Jiri Prochazka waited nearly four years to exact his revenge on Muhammad ‘King Mo’ Lawal and at Rizin 15 he finally settled the score.
In front of a sold out crowd in Japan, Prochazka was determined to get back his prior loss to Lawal, who had beaten him by knockout in their first meeting back in 2015, while also fighting to become the first ever Rizin light heavyweight champion.
This time around, Prochazka showed the improvements he made as he stifled every Lawal attempt to bring the action to the ground and then finished the fight with a blistering series of strikes that earned him the TKO finish.
There was a lot of feeling out in the early going with Lawal and Prochaska both attempting to find an opening with their striking combinations.
While Lawal was throwing some heat behind his punches, he was struggling with his distance against the taller and longer fighter in Prochazka.
With less than a minute to go in the round, Prochazka finally found a home for some of his punches after clipping Lawal in a back and forth exchange on the feet.
From there Prochazka felt much more comfortable with his combinations as he began landing with a quick, snapping jab and then following that up with his power punches.
The second round saw much of the same with Prochazka able to control the distance with his reach and then measuring his combinations.
Lawal attempted to stay quick on his feet but but he failed to connect with may of his biggest punches. He did land one punishing blow that caught Procazka and opened a large cut over his eye.
Still, Prochazka was starting to be the aggressor while backing Lawal up and then unleashing his striking combinations.
With five minutes remaining, Lawal was gasping for oxygen while Prochazka was still moving forward with two and three strike combinations in succession. Meanwhile, Lawal was just trying to stay out of harm’s way but not doing much to produce his own offense.
As his gas tank continued to deplete, Lawal ended up as a sitting target with Prochazka attacking with much more confidence and fearing no reprisal from his exhausted opponent.
With Lawal running out of steam, Prochazka went for the kill and the beginning of the end started with a right hand that slipped through the American Top Team member’s defense.
Once Lawal was on rubber legs, Prochazka just ratcheted up the pressure while unleashing a series of devastating shots, primarily while leading with his right hand.
Finally with Lawal teetering, Prochazka had to know this was the opening he had been waiting on as he popped the American fighter with a series of jabs before uncorking the right hand again and again.
As much as he tried to weather the storm, Lawal was barely hanging on and Prochazka finished the fight a few seconds later after swarming on the veteran Bellator light heavyweight. It was that right hand that was constantly blasting Lawal over all three rounds until the last shot put him away for good.
Once Lawal (21-9) dropped to the ground from a stinging combination courtesy of Prochazka (24-3), the referee had seen enough to stop the contest as the Polish born light heavyweight was now the first ever Rizin light heavyweight champion.
Kyoji Horiguchi continued his incredible run at Rizin 15 with his 12th win overall in mixed martial arts with a first round TKO against Ben Nguyen.
It was a fast paced contest between two former UFC fighters with Horiguchi looking to connect with his power while Nguyen was determined to close the distance and stay away from the big punches from reigning Rizin bantamweight champion.
While Nguyen was able to get Horiguchi’s back for a split second, that was ultimately his only real offence of the whole fight.
In return once Horiguchi got some distance, he began launching missiles at Nguyen’s head in succession and as the barrage continued, he started finding a home for his power punches.
With Nguyen wobbled, Horiguchi (27-2) went for the kill with a blitzing series of punches that finally dropped his opponent to the mat. A couple of more shots followed as Nguyen (17-9) turtled up to protect himself and the referee rushed into stop the fight.
Following the win, RIZIN president Nobuyuki Sakakibara entered the ring and asked Horiguchi if he would be interested in traveling to New York City in June to compete on the upcoming Bellator card.
While nothing is official, it appears plans are in motion to bring Horiguchi to Bellator where he would rematch bantamweight champion Darrion Caldwell.
Horiguchi submitted Caldwell this past December to become the inaugural Rizin bantamweight champion with plans to eventually go to Bellator for the rematch and now it appears that title fight is coming together.
Undefeated prospect Roberto de Souza picked up a huge win over veteran fighter Satoru Kitaoka while earning the first TKO finish of his career.
While the Brazilian is best known for his submission arsenal, de Souza had to turn to plan B when he wasn’t able to put Kitaoka away on the ground. It was late in the second round when the fighters worked their way to the feet and de Souza started exchanging punches with Kitaoka with a flurry of shots being landed.
Eventually it was de Souza (8-0) with his reach and power that started to slip through the defence of Kitaoka (42-119) before finally dropping him to the mat after a rapid fire series of punches connected. The referee saw enough and jumped into stop the contest with de Souza earning the TKO victory.