Yutaka Saito claims featherweight title with surprise win over Mikuru Asakura at Rizin 25
Yutaka Saito upset Mikuru Asakura in the main event at Rizin 25 to clinch the promotion’s inaugural featherweight title. His opponent came into the fight riding a three fight winning streak but came unstuck against the Shooto veteran.
Asakura sought to lead with his body kicks and low kicks in the first round with a groin shot causing a pause in proceedings. When the fight resumed, Asakura continued to look for single kicks to the body while Saito struggled to find his range in what was a slightly tentative opening stanza from both fighters.
Asakura ended the round on a high note as a strong left hook glanced off Saito’s chin.
The second round saw Saito start with a flourish as he began to let his hands go. The jab-cross, a stinging high kick and a powerful three punch combination all landing sweetly for the 33-year-old.
As Saito looked to maintain the pressure, he got caught on the end of a lovely right hook counter from Asakura which sent a buzz around the Osaka-Jo Hall. Saito then landed a takedown as Asakura went for a low kick and twice had his opponent held in the corner of the ring.
Saito landed another big takedown in the third. Once the fighters returned to the centre of the ring, sparks began to fly. Asakura landed a beautiful left cross from the southpaw stance.
Saito responded in kind with a slick left-right combination and some massive right hands to Asakura’s chin. Saito had the better of the exchanges overall and did enough to convince the judges.
The newly crowned champion extends his record to 19-4-2 while Asakura slips to 13-2.
After the fight Saito praised his opponent,
“Thank you Mikuru Asakura for taking on this fight. We may meet each other again if we are fighting on this ring so until then. Thank you to all those people who are always supporting me. Things don’t always go easy in life but good things sometimes happen,” he said.
Best of the rest
Elsewhere, former Shooto flyweight champion, Hiromasa Ougikubo returned to winning ways with a unanimous decision victory Kenta Takizawa. Ougibubo’s last fight was in the main event at Rizin 23 where he was on the receiving end of some first-round soccer kicks as he lost to Kai Asakura in their bantamweight title fight.
He got back on track here after a slow start, dropping Takizawa with a big head kick in the third round and doing enough to get the decision.
Further down the card there would be no such redemption for Kotetsu Boku. The 43-year-old was looking to snap a four-fight losing streak but found himself on the wrong end of some third-round soccer kicks from Rikuto Shirakawa.
After the fight, the former ONE Championship and Shooto champion confirmed his retirement and said,
“I think now it’s time. No regrets.’”