Match 13: Rizin KICK One Night Tournament Final, 3M x 3R, 61kg
Taiju Shiratori defeated Koji “Kouzi” Tanaka by decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-26)
In the final match of a dramatic show, the Rizin KICK One Night Tournament final got underway. There was some deliberation over who would stand across from Taiju Shiratori. Koji “Kouzi” Tanaka was ultimately picked as there was no viable alternative. Sakakibara confirmed that he had cleared the decision with Genji Umeno and Ryo Takahashi who supported the decision as neither were in a fit medical state to fight.
Koji “Kouzi” Tanaka stormed out the gate in the 1st, landing an inside kick and launching right straights against his southpaw foe. Taiju Shiratori brushed off the attacks and began to nullify the forward pressure with angles and short left hands. Leading with his head, “Kouzi” butted the taller Shiratori, causing a break and warning. A frenzied confrontation ensued as Shiratori threw left hooks and right straights as Tanaka pressed forward on the warpath. Another apparent clash of heads and spurred Shiratori on. After stunning the brawler with a left knee a straight left, right hook put him down for the count. Establishing the jab as a rangefinder Shiratori threw pin point accurate punches with considerable power. The rangy ex-boxer complained once again about a clash of heads before throwing heavy kicks, knees and punches. “Kouzi” would not take a backward step and drove forward, brawling with the technician. A low blow from “Kouzi” fired up Shiratori who came on strong as the round closed.
Showing exactly why he is a fan favorite, “Kouzi” fought his way to the inside where he head hunted with hooks before working the body with left and rights. Shiratori’s footwork and combinations were impeccable. The Team Teppen Kickboxer created angles and effortlessly fired 1-2 head kick and 1-2 body knee combinations. Tanaka tried to shake up his stoic opponent, finding success with hooks to the body and right hands to the head at close range. Shiratori frequently stepped to the left to throw straight lefts or lead uppercuts. While exiting, “Kouzi” surprised the taller sharp shooter with overhand rights. Against the ropes the brawler had the most success, digging in with hooks. In the open, however, Tanaka was getting picked apart by crisp fundamentals, 1-2s, hooks and knees hit their target, as did low kicks and front kicks. While the technical striking of Shiratori did damage and carried him through the round, “Kouzi” had his moments with looping overhead rights and body shots.
The final round quickly got wild as Shiratori decided to stay in range and swing with “Kouzi”, who found his target early in the round. Doubling the right hands over the top and finishing with a huge left hook, the iron chinned slugger landed his best shot of the fight. Catching Tanaka on the way in, Shiratori did additional damage after his opponents flurries. Recognizing the openings, Shiratori weaved 1-2s, hooks and uppercuts to just the right locations, stunning the shorter fighter. After another clash of heads doctors checked on Shiratori who was given the all clear to continue. Both fighters had shifted to top gear as they alternated attack and defense. Shiratori played “Kouzi’s” game as they both went for the kill. In a way it was the best round for fan favorite “Kouzi”, consequently though, it was also the round that he absorbed the most damage. As the time came to an end the Osaka native “Kouzi” was on shaky legs but still standing and throwing, I imagine he would have it no other way.
Tenshin Nasukawa training partner Taiju Shiratori picked up a clear cut sweep across the scoreboards. With precision, variety, footwork and power Shiratori is a force to be reckoned with and is now 6-0 in Rizin. With the Rizin KICK One Night tournament belt securely around his waist fans will be eagerly anticipating his next challenge. Koji “Kouzi” Tanaka always comes to fight and put on a show. Win or lose he guarantees entertaining fights. A big fan favorite he may have lost the match but his appeal and reputation remains untarnished.
