Ayaka Hamasaki Retains RIZIN Atomweight Championship In Kobe

Ayaka Hamasaki retained her RIZIN Atomweight Championship in a three-round battle against Jinh Yu Frey on Sunday at RIZIN 16. The two fighters showcased their stand-up in the first and second rounds, with Hamasaki scoring a takedown early in the third and keeping it there for the whole round.

This was not the first time that Ayaka Hamasaki and Jinh Yu Frey have met, with their first meeting in 2016 at Invicta FC 19. While Hamasaki prevailed, it wasn’t in completely decisive fashion as it came via doctors stoppage due to a cut.

Road FC Atomweight Champion Seo Hee Ham was present for the event, delivering flowers to both fighters before the bout. “Hamderlei” recently defended her belt in December, defeating Jung Eun Park in Seoul, South Korea.

Hamasaki earned her Atomweight Championship on Near Year’s Eve at RIZIN 14, defeating Kanna Asakura with a second-round armbar. Before then she fought Mina Kurobe and Alyssa Garcia in RIZIN.

Full coverage of RIZIN 16 can be found here

RIZIN 16 Full Report: Nasukawa Becomes ISKA Featherweight Champion

RIZIN held “RIZIN.16” on Sunday, where they made their debut in Kobe, Japan. The event sold out, with the attendance being 8,107. The event had RIZIN banners on stage, but also banners from promotions they are partnered with. The banners this time were DEEP, Bellator Kickboxing, RISE, Bellator MMA and Shoot Boxing. Let’s look at the show and how it went down.

Bout 1: Tanaka Strike Yuki (21-7) vs. Yuya (22-11-3) (Kickboxing Rules) (3×3)

Before we got the formal intro for RIZIN, we had some preliminary bouts. The first one was a kickboxing bout between Tanaka Strike Yuki and Yuya. Yuya landed some good leg kicks in the first round. With one minute left in the first, Yuya dropped Yuki with a combo of punches. He got dropped a second time after a few more and a knee. Yuya put him down a third time to end the bout.

Bout 2: Kengo (11-9-2) vs. Seiki Ueyama (21-11-1) (Kickboxing Rules) (3×3)

In the second kickboxing bout, Kengo fought Seiki Ueyama. Ueyama had much more of a grander walkout when it came to outfit, the delay before making the walk, and a posse with one person carrying a belt. Kengo showed powerful fists from the start. Ueyama landed a right hook that dropped Kengo. When he got back up, both guys started landing real bombs. It looked like they were just testing each other’s chins. Kengo was given a standing ten count as he had trouble standing. Ueyama landed a few more shots before the ref stepped in for the final time.

Bout 3: Kan Nakamura (7-0) vs. Itto (19-12-3) (Kickboxing Rules) (3×3)

Before the next bout, RIZIN had their usual opening for a show. After that, we had yet another kickboxing bout. Kan Nakamura reeked of charisma, dancing as the fight started. Nakamura started to land with combination strikes at the end of the first round. He got a knockdown with 11 seconds left. A few times in the round he fell due to how he recklessly threw his kicks. After a few more strikes, Nakamura did a kick to the head that not only dropped Itto but completely ended the bout. Itto was out for a while after that. Nakamura got the win and protected his undefeated streak.

Bout 4: Namiki Kawahara (5-2-2) vs. Takaki Soya (9-4-1) (MMA Bout Elbows Allowed) (3×5)

The next match was the first MMA fight of the evening. It was a DEEP versus Shooto promotion battle. Soya landed a left hook that dropped Kawahara every early on. Soya threw punches and kicks on the ground but Kawahara recovered. After being on the ground for a minute, they stood back up. Soya sort-of landed a takedown, but they got back up right after. Soya did a double leg takedown which got Kawahara. Kawahara tried for a guillotine, and after Soya threw a knee they got back up. With under a minute left in the first round, Soya landed a right hook that absolutely took out Kawahara.

Bout 5: Taiju Shiratori (14-5-1) vs. Hiroto Yamaguchi (23-15) (Kickboxing Rules) (3×3)

The next bout was a kickboxing competition between Taiju Shiratori and Hiroto Yamaguchi. The first round wasn’t super aggressive from either fighter, but Shiratori was landing more. It’s worth noting that he has a height and reach advantage. The second round was closer although Shiratori kept landing a lot. He didn’t get it, but he tried for a rolling thunder kick at one point. There was a pause in the final round when both fighters collided heads. The final minute of the last round was great as both fighters were going all out. This became the first bout that went the distance, with Shiratori taking the victory by unanimous decision.

