Rizin 33 Preview, Tenshin Rounds Out Rizin Career With Gomi Special Rules Match

With a reputation for going that extra mile for fans, Rizin 33 has pulled together a special “last minute” match for this New Years Eve. Tenshin Nasukawa and Takanori Gomi, superstars generations apart collide in an “Standing Rules Only” bout that is destined to provide fireworks. With the conclusion of the Bantamweight GP, Lightweight title on the line and the return of Rena there is a lot to get excited about. While the NYE event may lack some show stealing bout it is loaded top to bottom with carefully selected fighters, finely blended together for explosive results! Every fight is a must watch and Rizin 33 is sure to deliver!

Rizin 33, Saitama Super Arena, Tokyo, December 31st, 13:30 JST

The event, broadcasted live on Sky Perfect TV, can also be purchased through Rizin Live or by signing up to U-Next

For fans outside of Japan, an English alternative with Damien Brown and Joe Ferraro on the mic is available through Live Now 

16. Main Event: Bantamweight Grand Prix Finals

15. Co-Main Event: Roberto Satoshi de Souza (c) vs. Yusuke Yachi (For lightweight title)

Brazilian born, Japanese national Roberto de Souza will stage his first defense of the Lightweight strap he emphatically seized from Tofiq Musaev. In Souza’s 12-1 MMA career the grappling ace has only been to the 2nd round once. With 10 victories by submission and 2 by way of strikes, the Bonzai JuJitsu black belt does not play around. A BJJ specialist augmented with strong Judo and Karate, “Satoshi” is also not lacking in the size and strength department. Able to dictate the battleground, the Rizin Lightweight Champion plans to once again drag the fight into his realm and lock up the inevitable submission. A step ahead of the competition, de Souza has the makings of a long reigning champion. 

Rizin mainstay and fan favorite Yusuke Yachi will stand across the ring from de Souza for the 2nd time, suffering a 1st round loss due to Ground and Pound from mount. It was a bitter pill to swallow for the Krazy Bee representative, rendered completely ineffectual, Yachi could do nothing in their first encounter. After reaching rock bottom the former challenger started from scratch, re-assessing his approach. His fundamentals remained, with his “striking wrestler” strong suit style still apparent. The crucial alterations came from within. Removing the pressure to “entertain” as the “face of Rizin” off his shoulders, Yachi could focus on maximizing victory and minimizing risk, discovering the best balance for his abilities and attributes. His last outings have showcased a more calculated aggression, giving less away to opponents while forcing them to work for openings. Whether the reinvigorated, smarter Yachi can unseat de Souza remains to be seen. With his back against the wall and chance of victory seemingly slim, Yachi has a habit of defying the odds when it counts. 

14. Yutaka Saito vs. Mikuru Asakura (Rizin MMA rules, 66.0kg)

A grudge match 1 year in the making. When the top Featherweights first clashed, Tutaka Saito’s well rounded game and ability to lead the dance was enough to steal the belt from a frustrated Mikuru Asakura. Saito suffered a heartbreaking loss last outing, surrendering the belt to Juntaru Ushiku due to a cut in a match that he was in control of. The psychological impact and how Saito handles the loss could prove vital to the outcome. An emotional Saito could play into the hands of the deadly counter striking of Asakura. 

The elder Asakura brother shines when opponents are aggressive and wild, as recently shown by his handling of the intimidating striker Kyohei Hagiwara. Known for his incredible fight IQ, Asakura scrutinizes and researches opponents thoroughly, calculating the path of least resistance. Removing Hagiwara’s vicious, unrestrained striking from the equation, striking striker Asakura has no qualms in going to the canvas in a controlling, commanding performance. The stakes are high for this match, with the winner on course to title contention the tension will be high and the slightest mistake costly. For certain both fighters will have done their homework and be fully prepared come fight night.

