, Rizin 28 pulled out all the stops, delivering their unique blend of sport and spectacle that has captivated fans around the world.

In a back and forth clash of styles, Kleber Koike Erbst’s patented triangle choke put Mikuru Asakura out in the 2nd 

Bringing the curtain down on the momentous show Mikuru Asakura engaged Kleber Koike Erbst in a classic striker vs grappler contest. Through the opening round Asakura controlled the real estate, testing the water with low kicks and feints. Feeling the pressure the grappling sensation pulled guard multiple times and worked for his patented Triangle Choke. Asakura was prepared, and the strategic fighter was careful to leave no openings as he worked back to his feet. A left, right, high kick combination blasted Koike and left him on rocky ground. Regaining his wits, the grapplers instincts kicked in as he successfully managed to score a body lock and hoisted Asakura into the air. While planting the striker down, Asakura showed exceptional balance and technique, reversing the position to end in guard. Defending the triangle again, the former title challenger disengaged and landed a huge body shot. A back and forth firefight in the pocket then kicked off until the round closed.

In the 2nd stanza low kicks had Asakura backpedalling uncharacteristically. Taking full advantage Koike pressed his opponent against the ropes and pulled guard once more. The submission ace made the adjustments and this time Asakura’s defence failed him. Asakura elected to go out on his shield and pass out instead of tap out, giving a jubilant Koike the technical submission victory at 1:49 of the 2nd round. The BJJ specialist put himself in the perfect position to challenge Yutaka Saito for the title in what would be a classic.


Tenshin Nasukawa cruised past 3 game challengers in Boxing showcase

In an special Boxing only rules challenge, undefeated Kickboxing superstar and Rizin regular Tenshin Nasukawa took on 3 consecutive opponents, one 3 minute round each. Technical lighter weight fighter Koki Osaki was up first. Possessing speed, accuracy and power for his size the BOM Muay Thai Champion and Rise kickboxing regular fared best against Tenshin. Both boxed defence and offense, often mirroring their combinations and, while both landed, neither was able to hurt the other.

2nd up was heavy hitter Hiroya Kawabe. While never quite living up to the lofty expectations place on him as Masato’s “successor”, “Hiroya” possesses a lot of firepower. Ad a 13kg weight advantage and all it could take was one hit to cause a massive upset. Unfazed by the threat, the virtuoso striker bounced in and out, hit angles and toyed with his heavy hitting foe. The speed and pin point accuracy forced Hiroya’s to keep his gloves up, when he did throw he whiffed past the target and paid for the attacks. At the end of the round a beautifully timed step in uppercut and body shot dropped the thick set Hiroya for a standing count but there was no time left to secure a finish.

“Mr X,” turned out to be none other than MMA legend Hideo Tokoro! While known primarily for his prowess on the mat, the legend has shown he has technique, power, a chin and a ton of heart. Unfaltering in his approach, Tokoro gave all he could, going for broke with his fast and unorthodox punching. The difference in level was apparent however, and once Tenshin found his timing, precise shots found their mark and Tokoro was on rubbery legs. Known for his fighting spirit, Tokoro survived until the final bell, giving a good account of himself.

The exhibition match up served its purpose, entertaining the fans while simultaneously getting some rounds in for the esteemed Kickboxer, who will make his Boxing debut next year. After the bouts Tenshin announced that he will have a final Kickboxing match at the end of the year, hoping to cap his final professional record at 40-0.


Roberto “Satoshi” Souza’s Triangle Choke Sealed Victory over Tofiq Musayev in just 72 seconds

After set backs and scheduling issues the inaugural Rizin Lightweight Title was up for grabs. Rizin Lightweight GP winner Tofiq Musayev clashed with decorated BJJ Champion Roberto “Satoshi” Souza in a high stakes match of striker vs grappler.

The Azerbaijani’s wrestling defence was impeccable as he stuffed Souza’s entry. Before Musayev could put his fearsome striking on display the BJJ ace cliched again and pulled guard. An incredible wrestler and excellent boxer, the explosive Musayev was clearly out of his element when it came to the intricacies of the submission game. “Satoshi” was able to methodically progress to lock up a textbook Triangle Choke for the tap out at 1:12 of very first round. Roberto “Satoshi” Souza becomes Rizin’s first Lightweight champion!