Match 12: Rizin MMA Tournament Rules (Elbows Allowed), 5M x 3R, 61kg
Yuto “Kintaro” Hokamura defeated Kuya Ito by decision (3-0)
As soon as the opening bell rang it was evident that the heavily touted striker Yuto “Kintaro” Hokamura would not have it all his way trading with Kuya Ito. Both fighters stood their ground for a sensational shootout, with Ito taking “Kintaro’s” straight lefts, rights and knees and firing right back with his own heavy artillery. More compact with less reach, Ito let his adversary throw first then threw short 1-2s in close. Flying in the face of predictions and expectations, Ito kept the knock out artist backpedaling as he claimed the center of the ring. Aware that trading might not work against his iron chinned opponent “Kintaro” showed his evolution as a MMA fighter. Body-locking Ito and rotating him down Hokamura spent time in top position getting his breath back and shutting his foe down.
2nd round continued the fireworks. With both fighters carrying dynamite in their hands they were rolling the dice in a high stakes game.Southpaw “Kintaro” drove left straights and knees into Ito’s face and body as the Grachan champion answered with right hand left hook combinations. 3 step in knees from the Outsider veteran and Ito unloads in the pocket. Switching levels “Kintaro” once again takes top position an the canvas, content to slow the match down a little. The ground control was the calm before the storm, once back on the feet the frenetic pace and furious exchanges continued. In the last minute Ito was coming on strong, with “Kintaro” backing out of the shootouts the Grachan champion forced him back to the ropes.
With the match swinging back and forth the 3rd round was crucial. “Kintaro” had demonstrated a more versatile striking acumen. Step in knees, kicks, a stiff jab and straight left hands, he made use of footwork and worked both the body and head at range. In contrast Ito used kicks to close the distance where he bull rushed in and rattled off 1-2s in the pocket. The majority of the last round, “Kintaro” took pot-shots with single strikes, effectively circling and using head movement to dodge and escape prolonged trading. Undaunted Ito did not stop coming forward and responded to every attack with a blitz. With a minute remaining 2 thunderous left hands tagged “Kintaro”. Ito was off balance however and ended up grounded against the ropes. In a final explosion Ito hauled his opponent into the air and slammed him into the canvas as Hokamura cinched a tight guillotine. Time expired as a thrilling fight came to a close.
While Kuya Ito was without doubt the aggressor, the the consistency belonged to Yuto “Kintaro” Hokamura who earned a unanimous decision. Both warriors left it all in the ring but it will be “Kintaro” moving one step closer to the tournament title. The underdog in the match, Ito will surely see his stock raise after his performance.
Match 11: Rizin MMA Tournament Rules (Elbows Allowed), 5M x 3R, 61kg
Takafumi Otsuka defeated Hiroki “Shian” Yamashita by decision (3-0)
Squaring off against a power puncher, Takafumi Otsuka’s smooth footwork was on display from the get-go. Shifting between stances and making full use of lateral movement Otsuka teed off on the inside and outside of his opponents legs. Shian could not get a read for his destructive 1-2 combinations but was inching closer. Otsuka took a hook to the body and capitalized on the opening to clinch. The high level wrestler easily put his foe on the mat and put on a positional clinic. Sliding hooks in and out, grasping legs, from back position the strong grappler picked his spot and unloaded thudding punches and elbows. In complete control Otsuka got over-zealous with the strikes and a few caught the back of the head. After a warning the fight resumed on the feet but there was little time left. Swinging wild for the last 10 seconds, Shian stuck his tongue out in defiance, a reminder he was not out of the fight yet.
Knowing the level disparity on the ground, Shian was wary of closing the distance and falling short with his hands and feet. Otsuka was happy to chew up the legs of the hard puncher, angling in and out of danger. A takedown attempt from the wrestler is stuffed but any confidence Shian had ebbed away as he was taken down with the superior grappler on his back. Showing his fortitude and core strength Shian instinctively spins out of a Rear Naked Choke to take the fight back to his realm. When the brawler does land, the power is evident and Otsuka is starting to look bloodied despite taking few direct hits. At the end of the round a high altitude throw dumped Shian to the canvas, this time absorbing knees to the head.
