As the curtains came down on the final Martial Arts event of the year, fans in attendance and those watching around the world were treated to the unique blend of entertainment only Rizin can deliver. Fans can count upon the MMA org to deliver an exhilerating roller coaster ride of excitement and emotion and this years extravaganza was no different.
Rizin Bantamweight GP Matches
Semi Final: Kai Asakura Defeated Kenta Takizawa (Unanimous Decision)
Asakura launched into right hands with bad intentions as Takizawa’s kept his guard tight, circling away from the power. The Karateka looked to pick his shots from a distance, feeling out his opponent with long range kicks. Asakura leapt onto every low calf kick, sending the message that he would not let any hits score for free.
Takizawa claimed control of the real estate early in the 2nd round. Right straights and spinning kicks were getting through on Asakura. Typically a counter striker Asakura was having trouble working his way in, Takizawa is known for fine footwork and was remaining vigilant. With faith in his power and chin the former Bantamweight champion started to break through with combinations to steal the momentum.
By the final stanza Asakura had slowly and effectively shut Takizawa down, limiting his offense to potshotting at a distance. The rangy striker used kicks extensively, firing regularly of his lead leg, working the inner and outer thighs while intermittently spinning mid and high. Asakura was stepping in with confidence, mixing up his attacks with 1-2s, hooks and occasional well timed uppercuts. A straight left hand sat Takizawa down momentarily. Popping back up instantly the Karate stylist fired back with heat. Not backing down, Takizawa was now fighting with urgency, throwing caution to the wind, and having success. Knowing that he was firmly ahead and had another match to contest, Asakura took his foot off the pedal slightly. A bloodied Takizawa left it all in the ring, swinging for the KO, right straights and hooks reached their target, but failed to land clean. Landing another straight right hand as his aggressive opponent pursued Asakura celebrated as the bell rung, knowing he had the fight in the bag. The former champ, Kai Asakura, moved on to the finals.
Semi Final 2: Hiromasu Ogikubo Defeated Naoki Inoue (Unanimous Decision)
Touted as the favorite for the tournament, Inoue took the center and managed the distance well, with long, straight 1-2. Moving off the centerline, Ogikubo worked inside and outside leg kicks off the Inoue jab. A key grappling exchange saw Inoue take the top, drilling elbows as his opponent committed to the deep ½ guard. Bailing on the ½ guard sweep Ogikubo returned to his feet and tested the water with some shots for a single leg. The decision proved costly as the wiry Inoue wrapped his long limbs around the torso and took the back. On the defense against a feared Rear Naked Choke guru, Ogikubo opted to ride out the remaining time.
Ogikubo opened up as the 2nd fight got underway, adding hands to the low kicks. A well placed knee from Inoue opened doors for a takedown where he expertly cleared guard and attained mount. From high mount Inoue again rained down elbows, controlling the head with one arm. Grasping the arm Ogikubo rotated, spinning to land in guard as Inoue manoeuvred to the back. Highly regarded for positional grappling, Ogikubo pressured again and again for passes. Heavy on top the roles were reversed as he worked the back, peppering the head with punches and attempting a neck crank from the back.
Round 3 and low calf kicks were working for the long legs of Inoue. A sharp 1-2 found its mark as Ogikubo struggled to get on the inside. Persistence paid off for the shorter fighter, as Okgikubo worked hands to the body and head he opened the door to takedown opportunities. Tenacious, the grappler eventually off balanced Inoue and put him on his back. Ogikubo put on a superb display of technical grappling as he transitioned from side to back. Working for a Rear Naked Choke the all-rounder sacrificed position to go for an arm-in guillotine before scrambling and securing back once again. Inoue exhibited the kind of defense expected from a ground fighter of his stature but his opponent was always a step ahead, ending the round, and the fight, on the back working for the choke. In a close fight the slick, systematic grappling and effort to finish from Ogikubo was enough to sway the judges. Ogikubo lost the 1st round battle but won the war, setting up a revenge match in the finals with nemesis Kai Asakura.