Kai Asakura displayed patient, mature performance to TKO grappling specialist Shooto Watanabe in the opening stanza

In the final tournament match up of the event, former Bantamweight Title holder Kai Asakura pitted his sharp shooting against tricky submission specialist Shooto Watanabe. Watanabe has a limited game and while opponents know what to expect, he is so exceptional at what he does all he needs is one chance. Watanabe shot low single legs constantly, whether from an Asakura attack, a break, or from far out he tenaciously sought the single leg to back take he masterfully executes. Asakura was razor sharp on the defence, sprawling, extending legs and rotating. The “Bad Boy” knock out artist kept pressure on the head and Watanabe on his knees. As he stood to escape the opportunistic grappler leapt on a guillotine choke and  locked it tight. A calm Asakura endured and then unleashed fury from guard. Thudding ground and pound bounced Watanabe’s head of the canvas as the referee called the fight at 3:22 into the match. With the TKO win Asakura took a step on the path back to the title, while reminding the rest of the contenders that his striking is as deadly as ever


Naoki Inoue survived a scare to brutalize Shintaro Ishiwatari  with punches and soccer kicks for a 1st round KO

Shintaro Ishiwatari squared off against Naoki Inoue in a contrast of styles. With a solid chin and heavy hands, Ishiwatari is prepared to take a blow to land one.  His fearless style allows for exceptional counters that have put many fighters down. Inoue, on the other hand, prefers a more active, crisp and conventional approach, working behind his jab. With Ishiwatari’s highly regarded takedown defence and Inoue’s flawless ground game it was an intriguing match up. It did not last long though. Ishiwatari was finding a home for large hooks to the temple as Inoue pumped consecutive jabs. A front kick and monstrous straight right dropped Inoue to a knee. Smelling blood Ishiwatari surged forward throwing bombs. Inoue recovered quick and weaved an accurate right hand through the blitz, tagging Ishiwatari on the chin to turn the tide. With legs stiff Ishiwarari absorbed a right uppercut, left then right straight combination that floored him. Before the durable veteran could recover a brutal soccer kick right on target ended the match at 2:01 of round 1. Punching his ticket to the next round, Inoue is emerging as a favourite for the tournament.


Strategic veteran Hiromasa Ogikubo out-hustled newcomer Takeshi “Kanten” Kasugai for shut out decision victory

The 2nd Bantamweight Tournament match was a collision of 2 similarly matched warriors known for their bullish takedowns and forward pressure. Hiromasa Ogikubo has reached the upper echelons of the Rizin BW division, losing only to ex-champion Kai Asakura and current king Horiguchi. Newcomer Kasugai is a powerful athlete who is as durable and tough as they come.

Ogikubo shifted between kick heavy attacks on the feet and fast weight shifting takedowns in close. The southpaw karateka favoured lead leg kicks, chopping low at his opponents thigh and looking to counter jabs with high head kicks. Kasugai, in contrast planted his feet and loaded up on big overhand shots.

By the 2nd round it was clear Ogikubo’s mobility and versatility was eluding Kasugai who elected to switch tactics and muscle his opponent to the ground. The fighters tussled in the clinch with Ogikubo coming out on top. With stifling positional control Ogikubo worked from 1/2 guard to ice the round.

A sense of urgency surrounding Kasugai as the final round got underway. Finding some success of the feet, the Rizin newcomer found his timing as the Kyokushin Karate expert went to the well a bit too often with his lead kicks. The success was short lived however, as the Rizin veteran clinched and took the fight to the ground. A determined Kasugai used every second to work to escape, slipping out of Ogikubo’s clutches, Kasugai regained standing position. Guns blazing he stormed forward, only to have the Rizin top ranker cinch a single leg. Controlling the momentum Ogikubo rotated Kasugai, sending him to the canvas again. From there he unloaded from guard until the final bell. Both fighters have similarities stylistically. Kasugai gave it his all but Ogikubo’s more polished technique and fight experience made the difference, earning him a unanimous decision win and a trip to the next round.


