Kai Asakura clinches bantamweight title with soccer kick finish at Rizin 23
Kai Asakura became only the third fighter to hold the Rizin bantamweight title as he soccer kicked his way to a first round victory against Hiromasa Ogikubo. The fight for the vacant strap served as the main event at the PIA Arena in Yokohama on Monday.
It was a case of redemption for Asakura at Rizin 23. He challenged unsuccessfully for the vacant strap in his last outing, getting stopped by Manel Kape.
Here, Asakura looked sharp and focused as he picked Ogikubo apart to claim the strap Kape vacated in order to sign with the UFC.
This was Rizin’s second show in two days and capped an action-packed return for the Japanese promotion. Asakura provided a fight-ending sequence that was more-than worthy of top billing.
The 26 year-old threw a beautiful uppercut to the body and, as Ogikubo retreated to the corner, he was met with a jumping left knee to the face that knocked him to the floor. Asakura followed up with several right hands before unleashing two savage soccer kicks to finish the fight.
The win cemented his status as one of the biggest stars in Asian MMA as well as earning him the Rizin bantamweight title.
He improves to 15-2 and could be set to defend his belt against former champion Kyoji Horiguchi later this year. Meanwhile Ogikubo drops to 25-5-2 after losing for the first time in two years.
The co-main event saw a couple of potential suitors for Asakura’s bantamweight crown go head-to-head. Yuki Motoya enhanced his record to 25-8 with a submission win over Mamoru Uoi who drops to 22-9-5.
The former Deep champion got it done in the third round as Uoi ducked in for a takedown, leaving Montoya to sink in the guillotine to seal the victory.
The card opened with a catchweight kickboxing encounter as Koji Mori fell victim to some first round bombs from Shintaro Mastsukura. The platinum-haired striker unleashed a vicious left and right hook to leave his opponent face-down in the corner.
It would take something special to top that finish, but Tatsuki Saomoto (15-2) arguably did just that in the very next fight. Taking on Yusaku Nakamura (16-8-1) in another catchweight affair, the 23-year-old uncorked a massive overhand left to secure the second knockout win of his career.
After Kaito Ono defeated Daryl Lokoku by unanimous decision in a kickboxing contest it was time for more MMA and yet more highlight reel action. Rizin newcomer Makoto Takahashi delivered a contender for ‘submission of the year’.
Fighting at a catchweight of 130lbs against Seiichiro Ito (12-4-2) he followed up a lively first round with a glorious finish in the second. The 20 year old showed why he is one of the most highly regarded prospects in the region.
After Ito caught his attempt at a flying knee Takahashi (11-1-1) was able to lock in an air-tight guillotine as he dragged him to the ground, tightening his grip further and drawing the tap. It was a stunning submission and one of the highlights of the night.
An intriguing recent addition to the Rizin roster was Kotetsu Boku (26-15-2). But it proved to be a disappointing debut for the former ONE Championship lightweight champion who failed to make the impression he might have hoped for.
The 43 year old was too easy a target for Jin Aoi (8-3-1). The younger man cruised to a unanimous decision win, potentially ending Boku’s hopes of securing a fight with Mikuru Asakura in the process.
Next, it was back to kickboxing as the trend of epic finishes resumed. Kento Haraguchi put a beating on former K-1 champion Taiga Kawabe, scoring three knockdowns to finish the fight in the first round.
Savage soccer kick
Featherweight Yutaka Saito (18-4-2) then provided another candidate for the knockout of the night. Having succeeded with his takedowns in the first round, opponent Kazumasa Majima (14-2) shot for another one in the second.
He was met with a savage soccer kick to the head from Saito. Two more followed before a couple of heavy knees prompted the referee to jump in and call a stop to the contest.