13. Tenshin Nasukawa vs. Takanori Gomi (Special “Standing Only” rules)

Takanori Gomi was Pride, and Japan’s, first lightweight MMA superstar. The “Fireball Kid” lit up the ring, laying waste to opponents with his explosive power. While the superstar has fallen on hard times as of late he still possesses the qualities that made him such a formidable opponent, notably the dynamite in his hands and an iron chin. Add to that an alleged 20kg weight difference, a no kicking ruleset and smaller gloves and Gomi’s chance to pull a rabbit out the hat and shock the world increase significantly.

Striking genius Tenshin Nasukawa is arguably the best Kickboxer of his generation. Owner of a 42-0 record with 30 KOs the flashy striker has continually faced the world’s elite and remained neigh untouchable. Tenshin has earned a reputation as not just a fighter that wins, but does so in sensational fashion. Undoubtedly the heavy favorite, the Kickboxing phenom vows to KO the MMA legend. The weight deficit is a factor to consider. The no kicking rule does not do Tenshin any favors either. With his Karate roots, Kyokushin and Shin Karate, kicking was how Nasukawa pulled off many of his ridiculously crazy KO’s. The match up is expected to be a walk in the park for the prodigy kid but should he take Gomi lightly, he may well find himself on his back looking up at the lights. The Pride veteran has a significant size advantage and still carries that monstrous 1 punch KO capability. 

The announcement came just days after the dream match for Kickboxing fans, Tenshin Nasukawa vs Takeru Segawa was made public. The match has faced roadblocks in the past as negotiations consistently broke down to a stalemate. With the mammoth bout set for June, Tenshin takes a huge risk in facing Gomi. A loss, even a special rules one, could jeopardise Tenshin’s superfight Kickboxing retirement match. 

12. Rena Kubota vs. Si Woo Park (Rizin MMA Rules, 50kg)

In Si Woo Park, Rena faces a fellow striker in a match that should bring out the best in both fighters. Park’s 5-4 record does not tell the full story, the Korean is 1-1 with rising sensation Saori Oshima, has kickboxing experience and has never succumbed to strikes. Technical striking with solid fundamentals are backed up by speed and footwork. Expect angles and movement from Park as she looks to get her hand raised and score the upset.

It does not feel like a NYE card without Rizin star Rena. The Shootboxing standout may actually have the edge in grappling for her first bout in quite some time, though it is unlikely she will exploit the advantage. A striker at heart, the striking sensation breaks opponents with precision and power, launching everything with fight ending intention. Without having to worry about grappling defense, expect Rena to be at her very best, firing on all cylinders and settling for nothing less than another highlight reel KO.  

11. Akaka Hamasaki vs. Seika Izawa (Rizin MMA Rules, 49kg)

Queen of the Rizin Atomweights, Hamasaki has only one career loss in the division, a razor thin loss to Seo Hee Ham that was as close to the wire as a fight could be. Demonstrating continued expertise in the striking department as of late, Hamasaki is a different fighter from her encounter with Ham. Riding a 4 fight win streak the supreme grappler has been mixing up her skillset. Bolstering her style with rapidly improving boxing, Hamasaki continues to grow and develop as a multi-faceted MMA fighter. While the expanding array of weaponry brings options, selecting the right tools becomes pivotal. Hamasaki must be fully focused and on her “A” game as any slip up can be costly in MMA.

While Seika Izawa lacks the experience, reputation and stature of her foe and without doubt has a mountain to climb, the youngster will relish the challenge. Despite turning pro just 2 years ago, Izawa has rocketed up the Atomweight division in Japan, scoring 4 wins in 4 outings and doing so without really being tested. A master on the ground with a Judo backbone, Izawa accomplished top rankings and titles in the Junior Nationals for Judo, Wrestling and Sumo. On top of all that she is 4-0-1 in no-Gi grappling with 3 finishes. Should the fight hit the mat, Izawa, with her youthful vigor and confidence will not shy away from taking the fight to esteemed champion Hamasaki. A symbol of the new generation, the “Newaza” expert has little to lose in going for broke and toppling the current Rizin Atomweight Champion would be a career changing opportunity. 

