Just as UFC 240 ended, over at Saitama Super Arena RIZIN 17 was kicking off. The large card featured three fights at the top of the card that aim to have Japan’s biggest fighters going up against each other. In the main event was Mikuru Asakura versus Yusuke Yachi. Let’s go through the debut card from RIZIN’s 2019 debut at Saitama Super Arena.
Bout 1: Daiki Watabe (22-23-2) vs. Hideki (15-5-2) (Kickboxing Rules) (148 lbs)
After the promotion’s usual epic intro, we had our first bout. The first bout of the evening was a kickboxing contest Daiki Watabe and Hideki. It was both fighter’s debuts within the promotion. This time around there is no banners hung up of RIZIN’s partnered promotions. Watabe comes from Tenshin Nasukawa’s gym TEAM TEPPEN. As a matter of fact, Tenshin was in his corner for this fight. After a few minutes of close fighting, Hideki let his hands go and landed enough to give Watabe a standing 10 count. After that, Hideki continued to pepper on punches, but Watabe survived the round. The second round was closer, with Watabe landing lots of low kicks. Hideki did have a good opening, where he backed Watabe into a corner and teed off. It felt like Hideki glided through this round, just defending what Watabe threw. Hideki showboated throughout the bout. It went the distance with the fight going to Hideki via majority decision.
Bout 2: KING Reina (11-2) vs. Stephanie Egger (3-1) (MMA Rules) (139 lbs)
In the next bout we had KING Reina versus Stephanie Egger. Reina had a very epic entrance, keeping a real serious face. Early on it was Egger who threw Reina on the ground and took her back. Reina got up and avoided a rear naked choke. Egger landed a trip takedown in the second round. Egger tried for the rear naked choke again but couldn’t get it fully in. In stand-up, Egger had a significant height and reach advantage. In the third round, Egger tried for a rear anked choke for the third time. She escaped once again, with both fighters going to their feet for the final minute. Reina started coming forward aggressively with punches, but Egger stopped it by clinching up. The crowd started chanting Reina’s name. The fight went the distance, with Reina dropping to the ground as the fight ended. All three judges gave the fight to Stephanie Egger.
Bout 3: Seo Hee Ham (20-8) vs. Tomo Maesawa (12-9) (MMA Rules) (108 lbs)
In the next bout, we had a champion versus champion bout, with DEEP Jewels champion Tomo Maesawa facing Road FC Champion Seo Hee Ham. It was made clear at RIZIN 16 that Seo Hee Ham wants to face Ayake Hamasaki later on. They had close striking for a few minutes. Maesawa was dropped by knees to the body then Hamderlei capitalized by landing knees while Maesawa was down in the corner. Referee Jason Herzog stepped in and ended the bout. She called out Miyuu Yamamoto after the bout, saying she wants that fight before a title shot. Yamamoto entered the ring and accepted the challenge and did a face off.
Bout 4: Jake Heun (13-9) vs. Vitaly Shemetov (23-9) (MMA Rules) (205 lbs)
In the next bout, viral sensation Vitaly Shemetov faced Jake Heun. Sadly I can’t tell you why, but the song that Shemetov walked out to got a big pop. Also, Shemetov himself got a pretty loud reaction for when he walked out. Coming out in all white, Heun did a creative walkout dancing to “Stayin Alive” by Bee Gees. Someone delivered flowers to each fighter before the bout and got a huge crowd pop. As the referee was giving instructions, Shemetov gave a heart to the camera. So, safe to say he looked comfortable. Early on it was obvious that both of these guys were throwing some real power. Heun went for a takedown halfway through the first round. Shemetov got up after getting hit with some elbows on the ground. Shemetov got a takedown with a minute left, but Heun quickly took control. In the second round there was a pause when Shemetov was hit in the groin. Heun had a great string of strikes in the corner but it was interrupted by yet another hit to the groin. Shemetov was on the ground for quite some time this time. He eventually was able to continue. Heun was given a yellow card. Heun landed a slam, taking the fight to the ground. Heun attempted a hammerlock but couldn’t get it. He landed punches as the second round concluded. Early in the third round Shemetov had a good combination of punches. Going back to where he was finding success, Heun landed yet another takedown. Shemetov was cut open badly with a cut on the ground from an elbow, ending the fight abruptly.
Bout 5: Roberto Satoshi Souza (8-0) vs. Mizuto Hirota (18-10-2) (MMA Rules) (157 lbs)
The next contest had undefeated BJJ fighter Roberto Satoshi Souza face JMMA veteran Mizuto Hirota. Souza got a vicious takedown in the first minute of the bout. From top position, Souza landed strikes to the side of the head. They stood up after a few minutes on the ground. Souza tried another takedown but it was blocked. Souza landed an overhead right which rocked Hirota. He did another which dropped him, and then landed a few more strikes to close out the fight.
Bout 6: Tatsuya Kawajiri (36-13-2) vs. Ali Abdulkhalikov (7-0) (157 lbs)
Undefeated fighter Ali Abdulkhalikov challenged experienced fighter Tatsuya Kawajiri. Seconds into the bout Kawajiri missed a takedown and was hit with a hook to the head because of it. Abdulkhalikov’s strikes were looking fast. Kawajiri ducked a spinning backfist and tried for a takedown but couldn’t get it. Abdulkhalikov reversed a takedown then went back to the feet. Kawajiri caught a leg and brought Abdulkhalikov to his knees, but never fully secured the takedown. Upon another attempt, Kawajiri finally got a takedown. Kawajiri tried for a kimura but couldn’t as the round concluded. In the second round, Kawajiri tried for the kimura once again. He tried for a guillotine as well, but Abdulkhalikov’s head popped out. Kawajiri tried for the kimura a third time in the final round. He couldn’t get it, but transitioned into top position and tried for a choke. Kawajiri did elbows and punches until the fight ran out of time. All three judges gave the bout to Tatsuya Kawajiri.