Bout 6: Tim Eschtruth (4-1) vs. Erson Yamamoto (2-4) (MMA Rules Elbows Allowed) (3×5)

The next MMA bout was Tim Eschtruth facing Erson Yamamoto. Eschtruth was mean muggin’ heading out to the ring, which made him look pretty cool. Yamamoto was pretty fired up when making his walkout. The first few minutes of the round had pretty evenly matched striking. In a standing clinch, Yamamoto did a elbow punch that dropped Eschtruth and did some more strikes before the referee ended the bout. He had quite the celebration afterwards, doing nearly every dance in the book. Someone from Yamamoto’s corner said he wants to fight in RIZIN afterwards.

Bout 7: Ryuji Horio (19-11-3) vs. Kunitaka (51-34-3) (Kickboxing Rules) (3×3)

A very experience Kunitaka faced Ryuji Horio in the next kickboxing bout. The first round was close with both fighter landing good strikes. Through the second round both guys were throwing and landing a lot, although it was hard to see who was getting the edge. Horio looked like the fresher fighter in the final round. The fight went the distance with both fighters putting on a good performance. Ryuji Horio was favoured on all three scorecards.

Bout 8: Kana Hyatt (16-19) vs. Uoi Fullswing (22-6-4) (MMA Rules) (3×5)

In the next MMA bout, Uoi Fullswing fought Kana Hyatt. Fullswing seemed like quite the personality, carrying a baseball bat out to the ring. This bout looks like a huge mismatch when you look at the records. Hyatt was seemingly on the defence for the first minute of striking. The fight went to the round, with Hyatt in top position. After not much happened on the ground, the referee stood them up. The final minutes of the round were somewhat uneventful, with the only highlight being that Hyatt fell either due to a slip or a strike in the final seconds. Hyatt landed a good takedown in the opening minute of the second round. They got back up after just under a minute. The rest of the round had some evenly matched stand-up. Hyatt got into top position on the ground again in the third round. In the final seconds of the third round, both fighters finally started to unload. Fullswing did four hooks in a row that dropped Hyatt, and then after a few more strikes on the ground the referee stopped it.

Fight Announcements

Before the next bout, a few matchups for the next RIZIN shows. The matchups were Hiromasa Ogikubo versus Yuki Motoya, Ulka Sasaki versus Shintaro Ishiwatari and Mikuru Asakura versus Yusuke Yachi. Nobuyuki Sakakibara talked about the upcoming events in the ring. He talked about how the Japanese fighters need to face each other to become the best. Some fighters were also in the ring, and got a short bit of mic time too. Mikuru Asakura and Yusuke Yachi both trash talked each other when they had the chance. Marcos Yoshio de Souza was also there, although he doesn’t have an opponent announced.

Bout 9: Tofiq Musayev (14-3) vs. Daron Cruickshank (21-11) (MMA Rules) (3×5)

Back from intermission, the next bout was Tofiq Musayev versus RIZIN veteran Daron Cruickshank. Musayev had a dominant performance on New Year’s Eve against Nobumitsu Tyson. The first three minutes of the bout showed good stand-up striking and defence from both fighters. Musayev seemed to unload more combinations of punches in the final two minutes of the first. At the start of the second round, Cruickshank landed a spinning back fist clean, but it didn’t shake Musayev. With two minutes left in the second round, both fighters were warned by the referee that they need to pick up the action. In the final minute of round two, Musayev caught a leg kick and turned it into a takedown. Musayev landed strikes from above until the round ended. He landed another takedown halfway through the third round. Cruickshank got out but was thrown back down right after. Cruickshank tried for a kimura from bottom position but couldn’t get it completely. With a minute left, Cruickshank tried for a triangle choke. The round ended, making the fight go to decision. All three judges gave it to Tofiq Musayev. That makes it two losses in a row for Cruickshank. The last time he was on a two fight losing streak was in 2016 & 2017, when he lost to Satoru Kitaoka and Yusuke Yachi.

