Mikuru Asakura stops Daniel Salas in the second round at Rizin 21
The crowd inside the Hamamatsu Arena on Saturday were on their feet as Mikuru Asakura authored an emphatic victory over Mexican opponent Daniel Salas in the headliner of Rizin 21.
Asakura showcased his stand-up, going strike-for-strike with Salas. The 27-year-old hometown hero showcasing the full breadth of his skills in the promotion’s first event of 2020.
Salas posed problems by standing right in front of Asakura hunting for a knockout for the majority of the first round but the latter beat him constantly to the punch with his signature left hand.
While Salas was wary of the Japanese’s go-to punch, Asakura changed his plan of attack, leaning on his left high kick which would play a vital role later in the match.
In the second round, Salas was kept constantly weary on the defensive end as Asakura started to effortlessly string together hard combinations of punches to the head and body of the Mexican.
As Salas moved backwards near the ring ropes, he was met with a clean head kick that opened a gory gash above his right eye and drove him to the mat. Seeing the Mexican reeling from the blow, Asakura swarmed with a heavy downpour of punches.
The referee immediately stepped in and called a halt to the bout at the 2:34 mark of the second round. Asakura improved his win-loss slate to 13-1, while Salas dropped to a 16-7-1 record.
In his post-fight interview, Asakura expressed his desire of competing at the next Rizin event in Yokohama this coming April. As he was on the microphone with his team, former ONE Championship lightweight titleholder Kotetsu Boku entered the ring and issued a challenge.
In the co-main event of Rizin 21, Victor Henry (20-4) of the United States pulled off a come-from-behind performance to topple Japanese grappling rival Masanori Kanehara (27-14-5) by second-round technical knockout.
Henry was on the receiving end of Kanehara’s brilliance on the mat in the first stanza, where he was seen defending his foe’s submission advances and being trapped in a body triangle for the remainder of the round.
Feeling the urgency to change the complexion of the contest in the second round, Henry compelled Kanehara to trade strikes with him. He reaped the dividends of his strategy, decking the Japanese veteran a counter right straight before securing the finish with a stream of uppercuts on the mat.
Deep openweight champion Roque Martinez (15-5-2) did not disappoint in his Rizin return, manhandling ex-ONE Championship title challenger Hideki Sekine (7-4) in the first round.
Martinez sent Sekine to the canvas with a right hand and then punished the Japanese with a series of soccer kicks. With his opponent lying flat on his back near the ring apron, he hammered the final nail in the coffin by drilling a torrent of spiteful hammerfists to force the stoppage.
Best of the rest
Following a knockout loss to Keita Nakamura this past October, Marcos Yoshio de Souza (9-2) of Brazil bounced back in a big way by stopping Portuguese journeyman Falco Neto (11-11) with some vicious ground-and-pound in the first round.
Meanwhile, former Pancrase title challenger Yuto Hokamura (13-8-2) left a lasting impression in his first assignment under the Rizin banner, making quick work of Kenji Kato (10-7) via first-round submission.
Hokamura easily had his way in the bantamweight encounter, hurting Kato with a plethora of staggering punches before sending him to sleep with a tight rear-naked choke with 39 seconds left on the clock in the opening frame.
A victory inside the five-rope Rizin ring remained elusive to Australian standout Trent Girdham (12-4) as he fell short in his bid to capture his first win in the promotion to UFC veteran and debutant Naoki Inoue (13-2) of Japan by way of unanimous decision