Reserve Match: Yuki Motoya defeated Yuto “Kintaro” Hokamura (Unanimous Decision)
Unintimidated by the firepower coming from “Kintaro” the smaller Motoya repeatedly played with fire, throwing rear leg kicks to the inner thigh and body of the southpaw. Hokamura mimicked his opponents moves, going to the inside with kicks before both combatants traded hard power punches. On the backfoot Kintaro was fending off attacks. A Motoya left hook created an opening to steal the back and take the fight to the mat. “Kintaro” muscled out and threw a soccer kick and straight hand before beckoning his foe back up to the feet. Motoya ended the round with more inside kicks, maintaining a tight guard to avoid the hammers coming back.
With the feeling out process over, Motoya found his rhythm and effectively threaded shorter strikes between his opponents. Storming forward in the 2nd round Motoya piled the brawler into the ropes, seizing the back again. Timing the transition of Motoya, “Kintaro” once again displayed his strength and determination in standing out of danger. As they resumed on the feet the power striker was able to tag Motoya, however nothing got through the guard clean.
As the final round started, Motoya wracked up the kicks, continuing his strategy to take advantage of the heavy set front leg of “Kintaro.” With guard down looking typically relaxed, Motoya appeared to be looking to bait and tempt his formidable opponent to throw, then counter. Hokamura was gun shy until the final moments, as both fighters exchanged in the pocket in a final shootout. While it was a workmanship like performance Motoya’s activity and brief moments of ground control gave him the unanimous decision.
Rizin GP Finals: Hiromasa Ogikubo defeated Kai Asakura (Unanimous Decision)
Ogikubo sent a message early that the rematch would not play out the same as the first encounter. Chopping away at Asakura’s legs with kick after kick Ogikubo’s Karate base was evident. For most of the round Ogikubo moved laterally and kicked, chopping away at the legs while avoiding the deadly Asakura jab. Asakura was kept guessing by the footwork and could not get a read on his staple, the jab-cross combination. Seizing a leg, Ogikubo hoisted Asakura up and slammed him to the mat. With positional dominance the grappling technician worked to mount and back, simultaneously making his punches count.
In the 2nd round Asakura knew he had to adapt, closing the distance the sniper fired straight down the pipe. Finding range with a snappy power jab Asakura fought at a closer distance. Speedy, savvy veteran Ogikubo implemented some fantastic footwork, always entering and exiting at angles. After wearing on the legs, Ogikubo moved to the hands, swinging for the fences with overhand rights and lefts. Hurting Asakura on the feet, Ogikubo was on fire, stunning his opponent on the feet before initiating the kind of stellar grappling sequences he is known for. Shifting between mount and back Ogikubo let rip with hard strikes to finish a dominant round.
With the knowledge that he needed to turn the tide Asakura altered his approach from technical counters to more risky brawling exchanges, hoping to catch his smaller foe. The action was nail biting as neither fighter backed down and both threw to finish. Baiting Asakura in, Ogikubo switched up the grappling and striking, landing right straights and clasping single legs. Asakura searched for an answer, throwing knees up the center with fight ending intentions but momentum and pace were firmly behind Ogikubo. With 1 minute left in the match Asakura saw glimmers of hope, a left hand right knee combination partly landing and a soccer kick barely missing.
A career defining performance for Ogikubo, who has come into his own as a fighter, utilizing his tools effectively he walked away victorious. Dominant on the feet and ground 2021 Bantamweight GP winner Ogikubo is at his peak. A rematch with Horiguchi for the title will be on the cards, don’t count the underdog out.
Rizin Lightweight Championship: Roberto Satoshi de Souza (C) Defeated Yusuke Yachi (Submission, Triangle Armbar, 3:30, R2)
Souza literally kicked off the bout as he flew through the air with a flying front kick. Yachi caught the move and did not shy away from looking for the takedown. Yachi escaped the mount, the death knell of their first encounter. back mount, and various submission attempts, his ground defense far better than their first encounter.