Bout 10: Topnoi Tiger Muay Thai (6-2) vs. Yusaku Nakamura (15-6-1) (MMA Rules) (3×5)

Both trying to bounce back from losses, Topnoi Tiger Muay Thai and Yusaku Nakamura faced off in the next bout. Tiger did his usual dancing walkout. Both guys were taunting before and during the fight. Topnoi landed some punches in the second minute that had Nakamura retreating. Topnoi was given a warning for grabbing ropes when both fighters were in clinch for a moment. They weren’t that active when doing stand-up fighting. There was a break in the first minute of the second where Topnoi has kicked in the groin. After Nakamura landed a good right hook he got poked in the eye which cause yet another pause. Another groin shot happened when Nakamura was being held up against the ropes. After a couple minutes of a pause, and yet another warning, the fight continued. Topnoi landed two jabs right down the middle with two minutes left in the second round which made Nakamura backtrack around half of the ring. Nakamura landed a takedown in the final minute of the round. In the third round Nakamura landed another takedown, with both fighters getting up only seconds afterwards. Around the final minute of the fight, Topnoi landed some good strikes on a now very tired Nakamura. The commentary team said Nakamura lost a tooth. He landed a takedown, which they stayed in for a few seconds. The fight went the fifteen minutes, with the judges all giving the win to Nakamura. Topnoi was not a fan of this. After the fight it was shown that his front teeth were knocked out. The crowd gasped when they saw this.

Bout 11: Jake Heun (12-9) vs. Roque Martinez (14-5-2) (MMA Rules) (3×5)

The next fight was a Heavyweight clash between Jake Heun and Roque Martinez. Heun had an entertaining walkout, dressed as Starlord from Guardians of the Galaxy, dancing to “Come and Get Your Love” by Redbone. Roque Martinez did his usual walkout to “Five More Hours” by Deorro and Chris Brown. Martinez wore wrestling shoes for this bout. Heun got a cut on his head within the first minute of the bout. Martinez also got a cut above his right eye. Heun threw tons of great punches and kicks in the first round. There was a pause in the second round where Martinez’s cuts were looked at. Luckily, this did not conclude the bout. Near the end of the round, Heun threw soccer kicks to Martinez, who was grounded. In the final round Martinez picked up Heun and slammed him hard. Heun started to bleed heavily in this round. Heun tried for a heel hook but didn’t fully get it. Martinez took top position and landed strikes until the round concluded. The commentary team were told that Martinez broke a hand in the first round. The judges had it in a split decision, with the third judge giving it to Jake Heun.

Bout 12: Miyuu Yamamoto (4-3) vs. Kanna Asakura (14-3) (MMA Rules) (3×5)

After a second intermission, we had our two women’s MMA fights of the evening. The first one was Miyuu Yamamoto versus Kanna Asakura. This was Asakura’s first fight in RIZIN since she lost to Ayaka Hamasaki on New Year’s Eve, losing her Championship in the process. Yamamoto went for a takedown in the first minute, utilizing her wrestling skills. Asakura was able to get back up, but was held in a corner and was hit with punches. The referee broke them up eventually. Asakura tried for a takedown of her own, and after some reversals, she ended up in top position. They stood up and exchanged blows in clinch. Asakura tried for another takedown but Miyuu successfully defended it. In the second round, Yamamoto defended yet another takedown attempt. When another takedown was shot by Asakura, Yamamoto took full control of it on the ground. She landed punches while holding onto Asakura from behind. Asakura did do a good throw in the final seconds of the round. At the start of the third round, Yamamoto turned a takedown attempt from Asakura into a guillotine attempt. Asakura escaped, but was hit with some punches from above. They stood up and went back to stand-up. Later on, Asakura tried for a triangle choke. The fight went the distance, with it being a great grappling competition with strikes integrated into it. As the scorecards were being read, Asakura started to cover her face with her hat. She was clearly disappointed. Miyuu Yamamoto unanimously was given the win.

Bout 13: Jinh Yu Frey (8-3) vs. Ayaka Hamasaki (17-2) (RIZIN Atomweight Championship) (3×5)

The next bout was the first of two championship bouts. This isn’t the first time that Jinh Yu Frey and Ayaka Hamasaki have faced off, with their first meeting being in Invicta FC. Hamasaki got the upper hand that time, but it ended due to a doctor’s stoppage, not giving a real decisive winner. Frey walked out to the Pride FC theme. Seo Hee Ham gave flowers to both fighters before the bout. Hamasaki landed a good right hook in the first minute of the bout. The whole first round was a great display of stand-up skills from both fighters. At the end of the second round, Frey landed a left hook that landed clean and had Hamasaki retreat. Hamasaki landed the first takedown of the fight at the start of the third. Hamasaki stayed on top for the whole round, landing elbows and punches until the round ended. The third round was easily the most one-sided one. Ayaka Hamasaki got the victory unanimously and retained her Atomweight Championship. The often stoic Hamasaki became very emotional in the post-fight interview.

