Hiromasa Ougikubo won two fights in a night to capture the Rizin bantamweight grand prix title on a spectacular night at Rizin 33 at the Saitama Super Arena, then celebrated by proposing to his girlfriend.
In the tournament final, Ougikubo avenged his soccer-kick knockout loss to Kai Asakura at Rizin 23 when Asakura captured the Rizin bantamweight title in August 2020. This time, the bantamweight grand prix title was up for grabs, and Ougikubo fought to the perfect gameplan to dominate the former champion through the three-round matchup to earn the victory, and the tournament title.
After Ougikubo and Asakura defeated Naoki Inoue and Kenta Takizawa, respectively – both via unanimous decision – earlier in the night, the pair rested up as the rest of the fight card played out. Then the two semi-final victors met in the main event with the tournament title on the line.
Ougikubo fought smartly early on as he hammered Asakura with leg kicks, then, when his opponent stepped into range, took the action to the canvas and pursued a rear-naked choke submission.
Asakura survived, but things didn’t get much better for him in Round 2 as Ougikubo started to enjoy success with his striking. Despite being known more for his grappling, The Ultimate Fighter: Tournament of Champions finalist repeatedly found a home for his strikes as he stung Asakura with sharp shots on multiple occasions to assert his dominance over the pre-fight favourite.
Round 3 saw Asakura look to push the pace as he connected with power shots early in the final frame, but Ougikubo answered with a solid right hand of his own that halted Asakura’s assault.
With Asakura looking to throw home-run punches, Ougikubo kept up his well-rounded attack, mixing punches with leg kicks and wrestling to keep Asakura on the back foot. He kept up that relentless attack all the way to the final bell to earn a unanimous decision and capture the grand prix title for the biggest win of his 15-year career.
He then used his post-fight speech to propose to his girlfriend, who accepted as the Saitama crowd applauded the moment for the new grand prix champion.
In the co-main event, Rizin lightweight champion Roberto Satoshi Souza was made to work hard before earning a second-round armbar submission of Yusuke Yachi.
Souza dominated from the opening bell as he swiftly took the Japanese challenger to the mat and went to work in search of a submission. But Yachi showed admirable determination as he gamely defended off his back to avoid a first-round defeat.
But Souza would not be denied and, after more scrambling on the mat in Round 2, the champion finally found his submission with an armbar that forced the tap with 1:30 remaining in the round to retain his title and cement his spot at the top of Rizin’s lightweight division.
After his win, Souza called on Rizin president Noboyuki Sakakibara to allow him to challenge for the Bellator lightweight title currently held by Brazilian Patricky Pitbull.
Also on the main card, Kai Asakura’s brother Mikuru Asakura exacted revenge on his nemesis Yutaka Saito by earning a unanimous decision victory in their featherweight matchup.
Saito stunned Asakura at Rizin 25 to earn a unanimous decision and capture the vacant Rizin featherweight title that many believed was Asakura’s destiny. But in their rematch 13 months later, Asakura got his own back by claiming victory after a hard-fought three rounds to put himself back in title contention once again.
The Japanese fight fans were treated to a special moment as kickboxing superstar Tenshin Nasukawa competed inside the Rizin ring for the final time in a special two-round stand-up rules bout with MMA legend Takanori Gomi.
Gomi clearly outweighed Tenshin by a fair amount as they touched gloves and began trading shots, but Tenshin’s speed helped cancel out Gomi’s one-shot power in a competitive, if disappointingly short, matchup.
After the pair went the distance, the bout was ruled a draw before Rizin president Noboyuki Sakakibara announced the confirmation of a colossal kickboxing matchup, with Tenshin set to face three-weight K-1 kickboxing world champ Takeru in a special bout in a neutral promotion in June 2022.
There was also a shock in the opening main card bout of the night, as South Korean starlet Si Woo Park defeated Rizin fan favourite Rena Kubota after holding the advantage through the majority of their three-round 110-pound catchweight matchup.
And there was a magic moment in the opening bout of the evening, as Kota Miura, the 19-year-old son of Japanese football legend Kazuyoshi “Kazu” Miura, scored a knockout victory on his MMA debut using a technique all too familiar to fans of his father – a soccer kick.
Miura looked close to finishing his opponent Yushi with any one of a succession of submission attempts but, with the seconds counting down to the end of the first round, Miura returned to his feet and connected with a thumping soccer kick to the face that forced the finish at the bell.
- Hiromasa Ougikubo def. Kai Asakura via unanimous decision – Rizin Bantamweight Grand Prix Final
- Roberto Satoshi Souza def. Yusuke Yachi via submission (armbar) – Round 2, 3:30 – for Rizin lightweight title
- Mikuru Asakura def. Yutaka Saito via unanimous decision
- Tenshin Nasukawa vs. Takanori Gomi ruled a draw after bout goes the distance – stand-up rules (2x 3-minute rounds)
- Si Woo Park def. Rena Kubota via unanimous decision
- Seika Izawa def. Ayaka Hamasaki via TKO (punches and elbows) – Round 2, 1:49
- Koji Takeda def. “Blackpanther” Noah Bey via submission (armbar) – Round 2, 4:12
- Hideki Sekine def. Shoma Shibisai via TKO (hammerfists) – Round 2, 2:08
- Kyohei Hagiwara def. Hiroaki Suzuki via unanimous decision
- Ya-Man def. Kouzi via majority decision – kickboxing rules
- Shibatar def. Yuta Kubo via submission (armbar) – Round 1, 3:34
- Shinomu Ota def. Kazuma Sone via TKO (soccer kicks and foot stomps) – Round 2, 4:04
- Yuki Motoya def. Kintaro via unanimous decision – bantamweight grand prix alternate bout
- Hiromasa Ougikubo def. Naoki Inoue via unanimous decision – bantamweight grand prix semi-final
- Kai Asakura def. Kenta Takizawa via unanimous decision – bantamweight grand prix semi-final
- Kota Miura def. Yushi via TKO (soccer kick) – Round 1, 3:00
Photo credit: Rizin FF