10.Koji Takeda vs Noah “Black Panther” Bey (Rizin MMA Rules, 71kg)

Rise Welterweight Kickboxing Champion Noah Bey, better known as “Black Panther” possesses a Karate background, winning the 35th Kyokushin All Japan Lightweight title before testing his skills at Kickboxing. Utilising a blend of lightning fast strikes, the “Black Panther” excels at mixing his attacks and lining up that “Ichigeki,” one strike kill shot. In his MMA debut against former DEEP Champion, the experienced Satoshi Yamasu, Bey showed his potential despite falling just short on the score cards. His sophomore performance was an electrifying KO of heavy handed Daryl Lokoku, a match where precision and speed trumped raw power. 

Koji Takeda is tough as nails with a never say die philosophy. While a Rizin finish has eluded Takeda, the rugged wrestler has been involved in many memorable scraps against many of the division’s best. With constant forward pressure the decorated Greco Roman wrestler aims to entertain with supplexes and high altitude throws. Allowing opponents no time to take a breath, Takeda’s grinding style is the antithesis of Bey’s. A hotly contested loss to contender Yusuke Yachi last outing snapped a 4 fight win streak. As Takeda looks to get back on track, he would be best served to avoid getting into the kind of brawls he is known for and lean on his outstanding wrestling. Should he aim for entertainment and a shoot out he plays right into “Black Panther’s” hands. A quintessential striker vs grappler match up on paper, this fight could provide a few “surprises” as fighters flip the script!

9. Shoma Shibisai vs. Hideki “Shrek” Sekine (Rizin MMA Rules, 120kg)

A battle of the behemoths pitches 2 Heavyweightswith Judo bases against each other in a match highly unlikely to go the distance. “Shrek” took to Judo after his leg was torn off and reattached during a car accident as a child. At prestigious Judo university, Yamanashi Gakuin, Sekine strengthened his body and mind as he fought through the pain to emerge a physical specimen. No longer bullied, the HW grappler became a police officer for 20 years, starting MMA at 43 years old. After 4 months of BJJ training Sekine started collecting titles. Upper body clinches and reaping takedowns to top position are the foundations of his fight style. The grappler is a monster from on top! 

In his bast battle, Shibisai ended the run of hyped prospect, former Sumo Tsuyoshi “Takanofuji Sanzo” Sudario, in a war of attrition. With a 100% finishing rate Shibisai moves well for his size and has a definitive striking advantage. On the ground giving up top position to Sekine is generally the beginning of the end, “Shrek’s” own 90% finishing rate generally comes from ground and pound or submission. If Shibisai can avoid engaging head-on the ball will be in his court. With lateral movement, crisp 1-2s and thudding kicks the Shibisai will look to cut “Shrek” down and wear him out on the feet. 

8. Kyohei “Kenka Bancho” Hagiwara vs. Hiroaki “General Killer” Suzuki (Rizin MMA Rules, 66kg)

With a striking style built for MMA, “Kenka Bancho” fashioned himself as a “bad boy” KO artist. Not only does he switch opponents lights out, he does so quickly and brutally, most recently stopping Shoji Murayama inside of the 1st. With his losses coming to grapplers Hagiwara turned the tables on K1 stand out, heavy hitter Ren Hiramoto, taking him to the ground to finish the fight. His refusal to stand with a “pure” striker will likely continue as he faces a beast of a KO expert in Karateka Hiroaki Suzuki. Should he be unable to execute the game-plan, Hagiwara has awkward rhythm and timing and a reputation for coming out on top when standing and banging and should not be counted out on the feet. 

Making his debut on the same card as Hagiwara, Suzuki obliterated Keisuke Okada, sending him to the canvas with a blitz before sealing the deal with a barrage of Ground and Pound. Well known internationally as a world class Kickboxer, Suzuki also helps champion Roberto Satoshi de Souza hone his striking. In return “General Killer” has picked up some of the grappling game and will be ready to fend off the takedowns and contest the match on the feet. With physicality and finesse to his art, watch for Suzuki to avoid giving too much away as he goes about his destructive ways. 