Tenshin Nasukawa (30-0) vs. Martin Blanco (8-1-1) (Kickboxing Rules) (ISKA Featherweight Championship) (5×5)

Finally, the main event of RIZIN 16 was Tenshin Nasukawa challenging for the ISKA Featherweight Championship against Martin Blanco, the Bantamweight Champion. Before the fight, the Japanese and Argentine anthems played. This fight was scheduled for five rounds. The first round was somewhat slow. Nasukawa started to really light up in the second round. A cut started to appear of Blanco’s right eye. There was a pause after the first minute of the second round for Blanco to get the cut checked on. When they resumed Blanco landed a right hook that shook Nasukawa a little. Nasukawa landed a knee to the body which dropped Blanco. When he got back up, Nasukawa did another knee to the body which took him down. When he did a third knee which dropped Blanco, the referee finally ended it. Tenshin Nasukawa was crowned the ISKA Featherweight Champion after this victory.

RIZIN’s next event will take place on July 28th at Saitama Super Arena. Until then, RIZIN talent will be seen on shows around the world. RENA will face Lindsey VanZandt, and Kyoji Horiguchi will face Darrion Caldwell at Bellator 222 in two weeks. RIZIN alumni Nanaka Kawamura and Rin Nakai will fight at DEEP JEWELS 24 next Sunday as well. One unique feature about RIZIN is how their performers are not usually exclusive to the promotion, so there’s always shows that have recognizable talent on.

RIZIN 15 Preview

On Sunday RIZIN will return with their first event of 2019. Their last event was the classic New Year’s Eve MMA event being held in Saitama Super Arena. The show saw kickboxing star Tenshin Nasukawa lose within a round of boxing to the 50-0 Floyd Mayweather. The loss went viral, as did Mayweather’s reported nine million dollar paycheck did. The show also saw the crowing of Kyoji Horiguchi and Ayaka Hamasaki as champions. Horiguchi defeated Bellator star Darrion Caldwell via submission to become a Bantamweight Champion, and Hamasaki beat Kanna Asakura with a second-round armbar to become a Super Atomweight Champion.

This weekend’s show will be headlined by Jiri Prochazka and Bellator’s King Mo, as they compete for the inagural RIZIN Heavyweight Championship. Below them on the card will also be RIZIN regulars Kyoji Horiguchi and Tenshin Nasukawa.

RIZIN 15 will see inaugural promotion’s return to Yokohama, with their last appearance being in April of 2017. With the order of this weekend’s card being unveiled this week, let’s preview the card in order.

Taiga vs. Thalisson Gomes Ferreira (Kickboxing Bout)

The first fight of the evening is contested under kickboxing rules, as Taiga returns to face RIZIN newcomer Thailisson Gomes Ferreria. Taiga competed at RIZIN 13, where he fought to a draw against Kento Haraguchi. Both fighters are coming off of losses from the RISE kickboxing promotion.

Kanako Murata vs. Saray Orozco

The matchup of Kanako Murata and Saray Orozco only became official this week when Orozco’s original opponent, Shinju Nozawa-Auclair backed out of the bout due to injury. Nozawa-Auclair noted on Instagram that she fought through an injury before, and it forced her to be sidelined for a year after the fight because of the severity of the injury afterwards. Kanako Murata is no newcomer to RIZIN as she has an established 4-1 record within the fighting federation. Saray Orozco has a 4-2 professional MMA record and is on a three-fight win streak heading into her battle in Yokohama.

Seiichiro Ito vs. Manel Kape

Manel Kape is an example of someone who RIZIN has really built up. Prior to his career within RIZIN, he didn’t compete in any major promotions. Although RIZIN has made him into a huge star, he hasn’t had an easy run. Out of his last four career losses, he has been given three of them in his last four fights. He lost to Ulka Sasaki on New Year’s Eve back when he was coming off a win against Yusaku Nakamura. He’ll be facing Seiichiro Ito in his next fight. Ito will be making his second RIZIN appearance, getting a win at the last Yokohama show. He’s a veteran within the ZST promotion in Japan and is coming off his first MMA loss in over five years.

Koji Takeda vs. Damien Brown

Damien Brown had a strong debut with RIZIN at New Year’s Eve after wrapping up his 2-4 UFC career. He defeated RIZIN veteran Daron Cruickshank via guillotine in just one round. He faces Koji Takeda, a DEEP promotion fighter who, despite only debuting in 2017, has racked up eight victories. His last win came against Satoru Kitaoka, who also fights on this card.