It did not take long in the 2nd for Souza to score a precisely timed takedown and get to work on the ground. Yachi survived on the ground but played with fire, seeking to play the ground game perhaps too much. As he went through reversals it was a matter of time before the grappling ace Souza locked up a submission. For this fight he caught Yachi escaping out of the back door and locked the arm. The submission wizard disrupted Yachi’s balance, expertly rolling to secure a modified triangle armbar for the tap.
One of Japan’s top talents, Souza once again got the job done with surgical precision on the ground. Appealing to Sakakibara to represent Japan in Bellator, Satoshi expressed his desire to emulate Horiguchi and become a double champion.
Mikuru Asakura Defeated Yutaka Saito (Unanimous Decision)
With the atmosphere so thick with tension you could cut it with a knife, Asakura and Saito mirrored each other, seeking the slightest opportunity. Southpaw faced orthodox in a battle of distance and ring generalmanship. Saito wracked up control time as he drove his foe to the ring corner and worked for a takedown or backtake. Asakura, appearing to have put on some extra bulk since their first encounter was adept at defense as both fighters cancelled each other out in the opening stanza.
In the 2nd round the fighters continued to fight a match of inches, aiming to capitalise on the slightest error or opening. The tactician’s traded identically timed punches, both finding their target. Asakura’s left hook caught Saito advancing and, with his feared power, had the ex-champion on rubber legs. A perfectly placed right hand and Saito was in real trouble, with a flurry “The Outsider” almost had the match wrapped up but Saito’s experience kicked in. Surrendering position Saito went to his back to gather his wits and recover.
Saito knew he had to push the action in the 3rd. The more aggressive he got however, the more he played into Asakura’s hands. The counter fighter took advantage, taking Saito down briefly. Left hands and massive kicks from Asakura whenever Saito advanced thwarted the takedown attempts. The fight ending attempts and big moment came from Asakura, who avenged his loss to emerge victorious in a pivotal bout for the top contenders.
Special Standing Rules Only Bout: Tenshin Nasukawa Drew Takanori Gomi (Time Limit 2R x 3M)
With Tenshin unquestionably faster and more technical, the big factor for the match was whether Gomi could land. With a KO only counting as a win, Tenshin had to commit but not over-commit. In the first Tenshin solidly outworked Gomi, landing at a lightning pace and avoiding the counters.
In the 2nd round the situation got dicey for Tenshin, who got caught by Gomi’s right body left hook combinations. Rolling shoulders and head Tenshin avoided the brunt of the blows but any shot from Gomi has fight ending potential. Proving a point, Tenshin Lowered his guard and fought with ego, looking to go blow for blow with an opponent 15kg heavier. Gomi showed his legendary chin and thunderous punching power once again. Overall, Tenshins speed, power and accuracy, combined with his ability to slip and roll with punches was impressive. The experience will serve him well as he transitions to boxing.
Prior to his boxing debut Tenshin will take the final step of his kickboxing journey. On a collision course with arch rival Takeru, June 2022 Tenshin faces his biggest challenge to date in a match to truly settle the debate as to Japan’s no1 Kickboxer. The match will not take place in K1 or Rizin but an independent org yet to be revealed. The rules are also under negotiation with rumours floating around of unlimited rounds, no judges, KO only!
Si Woo Park Defeated Rena Kubota (Unanimous Decision)
Unintimidated by her opponent’s stature and reputation, Park took the fight to Rena from the opening bell. Low kicks combined with head movement kept Rena honest. Unable to find her timing Rena found herself outworked. Park initiated, striking in flurries the Korean Kickboxer had Rena on the backfoot, pinned in the corner. “Framing” with her arm, Rena delivered short elbows, reversed position and sought her signature body shots. Park was hurt by the punches and knees to the body in the corner as Rena chased her down to end the round.