7. Kickboxing: Koji “Kouzi” Tanaka vs. “King of Streetfight” Ya-Man (62kg)

Streetfighter Ya-Man has really come into his own as one of the most exciting Kickboxers on the Japanese circuit. The aggressive “brawler” has more technique than he gets credit for and a solid history of coming out on top when things get wild. He frequently gets knocked down, rocked, dazed but somehow turns the tide with a single shot.

Kouzi provides the perfect recipe for a thrilling bout. The die hard slugger loves nothing more than exchanging in the pocket, testing his chin and firepower against his opponents. With an uncanny ability to take damage this thrilling “last one standing” match could steal the show.

6. Atsushi “Shibatar” Saito vs. Yuta Kubo (Mixed Rules Special Bout, 90kg)

With a long and storied career Kubo becomes the 2nd Kickboxer to face Youtube sensation, “Shibatar” Saito. The bout will be contested under Rizin MMA Rules, 2 rounds of 3 minutes. Giving up more than 15kg, Kubo elected to allow soccer kicks and knees on the ground. 

Atsushi “Shibatar” Saito’s entertaining pro wrestling asininity masks his genuine submission skills. He also has a fantastic chin and power, as proven in his back and forth, “edge of your seat” battle with Kickboxer Hiroya. Acutely aware that his adversary is not known for 1 strike KOs and that he carries a sizable weight advantage, “Shibatar” will almost certainly turn up the “fun and games” antics!

Yuta Kubo was outmatched in his MMA debut against former Olympian Ota but did show heart and tenacity to hold on until the final bell. Given that the Kickboxer is known more for technical prowess, volume and accuracy over sheer power he will need to get on his bike and let his textbook, “perfect” strikes flow to have a chance.

5. Shinobu Ota vs. Kazuma Sone (Rizin MMA Rules, 61kg)

Asian, World and Olympic Greco Roman Medalist turned Mixed Martial Artist, Ota faced a trial by fire in his debut, as he scrambled on the mat with submission wizard Hidero Tokoro. Ota fell victim to a Tokoro armbar but was impressive and showed potential even in defeat. His next match was a complete shutout against Kickboxer Yuta Kubo, Ota had his way the entire match but could not put away the kickboxer. 

Against Sone the matchmaking is right on point. Sone has the kind of experience and MMA IQ to challenge Ota. Well rounded with strong fundamentals, Sone is a threat and will provide a stiff test for Ota but he is beatable. What happens between the takedown attempts will likely be the key to the tense match. Sone will be well prepared, looking to steal the thunder of his hyped opponent. 

4. Yuki Motoya vs. Yuto “Kintaro” Hokamura (Bantamweight Grand Prix alternate bout)

A staple of Rizin and of the Japanese MMA scene, Yuki Motoya slipped up during his last bout. Finding himself pushed ½ way out of the ring with the ropes around his waist he intuitively but allegedly unintentionally stepped through the ropes and out of the ring. As he was under heavy fire from Kenta Takizawa at the time the referee called the bout a TKO, much to Motoya’s disappointment. The wily all rounder with an eccentric and technical grappling acumen finds himself with a chance to throw his hat back in the ring for a 2nd chance. Expect a redeeming, focused performance from the reliable veteran as he inches closer to getting back into the GP.

In Yuto “Kintaro” Hokamura, Motoya finds himself facing one of the dark horses of the tournament. The Kickboxing brawler showed he belongs up there with the best as he traded with tournament favorite Naoki Inoue in a back and forth war. “Kintaro” really took the fight to Inoue, defending the takedowns and ground game he loaded up on strikes, landing some damaging blows. Inoue proved too slick in the end, timing a crisp jap and 1-2s to catch Hokamura and steal an unanimous decision. “Kintaro’s” size, ability to defend takedowns and firepower make him a risky match up for Motoya, who is a notorious slow starter. As the fight progresses Motoya can most likely impose his will and game. When it kicks off, however, he will be vulnerable to Hokamura’s clubbing strikes. 