Kana Watanabe vs. Justyna Zofia Haba

Justyna Zofia Haba and Kana Watanabe are two success stories that came from the New Year’s Eve shows. Watanabe defeated Shizuka Sugiyama in 11 seconds after a knockdown (which Sugiyama protested about after the match) in their sequel fight, and Haba handed Shinju Nozawa-Auclair her first pro loss via submission. Watanabe’s fight came from RIZIN’s afternoon show “RIZIN Heisei’s Last Yarennoka!” Since then she has also gotten her either pro victory at DEEP JEWELS 23, defeating Soo Min Kang. While Watanabe isn’t a veteran by any means, her 8-0-1 record is many more minutes in the sport than what Haba has experienced in her 1-0 pro MMA career.

Mikuru Asakura vs. Luis Gustavo

This weekend’s show was set to be a showcase of both of the Asakura brothers, but couldn’t happen after Kai Asakura’s fight fell through. After Ulka Sasaki and Justin Scoggins both pulled out due to injury, RIZIN decided to bench Kai for the event. Mikuru’s bout is still set to happen, as he faces Luis Gustavo. The undefeated Brazilian left an impact in his debut in RIZIN when he dropped Yusuke Yachi in the main event of RIZIN 12. Mikuru defeated Shooto veteran Takeshi Inoue at the “Heisei’s Last Yarennoka” show on NYE.

RENA vs. Samantha Jean-Francois

A bout that was set to go down at RIZIN 14 will be tried for again at this event. Samantha Jean-Francois didn’t have an opponent last minute in December due to RENA suffering from anemia and dehydration during her weight cut. The last fight took place at 49 kg, and this fight will be held at 51 kg.

Karl Albrektsson vs. Christiano Frolich

Karl Albrektsson will make his return to RIZIN, facing Christiano Frolich, who will make his debut in the promotion. Albrektsson’s last fight in RIZIN was against Jiri Prochazka, losing in the first round via punches. Since then he has gotten two more wins in the Swedish promotion “Superior Challenge,” making his record 8-2. Frolich comes into RIZIN with a 10-4 record, with his last fight being a win in July against Eduardo Rufino.

Roberto de Souza vs. Satoru Kitaoka

Nearly two decades into his MMA career, Satoru Kitaoka is still fighting frequently. After defeating Tatsuya Kawajiri on New Year’s Eve, Kitaoka will face Roberto de Souza in his next battle. Souza is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu based MMA fighter, having presence in Japan through his participation in QUINTET events.

Kyoji Horiguchi vs. Ben Nguyen

RIZIN’s top MMA dog Kyoji Horiguchi will face former UFC fighter Ben Nguyen in his next fight. Horiguchi is coming off a championship victory in December. Nguyen will be making his first appearance outside the UFC after he first fought for them in 2015. At the end of his stint with the promotion, he lost two fights, finishing with a UFC record of 4-3. This fight won’t be for a title, and will only be three rounds.

Tenshin Nasukawa vs. Fritz Aldin Biagtan

Tenshin Nasukawa’s recent fights seemingly follow a theme of being involved with people who don’t have much to do with kickboxing. At RIZIN 13, he fought Kyoji Horiguchi in a kickboxing match. At RIZIN 14, he lost to Floyd Mayweather in boxing after being knocked down three times. And now at RIZIN 15, Nasukawa will face a kickboxer that has been brought in through famous boxer Manny Pacquiao. Fritz Aldin Biagtan was the fighter that “Pac-Man” assigned for the event. The Filipino fighter is a current WBC Muay Thai Featherweight Champion and will be facing Nasukawa in Kickboxing rules. Nasukawa’s last fight was last month at RISE, competing in the first round of the promotion’s 58kg tournament.

King Mo vs. Jiri Prochazka (RIZIN Heavyweight Championship Match)

RIZIN will have their first Heavyweight Championship match in the main event of the show. Muhammed Lawal, also known as King Mo will come into the promotion from Bellator to face Jiri Prochazka. Prochazka is currently on a seven-fight win streak, defeating Brandon Halsey in December. He has fought for RIZIN since their inaugural event. This won’t be the first time he’s squared off against Mo, as he took his third and most recent loss to him back in 2015 via punches. King Mo has lost his last two fights, both being via strikes. In RIZIN he has a record of 3-1.

After RIZIN makes it’s long-awaited return to Yokohama, the promotion will make their debut in Kobe afterwards. On the 2nd of June, RIZIN will go to the World Memorial Hall for RIZIN 16. But until then, there are 12 bouts that have the potential to be very entertaining.