Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic claims he plans to retire once again -- maybe even for good -- on New Year’s Eve in Japan. Not this year, though.
Filipovic, 43, returned to action exactly one year from his last competition, when he knocked out “Baruto” Kaido Hoovelson and Amir Aliakbari to win Rizin’s 2016 heavyweight grand prix. His 2017 duty was much lighter work as the former K-1 star needed only 62 seconds to vanquish 47-year-old Japanese MMA pioneer Tsuyoshi Kosaka at Rizin's grand prix finale at Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan.
The bout was halted by a ringside official, not Kosaka’s corner, who threw a towel into the ring to end the violent spiral.
Kosaka, who has fought just three times in the last 11 years, started the bout aggressively, stalking Filipovic and launching repeated overhand rights. As one would expect, the younger man and finer athlete quickly found his feet and turned a corner on a rushing “TK,” stunning him with a right hand. The Croatian then secured a rear waistlock along the ropes, feeding Kosaka right hands from behind. The Japanese fighter fell to the canvas, pulling guard, only to eat more heat from Filipovic. The vaunted left-leg kicker utilized his Ali-Inoki skills in this case, standing in the stunned Kosaka’s guard, smashing away until the ringside official’s towel throw just past the one-minute mark.
“Cro Cop” improves to 36-11-2 (1 NC). Over the last five years, the Croatian star has aborted multiple retirement stints. After his victory, Filipovic suggested that he would fight for Rizin again in 2018, culminating in another retirement contest on the next New Year’s Eve. Improbably, Filipovic has now won eight fights in a row, the longest winning streak of his 16-year MMA career.
Lightweight legend Takanori Gomi had a brief flash of his younger, more potent self, but it quickly dissipated as “The Fireball Kid” was extinguished by a triangle choke from Yusuke Yachi at 2:36 of the first round.
Gomi, 39, was quickly hurt by a right hand from Yachi, but as the Krazy Bee product looked to follow up, the former Pride Fighting Championship and Shooto world titlist stung his countryman with a short right hand, followed by a series of tight uppercuts. Whether knocked down legitimately or thinking it safer to play guard, Yachi wound up on his back and quickly found success: Gomi followed his foe to the floor, escaping an armbar attempt, then lackadaisically showing no awareness of a subsequent triangle choke attempt. Gomi simply froze in guard as Yachi adjusted his legs to earn the tap.
Gomi falls to 35-15 (1 NC) with the loss. He has now lost six straight bouts, all via stoppage in less than three minutes. Yachi, now 19-6, is riding a five-fight winning streak.
Flyweight prospect Shinju Nozawa-Auclair exorcised some amateur demons, armbarring Chelsea LaGrasse at 4:47 of Round 1. This past march, Nozawa-Auclair was disqualified in an ammy bout against LaGrasse for an illegal kick.
The 24-year-old Nozawa-Auclair, the daughter of comedian and musician Naoko Nozawa, had LaGrasse on the mat in a hurry, passed guard and rolled for an armbar. As LaGrasse sought to escape, “Juju” sat up and extended her opponent’s arm across her thighs to hyperextend the elbow for the submission.
Nineteen-year-old striking sensation Tenshin Nasukawa brutally breezed through Rizin’s four-man flyweight kickboxing tournament. In the semifinals, he routinely beat up Yuta Hamamoto before moving his target back to the ropes and unloading a beautiful flying knee that halted the contest at 4:58 of the second frame. In the finale, it took the standup wiz 87 seconds to destroy amateur boxing standout Yamato Fujita, dropping him three times with a bevy of beautiful left hooks and knees.
In his semifinal matchup, Fujita dominated Pancrase champion Mitsuhisa Sunabe for two rounds before melting him with an overhand left on the counterattack at 46 seconds of the third round.
Rizin Fighting Federation announced an attendance of 18,316 inside of Saitama Super Arena.