Having won the Rizin lightweight Grand Prix in 2019 Tofiq Musaev has already established himself as the top dog in the division. But he hadn’t earned the right to call himself a champion with the inaugural title on the line in Tokyo today.
Musayev met Roberto de Souza at Rizin 28 which saw the promotion put on a card in the Tokyo Dome for the first time in its history. The man from Azerbaijan had missed all of 2020 while the Brazilian was coming off wins at Rizin 22 and Rizin 27.
Having won his last 14 fights Musaev came into this as the clear favourite. De Souza’s first takedown of the fight was stuffed but the Brazilian was relentless and seconds later he shot for a single leg.
This time Musaev could not shake the BJJ black belt off and de Souza secured a body lock before pulling him into his guard. The Brazilian was on his back and it was exactly where he wanted to be.
He wrapped in a triangle choke and briefly used it to crank on Musaev’s left arm. But the choke was tight and after a small adjustment the Azerbaijani was forced to tap at the 1:22 mark.
After the fight an emotional de Souza addressed the crowd in fluent Japanese and said,
“I’m so happy I did it. I put everything into training for this fight. Japan I brought back the belt.”
The Brazilian improves to 12-1 and establishes himself as Rizin’s lightweight king. Musaev drops to 18-4 after suffering defeat for the first time since 2014.
In the final fight of the night another Japanese based Brazilian emerged victorious courtesy of a triangle choke. Kleber Koike Erbst needed slightly longer than teammate de Souza, submitting the hugely popular Mikuru Asakura in the second round.
Like his compatriot Erbst jumped guard early in the fight and looked for a triangle. Asakura spent a lot of the round in that position but never looked uncomfortable and did some damage in the striking exchanges.
In the second round Asakura allowed Erbst to back him into the corner. The Brazilian landed a series of short, sharp elbows from the clinch before jumping guard and sinking in a triangle choke.
Asakura did not tap. Instead the Japanese star slipped into unconsciousness with the referee stepping in to save him at the 1:51 mark.
With the win Erbst improves to 27-5-1 and emerges as the number one contender in the featherweight division. Asakura drops to 14-3 and a rematch with champion Yutaka Saito looks a remote prospect now.
The first four fights in the 16 man bantamweight Grand Prix took place at Rizin 28. Tournament favourite Kai Asakura (17-3) booked his spot in the quarter finals after finishing Shooto Watanabe (22-6) in the opening round, a soccer kick doing the damage and some ground and pound finishing the fight.
Naoki Inoue (16-2) needed less than two minutes to take out Shintaro Ishiwatari (26-9) with a soccer kick. The other two bouts went the distance with Hiromasa Ougikubo (22-5) beating Takeshi Kasugai (26-8) and Yuki Motoya (2-9) defeating Ryo Okada (17-5).
Best of the rest
Tenshin Nasukawa faced Koki Osaki, Horoya and Hideo Tokoro in a fight that had slightly modified boxing rules. The identity of the latter was only revealed on the night.
The bout was contested under ‘knockout only’ rules. So with all three rounds going to the distance no winner was declared.