By the 3rd round it was clear Shian was not going to fold or give up. Stuffing takedown entries more consistently the striker was able to land body shots and set up strikes up top with feints. Chain wrestling from a Shian body blow, Otsuka finished a single leg and progressed step by step once again to dominate position. A sequence of rolls occurred with Otsuka uncharacteristically losing control. Shortly after the stand up, however, Shian was back down with the MMA veteran on his back punishing with methodical ground and pound. One the feet in the dying seconds Shian went for broke and Otsuka decided to prove a point and did the same. Slugging it out, Shian briefly wobbled Otsuka who simply fired back.
The match unquestionably belonged to Takafumi Otsuka as he earned an unanimous decision and moves on to face the next challenge on his quest for the GP title. Both fighters earned each others respect, Shian doing well to got the distance with the more experienced and well rounded Otsuka.
Match 10: Rizin MMA Tournament Rules (Elbows Allowed), 5M x 3R, 61kg
Kenta Takizawa defeated Masakazu “Ashikan Judan” Imanari by decision (3-0)
After a very tentative start and a long period of inactivity, the very first strike thrown by Kenta Takizawa put Masakazu Imanari on his back, a soccer kick follow up barely missing. For the rest of the round Takizawa played it very cautious, knowing what the leg lock wizard was capable of given an opportunity he circled and chipped away with short kicks. Imanari continuously chased with arms by his side but would not get too close, or corner, the dangerous striker. Inside and outside kicks, spinning kicks, they were few and far between but Takizawa landed as Imanari struggled to find any kind of entry to grapple.
2nd round played out almost identical to the first with Takizawa moving in loops around the perimeter before once again dropping Imanari with a right hand and narrowly missing a soccer kick. Imanari was in pursuit but the distance was calculated, he was baiting Takizawa into throwing in order to get his opportunity to make contact and get a submission. In the last 10 seconds Takizawa came alive, blitzing left and right hands on the button to knock Imanari to the canvas. Capping off the knockdown with with some ground and pound both fighter went back to their corners.
As the final round commenced Imanari was visibly frustrated and sensed the urgency. He started charging and swinging with reckless abandon, sprinting in with lead hooks and low kicks. The audience held their breath as Imanari rolled and snatched a leg. Takizawa turned to face away from the submission magician and pulled like crazy to free the leg. With just the ankle snatched “Ashikan Judan” adeptly brought Takizawa to the ropes, simultaneously transitioning to grasp the opposite leg. Remaining composed Takizawa twisted to escape, his arms inadvertently passing through the ropes. With Imanari unable to control the leg, Takizawa’s methodically rehearsed training yielded results. With a sigh of relief Takizawa continued the game plan. A hard1-2 planted Imanari to the canvas and spinning hook kick grazed his forehead. The fight ended with Imanari striding arms down throwing right and left hooks, chin high in the air. Takizawa refused to deviate from his strategy and rode the time out.
The fight was tense. Fighting Masakazu “Ashikan Judan” Imanari is always a conundrum for opponents. His skills are so far skewed in one direction that the majority of fighters would be foolish to challenge him at his strengths. Kenta Takizawa followed the script and, while it was not pretty, he did more than enough for the unanimous nod from the judges. Next round expect a completely different fighter.
Match 9: Rizin MMA Tournament Rules (Elbows Allowed), 5M x 3R, 61kg
Alan Yoshihiro Yamaniha defeated Kazuma Kuramoto by decision (3-0)
Not known to play it safe, Kazuma Kuramoto strode forward with his arms by his side as Alan Yoshihiro Yamaniha opted for a more traditional boxing stance. Leaping forward with lead left right straights Kuramoto has unorthodox but effective striking, shooting from the hip in a kind of Karate style. A proficient counter striker, the much bigger Yamaniha was more than content to let the Greco Roman wrestling standout rush in. Finding a home for a looping overhand right, Kuramoto stunned the BJJ stylist and went in for the kill, landing another identical strike. A short right counter from “Hiro” and momentum shifted dramatically. Struggling to stay on his feet Kuramoto is sent to the canvas with another right hand before being shellacked by knees to the head, right hands and a high kick, which he ate and converted to a takedown. Electing not to rest and standing up out of guard it was clear the wrestlers had not recovered as he swayed back and forth. Multiple left hands, knees and elbows Yamaniha threw everything and the kicken sink but could not take Kuramoto out. A failed takedown presented the BJJ ace with an easy back take which he transitioned to a patented Bonzai BJJ Gym triangle. Undeterred Kuramoto defended, hoisting his opponent up and slamming his way out the hold.
