Kyoji Horiguchi defeated Yuto “Kintaro” Hokamura by submission (head and arm choke, 2R, 2:59)
MMA royalty Horiguchi made his return to Rizin for the first time in almost 2 years in what many expected to be a “tune up” match. “Kintaro” clearly had not read the script and was unwavering in his commitment to attack the top Rizin Bantamweight. Deceptively relaxed, Horiguchi bounced side to side with his fantastic Karate footwork he dived in and out, striking with ferocious accuracy. All was going to plan until Hokamura timed a straight left hand down the pipe to the chin, sending the ex-champion reeling. An excited “Kintaro” went high with a flying knee and was instead taken to the mat. A reversal from “Kintaro” led to a scramble and both fighters resumed the fight on the feet. They traded evenly on the feet until Horiguchi scored a double leg, directly transitioning to mount but finding little time to get to work.
As the fighters threw straight hands to start the following round, “Kintaro’s” found a home. Horiguchi reacted with a tackle, dumping his adversary down into ½ guard. Punishing with carefully selected ground and pound the veteran wore “Kintaro” down until he achieved mount position once more. With ample time left, Horiguchi showed his elite level, locking up a textbook head and arm choke for the tap at 2:59 of the 2nd round.
Snapping a disappointing 2 fight skid, Horiguchi righted the ship and will have the belt he vacated in sight. With Bantamweight being one of Rizin, and Japan’s deepest divisions there is no shortage of world class competitors eager to get a shot at Horiguchi.
Seika Izawa defeated Anastasia Svetkivska by submission (armbar from guard, 2R, 4:56)
The 2nd semi-final was contested between rangy Ukranian striker Svetkivska and grappling sensation Izawa. Svetkivska found some success with her long limbs, firing off combinations until Izawa capitalised on a kick to take her down. From her back Svetkivska impressed, showing her flexibility and dexterity to threaten a back take on the grappling phenom. Izawa took a defensive role, establishing top while avoiding triangle and armbar attempts of the Ukranian. Svetkivska chipped away with elbows, simultaneously using her long legs to control posture, preventing Izawa from mounting attacks or escaping. In the final seconds Izawa broke free and dropped back for an Achilles lock, which the Ukrainian shook off.
The following round saw the kind of groundwork fans had come to expect from Rizin Super Atomweight Champion Izawa. With a deadly arsonal of submissions at her disposal Izawa swiftly transitioned from front choke to triangle, getting some payback with a blitz of elbows to the head. Svetkivska was clearly adept on the ground, as she fought out of some dicey situation. Submission attempt after attempt had the Svetkivska backed against the wall in the 2nd though. Masterfully moving from guillotine to triangle again the Japanese submission wizard switched to an arm bar in the final seconds, hyperextending the arm for the tap.
With the scintillating finish Izawa sets up a rematch with Park in the finals in a classic striker vs grappler showdown.
Si Woo Park defeated Ayaka Hamasaki by decision (3-0)
The opening round commenced with a tentative feeling out process as both fighters gauged distance. Hamasaki caught Park coming in with a check left hand and drove home a knee tap takedown on her 2nd attempt. With the opponent seemingly where she wanted her the ex champion curiously allowed Park to get back to her feet. Hamasaki was the aggressor with continuous flurries of 3 or 4 punches as Park played the role of matador, looking to set up her right hand counters. Park, who was in danger of being edged out by activity, picked up the tempo as the round progressed.
Hamasaki shot for a takedown early in the 2nd, however, the grappling specialist bounced off the ropes and had to settle for guard. A triangle attempt to sweep paved the way back to the feet for Hamasaki. Park was stacking the low calf, thigh and mid kicks and growing in confidence with her straight right. The kickboxer finished the round with a barrage of punches on Hamasaki who was reduced to single shot right hands.
The momentum continued to grow for the underdog in the final round. With her grappling opponent showing little threat of takedowns Park really let go with strikes. Hamasaki had slowed considerably, with hands by her side she evaded and dodged. A missile of a right hand from Park sat Hamasaki down in the corner. In her element and in control the Korean fighter nailed her opponent with another straight. Park continued her dominance, cutting off clinch attempts and throwing an assortment of kicks and punches until the final bell.
Park was awarded a well deserved unanimous decision. After a promising start a broken left hand in the 2nd stanza thwarted Hamasaki`s output and defence. With a win over the ex-champion Park became the first to reach the Super Atomweight GP finals.
Soo Chul Kim defeated Hiromasa Ogikubo by decision (3-0)
In the opening stanza Ogikubo set his signature furious pace, which Kim was happy to match. Finding his range early, Ogikubo fighter teed off on Kim with 1-2’s and hooks to the head. Kim answered by picking his shots and digging in beautifully placed body shots. The Korean fighter fought off takedown attempts but was falling victim to the follow up combinations, elbows and hooks. Kim marched on, met by a blistering 1-2 on the mark that wobbled the iron jawed Korean, who fell forward. The GP winner chose to grapple and, while he was wearing on Kim he could not execute a clean Takedown. Less active, Kim was not without success in the striking department, everything he landed was with ill intent and his body work was paying off. An electrifying round ended as both exchanged in the pocket, neither taking a backward step.
