Manel Kape pummels Kai Asakura, captures bantamweight crown at Rizin 20
There was not much of a feeling-out process at the beginning of the opening round in the Saitama Super Arena. Both individuals were landing clean shots and displaying different parts of their arsenal.
Asakura favored punches to the body to set up the head while Kape mixed in takedown attempts with kicks to stay unpredictable. Going back to the corner after the first, both fighters needed to make some adjustments and it was the Angolan who adapted quicker.
Soon after the bell to start the second frame, Kape blasted a right hand that had Asakura on his backside. Kape swarmed instantly but his opponent got up and momentarily it looked like he was going to survive.
But Kane was relentless and kept on punching until referee Jason Herzog was forced to step in and stop the fight. He improves to 15-4 and claims the bantamweight strap that Kyoji Horiguchi relinquished a few weeks ago.
Kane and Horiguchi look likely to rematch in 2020 when the Japanese icon recovers from knee surgery. Asakura drops to 14-2 after losing for only the second time in his career and sees an impressive six-fight win streak snapped.
The third match between two of the best female fighters in the world was a close contest with waves of dominance from both sides. The first round was a stand up battle with Ham and Hamasaki landing punishing combinations.
Even though it was such a tightly contested round, Hamasaki seemed to do a little more. The second stanza clearly went to Ham who was able to lock down a triangle choke and land crushing elbows.
The roles were reversed in the third with Hamasaki finishing the round in side control, peppering her adversary with light punches. Both hung on in dangerous positions but it was Ham who looked to have come closest to finishing the fight.
In the end, Ham (23-8) swayed two of the three judges and adds the Rizin super atomweight belt to her Road FC atomweight title with this split decision win. The South Korean reigns over two promotions and the future is full of possibilities.
Hamasaki (19-3), on the other hand, loses for the first time since 2017, right before she joined the promotion. She is in no way past her prime and a fourth matchup could be on deck after such a closely contested fight.