Unexpectedly the fight saw a 2nd round! Unfazed by the first round, Kuramoto dug in a heavy leg kick to start the round before getting back to his unconventional stand up. Yamaniha taunted and called his adversary on, ready to blast another counter. The mirrored left hands and kicks before a bad shot from the Greco Roman specialist gave Yamaniha a chance at a guillotine. Escaping once again, Kuramoto, once again, let his opponent up. Turning up the heat the Yamaniha did damage once again with solid left hands. Shortly after 3 consecutive spinning back fists from Kuramoto cause a cut above the eye. After a doctors check both continue a speed versus power striking battle until the round ends.
In the final stanza the wild Kuramoto was clearly swinging for the fences with “home run” pitcher style punches. “Hiro” stuck to the fundamentals and continued to counter accurately. The twists and turns continued as Kuramoto decided to actually use his formidable ground and pound. Defending leg attacks the wrestler threw the feet aside and launched full force into some punishing ground punches. A final excellent scramble saw Yamaniha on his back absorbing stomps and fists hammering his head.
As the exhilarating match came to a close all 3 judges scored the bout for Alan Yoshihiro Yamaniha. The damage done in the first round was considerable and Yamaniha’s ever improving striking was on point. For Kazuma Kuramoto, he can hold his head high. With his heart and tenacity, combined with skill set and endurance, Kuramoto has the makings of a future champion. He fights without any resemblance of a strategy, something that cost him in this match and his Shooto title bid.
Match 8: Rizin MMA Rules (Elbows Allowed), 5M x 3R, 71kg
Yusuke Yachi defeated Yuki “Tencho” Kawana by decision (3-0)
In a strategic battle of conflicting paces Yuki “Tencho” Kawana made his intentions clear from the opening bell. Closing the distance off punches he timed his clinch expertly and put Yachin down to his knees against the cage corner. While left hooks to takedown attempts were working well, Kawana was struggling to flatten Yachi out. The solid wrestling base and athleticism of Yachi enabled him to keep his head high, not get his legs “swallowed up” and get back to his feet. On the feet the southpaw Yachi searched for rear hand straights, targeting the body with punches and kicks. The round closes on another attempt by Kawana to get the fight to the ground.
The 2nd round saw Yachi find his rhythm and steal the tempo of the match. With success on the feet mounting and damage building on a tiring Kawana Yachi hit a devastating left, right, left high kick combination. Yachi’s shin connected flush with Kawana’s head, dropping him to his knees. Capitalising with knees to the head Yachi poured on the pressure but, defying the odds, “Tencho” rose to his feet, turned into his opponent and carried on where he left off. Continued attempts to go to the ground were fruitless for Kawana and the referee breaks were coming quicker. Yachi on the feet was drawing out the attacks from his foe and bouncing in with sharp 1-2s.
In the final round the battle of wills against the corner of the cage continued as Kawana again attempted to execute takedowns and Yachi defended. A smarter more reserved Yachi played it safer than usual, happy to eat up time in the clinch and flip the script to score his own brief. Kawana could not muster the power needed to drive through and get the strong wrestler on his back. With desperation kicking in “Tencho” was going for broke with strikes while Yachi was uncharacteristically on the back foot. With clinch control, smart striking tactics a more mature Yachi pulled off a decisive win in what could be the beginning of a career resurrection
After hitting rock bottom Yusuke Yachi adapted and adjusted his style, adopting a more strategic style while still maintaining the entertainment that made him a fan favorite. Taking the pressure off himself while he had the lead, he instead let his opponent initiate and work, something that made life easier for him in the ring. The Rizin “poster boy” has carried a lot of weight on his shoulders and this win was essential for his career. Yuki “Tencho” Kawana is still a top tier fighter despite the set backs. He will go back to the drawing board. His speedy punch to clinch and takedown combinations do not seem as effective in the ring and traditionally he has had problems in the past against bigger fighters.