The eagerly awaited 2nd round commenced with both fighters refusing to give an inch. A left hook and follow up knee had Ogikubo in trouble, Kims killer instincts are well documented and he could smell blood, unloading a barrage of punches Ogikubo briefly hit the canvas. With hammerfists and knees hurtling towards him the Japanese fighter stayed composed enough to avoid the big shots as he clawed his way to a single leg and to his feet. Appearing unshaken, the indomitable Ogikubo held his ground and traded blow for blow on the feet. As the round progressed Kim was starting to tire as the relentless Ogikubo continued to push the pace. Switching the script, Kim hit takedowns of his own and, though unable to hold position he did get some respite before Ogikubo stood.
Implementing the same strategy as the final round got going, Kim shot in for the double leg. This time his wily opponent was ready as Ogikubo locked in a tight arm-in guillotine. Rotating to increase pressure the submission was close but Kim’s defence held up as he popped his head out. Ogikubo looked to have burnt his arms out going for the finish but was able to kick off and get back to his feet without taking damage. The fight in deep waters from a gruelling pace both fighters tried to summon up the resolve to land something big. Ogikubo landed a solid uppercut and hook but could not penetrate Kim`s takedown defence. A final tackle from Kim and he finished with a takedown, albeit after the bell.
In the end of a thrilling fight, Kim may have had fewer moments but stole the defining moment of the match, on the brink of a finish. The judges all scored the bout in favour of Kim, who scored a big upset in his debut, establishing himself as a potential title contender.
Shoma Shibisai defeated “Juggernaut” Cally Gibrainn de Oliveira by Submission (Rear Naked Choke, 1R, 1:48)
2 consummate finishers in an exciting battle that was certain not to go the distance. With both having a penchant of getting their work done early in the first round it was a fight that could be over at any moment.
Bull rushing out the gates, Gibrainn threw hammers around the high arm guard of Shibisai. In response the Japanese Heavyweight went down the middle with some hard 1-2’s. Gesturing to Galbraith to “bring it on”, Shibisai dropped for a double leg, taking care to keep hands locked and head high. Bullying the “Juggernaut” to the ropes, a bloodied Shibisai completed the takedown and passed to the side to render the guillotine ineffective. From there it was a matter of time as the difference in level on the ground became apparent. Shibisai went palm to palm on a rear naked choke and, as Galbrain held the choking arm, methodically slid his hand up and behind the head for the tap. The intense battle of Heavyweights was over at 1:48 of the first.
Chihiro “Crazy Diamond” Suzuki defeated Kyohei “Underground Emperor” Hagiwara by submission (Rear Naked Choke, 2R, 2:14)
This fight had violence written all over it. “Bad boy” Hagiwara brings size and formidable KO striking to the table. Suzuki is a striking specialist with reels of highlight finishes in Kick and Thai Boxing. In Rizin the “Underground Emperor” has demonstrated proficient fight IQ, grappling with strong strikers when required to take home victory. Suzuki has settled into the pace and rhythm of MMA very well and is more than just a striker, with a solid clinch and takedown game. Hagiwara entered coming off a 2 fight skid to some of Rizin’s best, conversely Suzuki stepped into the ring with confidence following a 2 fight streak.
In the opening stanza Hagiwara spun Suzuki completely with the impact from his low calf kicks. While not without success on the feet, “Crazy Diamond” switched up the tempo, clinching and pinning his foe against the ropes. A well executed O-Uchi-Gari inside leg sweep allowed Suzuki to feel his opponent out on the ground. As Suzuki progressed to pass the legs Hagiwara capitalised to work to his feet. Suzuki then hit an unexpected German suplex to finish the round strong.
More calf kicks chewed up the lead leg of Suzuki who started throwing a front kick to keep his adversary at bay. Hagiwara was holding his own against the experienced Kickboxer on the feet but had problems in the clinch. A tussle for takedowns ensued and “Crazy Diamond” again came out on top, this time successfully achieving mount. As a hail of heavy blows rained down Hagiwara turned to escape. Suzuki was waiting and wasted no time slipping his arm under the neck and sinking in the choke. The “Underground Emperor” succumbed and tapped at 2:14 of the 2nd round.
Luiz Gustavo defeated Juri “Iron Spider” Ohara by TKO (1R, 1:23)
Ohara opened up with jabs and straight punches, taking the fight to the heavy hitter Gustavo. Going high with the kicks to keep Gustavo on his toes, Ohara sniped with single shots while out of range for the counters. Accuracy was on the side of the DEEP Champion but the firepower belonged to Gustavo. A straight from the rangy Ohara prompted Gustavo to close distance. In the pocket was where the brawler shined as he threw long combinations with his signature power. Ohara evaded and reset but stayed in range and sought acounters. Shot for shot, the concrete hands of the Chuteboxe gym KO specialist proved too much. Ohara could only slip and evade for so long before getting caught. Vicious hooks and clubbing blows to the side of the head put Ohara down. A few hammerfists later and it was all over at just 1:23 of the first round.
The “Iron Spider” is regarded as extremely durable, adept at dragging fighters into deep water, Gustavo however, is a fearsome first round finisher. Ohara’s desire to fight the Brazilian bomber in the pocket cost him dearly. His 100% finishing rate intact, Gustavo sent a statement to the division with another brutal KO.