Bout 7: Satoru Kitaoka (42-19-9) vs. Johnny Case (25-6-1) (MMA Rules) (157 lbs)
It wasn’t shown on the English broadcast, but the mayor of Saitama spoke in the ring before the next bout. The final bout before intermission was Satoru Kitaoka versus Johnny Case. Like many 157 pound bouts tonight, winners will have a chance at being in RIZIN’s Lightweight GP. Kitaoka tried for a takedown in the first minute and was given elbows to the head for his troubles. He refused to let go of Case’s leg, but kept getting hit. Case got a trip takedown. Kitaoka tried to a leg lock. Case escaped and started to rain down strikes. Kawajiri survived the first round. Kawajiri had to be carried by his team to the corner, and was laying on the ground before they got there. In-between rounds, Kitaoka’s corner surrendered the bout. Kitaoka was carried away on a gurney. Case told the crowd to say a prayer for Kitaoka.
Bout 8: Hikaru Machida (35-17-3) vs. Taiga (19-9-1) (Kickboxing Rules) (137 lbs)
Coming back from intermission, RIZIN had their second and final kickboxing bout of the evening. Shoot Boxing fighter Hikaru Machida fought Taiga. Machida is known for making the motion of pulling out a sword before throwing his sunday punches. He made the motion once in the first round but didn’t land a punch. Both fighters had their moments in the first round. Throughout the fight it was Machida that was advancing. Taiga had a good flurry at the end of the second round. Taiga landed a takedown in the final seconds of the bout, securing his victory. All three judges gave the fight to Taiga.
Bout 9: Ivan Shtyrkov (16-0-1) vs. Hoon Kim (10-15-2) (MMA Rules) (205 lbs)
In the second light heavyweight bout of the evening, Ivan Shtyrkov battled Hoon Kim. The difference in records between the two is quite drastic. They clinched early in the bout, but the referee separated them eventually. The fight went to the ground with Shtyrkov in top position. A standing clinch was broken yet again in the second round. Shtyrkov landed a takedown and landed very short strikes. He landed enough punches that the referee eventually stepped in and ended the bout. The crowd didn’t seem to interested in the bout by that point.
Bout 10: Yuki Motoya (23-6) vs. Hiromasa Ogikubo (18-4-2) (MMA Rules) (134 lbs)
Before the next bout a promo aired for RIZIN 18, which will take place on August 18th. Kyoji Horiguchi was introduced. He had his RIZIN and Bellator belts with him. He talked about his bout with Kai Asakura which will happen at the next event. The next match was the first of three Japan versus Japan matchups. Also, it was a Shooto versus DEEP matchup, with Motoya representing Shooto and Ogikubo representing DEEP. Ogikubo landed a takedown in the first minute of the contest. Motoya tried to counter with a guillotine, although he let go of it eventually. They got back up after Ogikubo tried for a rear naked choke. He landed another takedown. Ogikubo landed more takedowns in the second. There was more stand-up in the second round compared to the first. The final round had a crazy fist fight from both fighters. It was ended when Ogikubo scored a takedown. They stood back up shortly after and continued their chaotic exchange. Motoya was connecting with the better punches. Ogikubo landed another takedown after looking like he was in trouble on the feet. Ogikubo tried for a headlock as the fight ended. While Ogikubo was good on the ground throughout, Motoya’s campaign in the third round was very effective. The judges had it as a split decision, with Hiromasa Ogikubo winning it.
Bout 11: Shintaro Ishiwatari (25-7-4) vs. Ulka Sasaki (22-6-2) (MMA Rules) (134 lbs)
The co-main event was Shintaro Ishiwatari versus Ulka Sasaki. Sasaki had quite a grand entrance, conducting numerous people before walking down to the ring in a cape. Aljamain Sterling cornered Sasaki for this bout. Sasaki tried for a flying knee the second the fight started. He did not land it. They clinched up against the ropes in the second minute, with the referee eventually growing impatient and breaking them up. When they went to the ground later in the round there was a collision of heads. Ishiwatari had top position on the ground. Sasaki did a good job at getting top position before the round concluded. In the first minute of the second round, Sasaki tried for a takedown. Both fighters early got out of the ring during the attempt. Ishiwatari landed a takedown after trying to stop one from Sasaki for a minute or so. Near the end of the second round, Sasaki was dropped by Ishiwatari. He landed knees to the head and then put in a north south choke which made Sasaki tap out.
Bout 12: Yusuke Yachi (20-8) vs. Mikuru Asakura (10-1) (MMA Rules) (154 lbs)
Finally, the main event of the evening was Yusuke Yachi facing Mikuru Asakura in a complete grudge match. In the first minute Yachi was dropped with a kick, although it could have been also considered a slip as he threw a kick at the same time. Asakura was throwing strong punches in the first round. At the start of the second round Yachi tried for a takedown but was blocked. Later on, Yachi had a better look at a takedown but Asakura avoided it with help from the ropes. Throughout the second, Asakura was warned for holding onto the ropes to resist takedowns. Even in the third round Yachi continued to struggle with his takedown attempts. Crowd got louder when the two minute announcement was said. Asakura scored a takedown with two minutes left. They stood back up with a minute left and started to swing. Asakura egged on Yachi to continue as the fight entered final 10 seconds. Asakura dropped Yachi and didn’t go to finish but instead showed off as the bell rang. All three judges gave Mikuru Asakura the nod.