Match 7: Rizin MMA Rules (Elbows Allowed), 5M x 3R, 66kg
Rikito “Dark” Shirakawa defeated Jin Aoi by decision (3-0)
Jin Aoi played the matador as Rikito Shirakawa loaded up with his hands, seeking that big KO blow. It was clear as the first round progressed that the Shooto veteran had the kind of footwork and experience to avoid Shirakawa’s heavy leather. The wide stance and heavy on front leg style of the KO artist was successfully countered by Aoi’s kicks. “Dark” was reaching with his straight hands and Aoi slipping inside to counter with his own.
As the 2nd round got underway Shirakawa was still controlling the real estate but finding his target slipping and sliding out of range. While doing so Aoi wracked up leg kicks, the Outsider heavy hitters lead leg bruised and swollen. Once again moving his head of the centre line the versatile striker avoided Shirakawa’s power shots and found the mark with his own. The tide began to turn for “Dark” as he started to go to the body with thudding blows.
As the 3rd round started it appeared Aoi had the recipe for the win, a high guard with arms by ears, he cut angles and used speed and movement to avoid getting hit and picked his shots in return. The intensity from Shirakawa was building though, with Aoi getting driven further and further towards the ropes. The Outsider veterans right jab, left to the body was landing more frequently as Aoi shot for a takedown. Easily defending “Dark” kept the heat on Aoi, not letting him off the hook and pressing him to the ropes. Aoi was trading shot for shot at this point but there was a difference in the effect the blows had. Adding feints, Shirakawa was unloading at every opportunity and, while not getting through clean he was taking control of the fight. Bullying Aoi towards the end of the round “Dark” had him slipping under the intense pressure. Aoi did not back down though, trading until the very end.
It came down to accuracy and activity versus power and ring dominance. The judges all sided with the eye catching moments of Shirakawa, feeling he had done enough in the final round.
Match 6: Rizin MMA Rules (Elbows Allowed), 5M x 3R, 57kg
Yusako Nakamura vs Daichi Kitakata match was cancelled
Daichi Kitakata failed his medical check and was deemed unfit to fight. Safety is of paramount importance and hopefully Kitakata’s condition improves.
Match 5: Rizin KICK One Night Tournament 1st round, 3M x 3R, 61kg
Taiju Shiratori defeated Ryo Takahashi by TKO (referee stoppage, 3 knockdowns, 1:38 R1)
Tenshin Nasukawa team mate Taiju Shiratori entered stoic and confident. Opponent Ryo Takahashi planned to fight aggressive and was fired up, firing kicks against his rangy opponent and staying on the outside. A low left calf kick, left straight caught Takahashi behind the ear and put him on rubbery legs. The expert boxer could smell blood and went for the kill as a spirited Takahashi planted his feet and threw down. The strategy proved costly as Shiratori saw the openings and landed a picture perfect left hook to lay his foe out on the canvas. Takahashi somehow made it to his few but the writing was on the wall, a flurry from Shiratori sealed the deal as the referee stepped in to call the fight. The tournament favorite, Shiratori punched his way to the finals in sensational style.
Match 4: Rizin KICK One Night Tournament 1st round, 3M x 3R, 61kg
Genji Umeno vs Kouzi declared a no contest (doctor stoppage, clash of heads, R1 0:43)
The highly anticipated match between fan favorite Kickboxer Koji “Kouzi” Tanaka and Thai Boxing royalty Genji Umeno kicked off as expected. “Kouzi” marched forward, closing the distance and giving Umeno no breathing room. A consummate and highly experienced professional Umeno kept calm and looked to work uppercuts and straights between the sluggers wild hooks. Working the body “Kouzi” came up with his head, butting Umeno who Instantly reacted to the pain. As Umeno protested, 2 more hooks from the Kickboxer crept in before the referee could intervene. With Umeno’s nose visibly deformed, the doctor was called in and the fight waved off just 43 seconds into the round.