In the 2nd round Rena, perhaps smelling blood, went to work with combinations in the corner, hurting Park again with hooks to the head and her staple, gut wrenching body shots. Park continued to get off first. While the Shootboxer was corked and ready to throw the fight-ending shots. Transitioning to the ground with a well timed double leg Park caught Rena with a soccer kick to the face Absorbing the blow well a fired up Rena landed jabs, hooks and loaded body shots. Just when it seemed her opponent was fading, Park would dig deep and rally, catching Rena off guard. A tense Rena over-corked a hip throw and the fighters returned to their feet. Damage was mounting on Park, yet her 2 takedowns, aggression and ring control was giving her the overall edge in what was becoming a war of attrition.
In the 3rd Rena put Park into the corner, where she swept her to the ground. Calling her back to the feet Rena continued the right hooks and clean body shots. Visibly in pain, Park took the blows that felled many and continued to stick to her guns and game plan, clinching in the corner. Rena swept again and briefly engaged in the ground battle but seemed a little indecisive as the referee stood them up again. As they fought it out on the feet Rena landed crisp, clean strikes as Park hung tough and fought smart. Fine matchmaking saw another sensational match come to an end as Park scalped a massive win, shutting out the favorite to take a unanimous decision victory.
Seika Izawa Defeated Ayaka Hamasaki (TKO, Ground and Pound from Mounted Triangle, 2:50)
Youthful confidence contrasted with established experience as Rizin newcomer Izawa stood opposite the renowned, dominant Hamasaki. Unintimidated, Izawa went straight for the takedown, defending the Kimura counter. Calm and collected, the champion reversed, kept arms in counter armlock and triangles and blasted right hands to Izawa’s head. With amazing dexterity, Izawa found openings for upkicks, combining them to rattle the veteran. Kicking her off, Izawa wasted no time taking Hamasaki down and locking in a neck crank as the competitive round came to an end.
Izawa jumped into an arm-in guillotine to start the round, the technique failed but the goal to transition to the canvas worked out perfectly. The champion spent a lot of time on the defensive on the mat against the young grappling genius. After eating kicks to the head from the bottom Hamasaki looked to get her weight forward and land some elbows and ground and pound. Izawa worked an active, open guard to lock in a surprise triangle choke. Well schooled on the ground, Hamasaki defended textbook style, protecting the arm, leaning back and crossing her legs over the body. In doing so Izawa was able to sit up with the triangle tight behind the shoulders, she threw down unanswered punches and elbows. At 2:50 the referee stepped in for a shocking upset as a legend suffered her first stoppage loss in the weight class. A rematch for the belt will surely be on the cards.
Koji Takeda Defeated “Black Panther” Noah Bey (Submission, Armbar, 4:12, R2)
An archetypal striker vs grappler match got underway as Kyokushin Karate master Bey squared off against decorated Greco Roman champion Takeda. With phenomenal speed “Black Panther” put his striking repertoire on display early. Kicking the body of his southpaw opponent, the Karate stylist got off a huge variety of strikes, smashing Takeda with a well placed elbow. Resilient, Takeda walked through the elbow to achieve the clinch, then hustled to the back. With his signature supplex “Black Panther” went airborne, hitting the canvas. Focused heavily on the Kimura submission Takeda transitioned between positions, letting go with hammerfists, knees and elbows. Bey made it to the feet only to be slammed by another supplex. Mount, backmount, Takeda punished the striker leaving “Black Panther” fortunate to see round 2.
The striking superiority hit Takeda early in the 2nd round as a pin point “Black Panther” right hand connected flush. Hitting the canvas a dazed Takeda stood, dug deep and fought to the clinch. Achieving underhooks the wrestler took the fight to the mat again where he worked the arm submissions. From mount Takeda finally found the submission, going belly down on an armbar for the tap late in the round.