3. Hiromasa Ogikubo vs. Naoki Inoue (Bantamweight Grand Prix 1/2 final)

2 of Japan’s elite square off for a chance to progress to the finals. While both fighters are unquestionably consummate MMA practitioners there are key differences in their approaches and skill set. Ogikubo is steadfast, controlling distance he tentatively tests the waters and pressures opponents into action. A fine counter fighter, the Karateka turned grappler needs just a single opening to score a significant takedown or strike. Known for his lead leg high kicks and stifling top control Ogikubo can also fearlessly stand and bang if it works to his advantage. 

In contrast, Naoki Inoue flows in his grappling and striking. Angles, movement and chained sequences of attacks allow the fighter to create a window of opportunity and exploit it. Whether on the feet or ground the efficient fighter is thinking 2 or 3 steps ahead. When he reaches his destination, Inoue is a consummate finisher, especially from his constricting back control, 5 of his 8 submissions coming by way of Rear Naked Choke. Inoue needs to use his speed and initiate and rile Ogikubo up to expose an opening. At the same time, he cannot launch into a trap his opponent has set, Ogikubo needs just one chance to close out a round on top. Observing which of the 2 extremely well balanced technicians can impose their game will be a joy to watch for the connoisseurs of technical MMA. 

2. Kai Asakura vs. Kenta Takizawa (Bantamweight Grand Prix 1/2 finals)

Former Bantamweight Title holder Kai Asakura had to essentially go back to the start. Entering the GP on his journey to reclaim the throne he successfully disposed of Shooto Watanabe before fighting tooth and nail to surpass Alan Yoshihiro “Hiro” Yamaniha. A cerebral fighter who studies opponents meticulously Asakura will certainly be taking his opponent seriously despite being the overwhelming favorite. Since losing the belt to Kyoji Horiguchi, effectively evening their rivalry to 1-1, the former champion has had a target on his back, with all the participants gunning for him. So far he has dealt with the pressure very well, fighting to finish was his signature style, now he continues to do so but does not force the stoppage. With 2 wins required on the same night to claim gold the sniper could go for the kill instantly, saving himself for the main event. Alternately, with all eyes on him and the weight of expectations on his shoulders Asakura may play a safer game and cruise to victory, keeping ahead on feet, or preferably holding top position on the mat. 

Written off by many, dark horse Kenta Takizawa was stepping up to the GP off the back of consecutive losses. A “tricky” fighter to take on, Takizawa was perhaps considered a solid, but not spectacular, entry to the GP. In the opening round the Karateka bested the “deathtrap” of a submission artist, Masakazu “Ashikan Judan” Imanari in a tactical affair before stopping Yuki Motoya. With height and reach, Takizawa’s pin point accuracy with strikes have the potential to take fighters out, especially given that he throws with volume and soccer kicks have complemented his style wonderfully. One of his overlooked assets would be his footwork. His Karate training has enabled Takizawa to rotate and shift and always keep opponents at the end of strikes. In Asakura he finds a similarly rangy opponent with phenomenal timing. Takizawa should be able to get off first, and be at a distance to avoid counters. Asakura prefers to be applying the pressure and may choose to grapple. In order to do so he will have to close the distance on a dangerous striker.

1. Kota Miura vs. Yushi (Rizin Challenge Rules, 66kg)

Getting the event underway will be a Challenge Rules match between 2 fighters making their debuts. Typically, Challenge Rules bouts translate similarly to a step up from Amateur competition. The duration is shortened to 3 rounds of 3 minutes and knees to a grounded opponent will not be allowed. Under Rizin Challenge Rules elbows and soccer kicks are permitted. Both fighters will want a strong showing to make the most of their experience, fighting in the biggest event of the year, in front of 25,000 people on New Years Eve. 




About the Author

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

Enjoy this blog? Please spread the word :)