Match 3: Rizin Kickboxing Rules (Elbows Allowed), 3M x 3R, 52kg
Yoshinori Nadaka defeated Chikai Imura’s by TKO (Doctor stoppage, R1 5:00)
Southpaw Yoshinori Nadaka wasted no time getting straight down to business, launching an barrage of attacks from the left side. Thunderous left hands, inside kicks, body kicks and step in knees the striking prodigy utilized perfect selection with razor sharp techniques. Not holding back, a game Chikai Imura charged forward with combinations. Pulling just out of range and darting back in, the decorated Thai Boxing legend made his opponent pay after each attack. Cutting an angle in the clinch, Nadaka either threw multiple knees, sweeps or elbows. Near the end of the round, 3 destructive elbows hit selected points on the face of Imura and the damage was evident. Between rounds the ringside doctors called a stop to the match giving Nadaka his 2nds straight stoppage by elbows in Rizin.
It was a brave performance from “Chikai”, who came to fight. The warrior rushed forward and engaged, took heavy shots and stayed on his feet. He was up against the very best in the world and the difference in level was apparent. A step ahead of the competition Rizin have a superstar in the making with Yoshinori Nadaka and finding a suitable opponent likely just got more difficult.
Match 2: Rizin Kickboxing Rules, 3M x 3R, 56kg
Seiki Ueyama defeated Jyosei Izumi by TKO (3 Knockdowns, R2 0:55)
Making his Rizin debut Jyosei Izumi was keen to put on a performance and went blow for blow with the strong boxing of Seiki Ueyama. Content to stay in the pocket, neither fighter gave an inch as they alternated offense and defense, throwing left and right hooks at full strength. Perhaps feeling the power, Izumi mixed in a flying knee and high kicks as Ueyama methodically broke down the defence and searched for an opening. Recognising that his opponent had a tendency to drop their head Shootboxer Ueyama found a sharp uppercut and followed it up with a perfectly placed straight right for a knockdown. Izumi held on until the round closed.
The respite for the newcomer was short lived as Ueyama worked a left to the body before throwing a monstrous left that landed on the chin. The New Japan Kickboxing veteran hit the canvas did well to make it to his feet. An spinning back kick whiffed past its target but the following straight right from Ueyama caught Izumi behind the ear sending him down. Still bravely on the attack, Izumi left an opening for a pin point uppercut that knocked him down for the final time. A lot of heart shown by Izumi who refused to clinch or take a backward step despite being out-gunned. Ueyama was on fire, his cerebral approach combined with his technical prowess found him the openings he needed.
Match 1: Rizin Kickboxing Rules, 3M x 3R, 63kg
Yamahata and Kiyoto Takahashi fought to a majority draw (29-29, 29-29, 30-29 Takahashi)
The opening round saw both Kickboxers get right down to business with heavy kick exchanges. Kiyoto Takahashi kept it simple, mostly working low kick counters to southpaw Yuma Yamahata’s body, leg and spinning kicks. Both fighters were well schooled, blocking effectively and launching kick, punch, kick combinations.
There was little to divide the fighters in the 2nd round. Simultaneously attacking and Kickboxing in sequences they mirrored straights and lead hooks. Yamahata had a slight edge in the punching department with leaping left hands and body work. Takahashi`s kicks had more starch and going low to the legs was sewing the seeds for the final round
In the 3rd round it was kick for kick. Punch for punch at an even faster tempo. Yamahata worked the punches early in the round, trying to break through the tight guard of his adversary. Takahashi continued to attack the legs, going to the rear leg of the southpaw. Some excellent body work as a Takahashi lead left hand, left kick to body seemed to have Yamahata wince in pain, leaving a strong final impression.
With almost nothing between the Kickboxers the judges scored the bout a majority draw with the dissenting judge leaning towards Takahashi. Both Kickboxers displayed a highly skilled array of techniques and with almost nothing separating them a draw was a fitting conclusion to the bout.