Local favourite Yuto Hokamura took on Kuya Ito in the opening round of the bantamweight Grand Prix at Rizin 29. The Osaka native scored a unanimous decision win to set up a quarter final meeting with Takafumi Otsuka.
In the opening exchanges Hokamura landed a left knee from southpaw stance. Ito was moving forwards as ‘Kintaro’ looked to counterstrike with stinging combinations.
Ito did not look intimidated and let fire with a few punches of his own which made for some thrilling early exchanges. ‘Kintaro’ was briefly unbalanced by a right hand from Ito who followed up with a knee of his own.
The two men traded hooks in the centre of the ring but midway through the round the pace inevitably slowed. Ito continued to press forwards as Hokamura took the fight to the ground for the first time toward the end of the round.
Ito opened up with some low kicks at the start of the second round and Hokamura countered with a straight knee to the midsection. He continued to score with knees and punches before shooting for a second takedown after eating a right hand and landing in mount with four minutes remaining.
Hokamura surprisingly allowed Ito to stand up and they traded more hard punches in the middle of the ring with ‘Kintaro’ landing the cleaner shots. The action stalled as they clinched against the ropes but there was still time for both men to trade more hard punches.
Hokamura switched stance at the start of the final round and looked to land a straight right hand. Ito was still coming forwards and throwing some solid body kicks but the fight was paused when a kick from the former landed low.
Hokamura landed another knee and It countered with a glancing high kick. The former was landing some punches but found himself on the receiving end of a solid left kick to the mid section.
With a minute remaining Ito landed a right hand and then shot for a takedown but went straight through the ropes with his opponent. He finally succeeded in taking Kintaro down, slamming him to the ground in the final seconds but there was no time to work from top position.
Hokamura lost his last fight by split decision and it was difficult to pick a winner here. But all three judges picked the Osaka native who advances to the next round.
With the win Hokamura improves to 14-9-2 and makes it two victories out of three in his Rizin career. Ito drops to 10-9-1 but will have won a few fans with this performance on his promotional debut.
Best of the rest
The other three tournament bouts all went the distance. Otsuka (29-18) beat Hiroki Yamashita (8-9), Kenta Takizawa (12-7) was controversially given the nod over Masakazu Imanari (38-20) and Alan Yamaniha (18-8) beat Kazuma Kuramoto (8-2).
Taiju Shiratori won the bantamweight kickboxing tournament. He beat Koji Tanaka by decision in the final and stopped Chikai Iimura in the semi final.