Diversity and activity helped Yuki Motoya pull away from Ryo Okada to claim unanimous decision win

An evenly matched bout on paper delivered exactly as expected as Shooto Champion Ryo Okada met Deep Champion Yuki Motoya.

The feeling out process started as Motoya covered distance with a long sharp jab and wide hook. Okada was tighter, looking for the fundamentals in close. The clinch work paid off for Motoya as he drilled knees from Thai plum.  The unorthodox timing, speed and snap to Motoya’s long punches caught Okada off guard as he tried to cover up. A believer in variation and activity, Motoya was looking to simply work and land, taking whatever he could get and setting strikes up perfectly.

In the 2nd round Okada adjusted and shifted to kicks and takedown attempts. While he could not keep the Deep Champion down long he was able to work his way into the fight. Motoya, on the feet almost recklessly pounced forward with stinging jabs and overhand looping punches that targeted the temple. From the clinch he would continue to sequence together knees until Okada pushed free. The Shooto Champion was slowly rallying against the barrage piecing together precise left straights and hooks.

In the final round Okada added more kicks to his arsenal, mixing them up to set up his hands. The biggest issue was that Motoya would often slip out of reach and return with a scattering of all manner of attacks, wracking up the volume and efficiency. Another double leg scored for the debuting Okada but he was unable to capitalise as Motoya threatened with a guillotine. As the gong sounded the competitive match came to a conclusion. Okada was working his way into the match and is a strong 5 round fighter. Motoya, however with the Rizin experience and familiarity with rules, earned a well deserved unanimous nod from the judges to advance to the next round


Featherweight Champion Yutaka Saito passed tough test with razor thin split decision over Vugar “Vugi” Karimov

Rizin Featherweight Champion Yutaka Saito faced a risky match up and real test in Vugar “Vugi” Karimov. The Azerbaijani’s stellar wresting was on display early as he timed a takedown from a Saito low kick. The well-versed Saito was comfortable on his back and wasted little time before working to his feet. The Rizin Featherweight Champion was moving in and out, trying to find his rhythm and land well placed strikes.  Karimov locked up his highly respected adversary, sending him into the air, through the ropes and out if the ring.  The fall was hard but thankfully Saito was cleared to continue. A battle of wills ensued with “Vugi” pushing for the takedown and Saito working to stay upright. As the round closed the wrestler broke through and forced Saito to the mat once more.

Lighter and faster, Saito was working his fight IQ and looking to create an opening as 2nd round got underway. In the clinch Karimov’s strong base rendered him virtually immovable. On the feet Saito worked the striking and just as he built momentum he doubled up a low kick and found his back on the canvas. “Vugi” adeptly maintained control and shut down elevation and sweep attempts but was unable to do a lot of damage. In the biggest moment of the fight a left hand followed by soccer kick on the feet put Karimov down. Saito rode the back, punched and kneed the head, seeking a finish as round ended.

In the final round of a fiercely competitive bout the script remained unchanged. With solid wrestling Vugar took Saito down. Skilled of his back, Saito was active and able to defend and escape. On the feet both traded wild hooks that fell just short. Another leg kick led to another takedown from Vugar and a stand up by Saito. In the last 10 seconds Saito went for broke, throwing everything into his strikes in a n effort to perhaps sway the judges in an unbelievably close bout.

While Vugar had the ground time on top, 2 of the 3 judges sided with the damage and effort to finish from the Featherweight Champion. Saito was a hairs breadth from losing, demonstrating just how Deep the division is.


In a dramatic collision of heavyweight prospects, Shoma Shibisai pulled off a Rear Naked Choke against Tsuyoshi “Takanofuji Sano” Tsudario in the final round

As expected from fighters who each possess 100% finishing rates neither fighter shied away from exchanging right off the bat. Sudario was the more active fighter, firing in combinations from southpaw stance with straight lefts and left kicks getting through. Shibisai was marginally slower but just as athletic, going high with head kicks. Sudario was sticking to textbook fundamentals, when Shibisai threw however, his punches had a lot of weight and good timing. A lightning quick spinning back fist from “Takanofuji Sano” is blocked but once again highlighted the dexterity of the heavyweight.