Hideki “Shrek” Sekine Defeated Shoma Shibisai (Ground and Pound 2:09)
The highly anticipated battle of behemoths delivered. 2 highly prolific finishers, Shrek sustained a beating from the faster Shibisai on the feet. Rocking Sekine with right hands Shibisai increased the intensity with knees to the head, as Shrek tumbled to the ground he ate a clean soccer kick to the head. Remarkably the heavily muscled warrior clung to the leg, desperately attempting to grapple his way out of danger. The more well-rounded fighter, Shibisai attempted an armbar on the Bonsai BJJ representative. Sekine turned the tables, escaping to the side, only to have Shibisai reverse to top again. With a significant speed advantage Shibisai stomped, knee’d and punched the head but fell short on stopping the tough as nails 48 year old. Getting to the back Shrek defended the Kimura and grunted as he supplexed Shibisai, finishing the round on top.
Grunting and shouting to will himself into the fight, Shrek threw down with the more polished striking of his opponent. Fighting on heart alone Sekine powered through a body to body supplex, winning the scramble for top position. Hammer fists from “Shrek” and Shibisai was done, unable to move after giving everything he had. The referee called a halt to the bout awarding Sekine the upset win at 2:09 of the 2nd.
Khohei “Kenka Bancho” Hagiwara Defeated Hiroaki “General Killer” Suzuki (Unanimous Decision)
Southpaw Suzuki frequently targeted the inside leg with hard kicks from the beginning of the round. Wary of the unorthodox timing and “MMA striking” of Hagiwara, Suzuki kept moving with a high guard. Hagiwara, for the most part, launched a few “big” strikes but fell short. Suzuki, with “cover and kick” tactics started to inch closer with overhead left hooks. Near the end of the round Suzuki just fell short with a spinning heel kick and, similarly, Hagiwara’s high kick whiffed just past its target.
The onus was on Hagiwara the following round to pick up the activity. The heavier, taller fighter appeared wary of th Shootboxers overhand left. Rushing in on his opponent Hagiwara switched tactics, ducking a left hand and clasping his arms the fight to the canvas and attaining mount. Suzuki appeared to have rudimentary basics on the ground, while not out-classed, his reversals and guard work lacked the finer points needed to return to the feet. Hagiwara was content on top to do enough to retain control until time expired.
A failed high kick from the Karateka and Hagiwara capitalised with top position. Riding out the time with a risk free control game. A last second jumping stomp allowed Suzuki to stand but the time had already expired.
Hagiwara fought a sensible match, striking with the elite Kickboxer could have been disastrous, Suzuki just needs one clean strike to turn the lights out. It was a repeat performance of his last outing Hagiwara For Suzuki, the Karateka teaches striking to Lightweight Champion Roberto Satoshi de Souza and, while he has picked up some of the ground game, he perhaps needs to switch to getting to his feet rather than an active guard.
Kickboxing: “KIng of Streetfight” Ya-Man defeated Koji “Kouzi” Tanaka (Majority Decision 30-30, 30-29, 30-28)
The 1st round turned out to be the fireworks expected from the volatile match up of heavy hitters. Ya-Man piled on the pressure, clubbing “Kouzi” against the ropes with hooks to the body and head. Tanaka’s legendary chin held up well as the “King of Streetfight” tee’d off. Koji answered with some vicious body shots as he stayed in the pocket. Kicks from Ya-Man cut through Koji, sending him down each time they landed. While the round was marred slightly by a few fouls the action was thrilling.
The bombs continued to land as the 2nd round continued where the first left off. The kickboxers loaded every single shot as they “fought in a phone booth” the entire round. Kouzi dug to the body while Ya-Man had most success with left hooks and right uppercuts. As both fighters clubbed away, Ya-Man’s sheer punching power was matched by the legendary endurance of “Kouzi.”
In the final stanza Ya-Man had thrown everything and the kitchen sink at Tanaka, who was still standing. Staggered early, Tanaka chipped away at the tiring streetfighter. Honing in on the body was beginning to pay off, Ya-Man had lost a bit of sting to his immense power shots and was wearing down. Both fighters showed tremendous heart in another fantastic back and forth round. The Kickboxers threw with reckless abandon for the finish in an awe inspiring fight. Ultimately the late rally by the fan favorite “Kouzi” was not enough as Ya-Man picked up a well earned unanimous decision victory.
Special rules match: Atsushi “Shibatar” Saito Defeated Yuta Kubo (Corner Stoppage, Flying Armbar, 2:16, R1)
Youtube star Shibatar got down to the pro-wrestling antics instantly, feigning pain and “begging” Kubo to stop the kicks. Once Kubo over-extended the Youtuber sent him careering down into the ropes with a well timed 1-2. Unbelievably, Shibatar sent his 2nd high level Kickboxer to the canvas. failed to capitalise with the follow up and Kubo was back in the fight. Clinching his arms behind the head to fire knees turned out to be a huge mistake for the Kickboxer as Shibatar pulled out one of his impressive “tobi Juki gatame” flying armbars. While Kubo had both arms through and was not in immediate trouble his corner threw in the towel (baton), likely knowing their fighter would not tap and feared damage. Shibatar has a polarized audience but there is no denying behind the “horseplay” there is a skilled fighter.
Shinobu Ota Defeated Kazuma Sone (TKO, Soccer Kicks and Stomps, 3:55, 2R)
MMA veteran Sone met Olympic medalist Ota in a bout expected to test the elite wrestler. From the get-go Ota wasted no time in clinching. Even when Sone had double underhooks he was not able to thwart the supplexes and throws. Snapping the head down Ota would let loose with knees, at one point catapulting him through the air to land into a front choke. Sone showed his experience, working for armbars from guard and holding on to survive some dicey positions.
Ota stunned Sone, and the audience, with the 1st strike of the round, a spinning back fist that sent the veteran to the canvas. Attempting a soccer kick finish Ota instead found himself entangled as Sone tried a leg lock. Calm and collected, the Olympian was schooled enough to stay safe as he slipped his leg free. Sticking to his wrestling roots the Olympian went for submissions, snapping down the head for a guillotine, but never strayed too far from his comfort zone. The positional control enabled the wrestler to pepper Sone with strikes from all positions as the cumulative damage mounted. The relentless attacks flowed, Ota threw knees, soccer kicks and stomps to convince the referee to step in.
Still developing as an all-round MMA practitioner, Ota delivered a mature performance, dipping his toes in the water with submission attempts but never forgetting his strong suit as a wrestler. Taking the fight on short notice, ex-champion from multiple orgs, Sone’s career may well be winding down, with 45 fights he has a lot of miles on the clock but there are still good matches out there for him.
Challenge Match Rules: Kota Miura Defeated Yushi (Referee Stoppage, Right Hand, 3:00)
Kota Miura, son of a famous footballer, faced off against the well muscled Yushi. As both fighters were making their debuts the 3 rounds were shortened to 3 minutes. As it turned out, the time limit would not play a factor. Yushi stormed out of the corner, flying through the air to get the bout started. After both threw caution to the wind brawling, Miura locked up a guillotine that had his adversary in trouble. Believing that his opponent was out, Miura signalled to referee Wada, who checked the arms and determined Yushi was still conscious. The wasted opportunity came back to hurt Miura as he absorbed strong punches. It was apparent Yushi was not lacking in fighting instinct and heart but clearly not well educated in the grappling department. Miura seized an easy triangle choke and transitioned to an armbar which Yushi muscled out. Prone on the mat Yushi was hit in the chest by a soccer kick and then slumped into the ropes by a straight right from Miura. The referee called the bout right on the buzzer giving Miura his first professional win.