Both fighters understandably slowed for the 2nd round. Tsudario effectively kept his opponent at bay with a solid jab and good movement for his size.  Shibisai stalked and focused on the big sledgehammer shots. With Shibisai attempting to come over the top of the ex-sumo’s punches and the tension could be cut with a knife as both were inching closer to the home run hit.

Entering the 3rd round was unexpected but the dramatic match had the audience on the edge of their seats and eager for more. Both warriors were fatigued and it appeared the fighter who could muster strong offense could take the bout. Shibiai dug deep and wrestled out a surprising takedown on the former Sumo elite.  The moment was huge for the match. Battering the head of Tsudario, Shibisai was speedy in his back take. Foregoing hooks to go straight for the kill he locked up a tight Rear Naked Choke on a drained “Takanofuji Sano”, earning the tap at 1:39 of round 3. Shibisai keeps his perfect 100% finishing rate, notching his first stoppage outside of the 1st round! “Takanofuji Sano” took the step up in competition he needed and produced a fine performance that should only raise his stock. Expect to see both these heavyweights back in the Rizin ring!


Yamasu “Dominator” Satoshi edged “Black Panther” Noah Bey in closely contested war

The spotlight was on Rise Kickboxing Welterweight Champion, “Black Panther” Noah Bay’s for his MMA debut. The Kyokushinkai Karate exponent has world class striking and was keen to test his skills under new conditions. Confident in his abilities the “Black Panther” trained specifically for MMA rules and believed his size and athleticism would even out the experience disadvantage. Welcoming Bay to MMA, Satoshi “Dominator” Yamasu was a former DEEP Champion and is a top class MMA fighter. Known for not backing down and engaging in heated exchanges, the spirited fighter has always been one to watch. Fighting 8kg above his usual weight, there was some concern as to how Yamasu’s power would translate against a big Welterweight

The entertainment got underway in high gear as “Dominator” launched a flying knee that partially landed and “Black Panther” answered with right and left combinations to the body and head. Clearly not a fish out of water in MMA, the Kyokushin fighter avoided the ground game and looked to take over in the striking. Feeling the pressure “Dominator” seized a double leg takedown at the end of the round and rained down some ground and pound.

In the 2nd the action continued to flow. Targeting the body and head, Bay launched a kick that presented Yamasu the chance to take the fight to the canvas. On top with legs locked the ex-Deep Champion was in control until “Black Panther” displayed some of the sheer power and athleticism he touted. Pushing “Dominator” off Bay stood and baited his opponent to come back to his world. Raising to the occasion the MMA veteran traded enough to work his way to the clinch, a body lock takedown and mount! With an explosive burst the Karateka reversed and delivered an onslaught of heavy hands, jumping stomps and a soccer kick! Regretfully Bay made use of the ropes for balance and attacks and was warned.

“Dominator” took the barrage well and looked none the worse for wear as he came out firing for the final round. Unable to get the fight to the ground Yamasu was once again stomped and soccer kicked. Unfrtunately Bay once again used the ropes and this time was red carded, something that would seriously alter a judges decision. Upping the wrestling intensity “Dominator’s” experience was pulling through and “Black Panthers” athleticism and power draining. Flattening the K-1 Champion out, Yamasu ground his foe down, stifling any attempts to escape “Dominator” pounded away from top position. From guard the decorated striker kicks off and immediately stands in a smooth motion. Yamasu trades knees and punches but cannot get the angle on the takedown. Quick with the soccer kicks and hammerfists Bay is determined to find the finish. Getting too close though he is caught in an armlock! Escaping as the bell sounds both fighters pay their respects.

A sensational bout of back and forth action got the night started. Despite falling short on the scorecards 2 votes to 1 “Black Panthers” debut was beyond expectation, he will definitely be back. Yamasu struggled with the size and striking prowess of his opponent but never backed down in the exchanges. Rizin 28 an the Tokyo Dome started with a bang!





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

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