Hiromasa Ougikubo Upsets Kai Asakura, Wins Bantamweight GP at Rizin 33
The last Rizin Fighting Federation event in 2021 featured many upsets that went down at the legendary Saitama Super Arena in Japan on Dec. 31.
The main attraction at Rizin 33 was the 135-pound grand prix finale between Hiromasa Ougikubo and Kai Asakura. Both contenders had already competed on the bill once as Asakura defeated Kenta Takizawa (13-8, 3-3 Rizin) while Ougikubo upset Naoki Inoue (15-3, 5-1 Rizin) on the scorecards. “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 24 competitor Ougikubo (25-5-2, 7-2 Rizin) put his wrestling background to work against Asakura’s striking, dodging most of his opponent’s strikes and using his punches to set up takedowns. On the mat, Ougikubo landed excellent ground-and-pound all while forcing his opponent to carry his weight.
Asakura largely kept his opponent's assault at bay in Round 2, but Ougikubo answered with some heavy bombs in the final seconds. The third frame saw Asakura pushing forward for a finish as Ougikubo relied on takedowns to stifle the former champ’s offense. The last foray from Asakura (19-4, 11-3 Rizin) wasn’t enough to sway the ringside judges, who unanimously sided with Ougikubo. In addition to taking home the victory, Ougikubo avenged a loss at the hands of his opponent at Rizin 23 in August 2020. In the post-fight interview, a visibly emotional Ougikubo asked his girlfriend to marry him, sealing the deal on a day he will remember forever.
In the co-main event, Roberto de Souza tapped Yusuke Yachi and became one of the few Rizin champions to notch a successful title defense. “Satoshi” (13-1, 6-1 Rizin) moved the action to the canvas as soon as possible, displaying a wide array of submission attempts to his opponent’s dismay. Yachi (23-12, 8-6 Rizin) fought off the setups and seemed relatively unconcerned with the grappling prowess of the champ, but was constantly forced to defend the numerous submission attacks. Midway through Round 2, Souza chained together a sequence that started with a kimura, transitioned to a triangle choke and finished with an armbar. After attempting to resist for a few seconds, Yachi tapped as the official time indicated 3 minutes and 30 seconds. De Souza will ride a four-bout winning streak in his next assignment.
Earlier on the card, Mikuru Asakura (16-3, 1 NC; 10-2 Rizin) evened the score with Yutaka Saito (20-6-2, 3-2 Rizin) by routing his foe and picking up a unanimous decision; the boxing exhibition between kickboxing phenom Tenshin Nasukawa and former Pride Fighting Championships lightweight kingpin Takanori Gomi ended with a draw after six minutes of action; Deep vet Si Woo Park (6-4, 1-0 Rizin) laid claim to a unanimous decision win over Rena Kubota (12-4, 11-3 Rizin) in a shocker at 110 pounds.
Before the intermission, reigning Jewels strawweight beltholder Seika Izawa (5-0, 1-0 Rizin) scored a major upset by putting away current Rizin atomweight champion Ayaka Hamasaki (23-4, 9-2 Rizin) with elbows and punches at 2:50 of Round 2 in their non-title clash; Koji Takeda (13-2, 3-2 Rizin) submitted Noah Bey (1-2, 1-2 Rizin) with an armbar in the second round at 4:12; 48-year-old Hideki Sekine (11-5, 1-1 Rizin) pounded Shoma Shibisai (7-3, 1 NC; 3-2 Rizin) out with punches at the 2:09 mark in the second stanza; Kyohei Hagiwara (6-4, 5-2 Rizin) did enough to snag a unanimous decision over former One Championship title challenger Hiroaki Suzuki (1-1, 1-1 Rizin) in their featherweight affair.
In a 137-pound kickboxing barnburner, “Ya-Man” Ren Sugiyama outpointed “Kouzi” Koji Tanaka via majority decision; the 200-pound catchweight exhibition match between “Shibatar” Hikaru Saito and Yuta Kubo ended with Saito hitting a flying armbar in 94 seconds; at bantamweight, Olympic medalist Shinobu Ota (2-1, 2-1 Rizin) smashed Kazuma Sone (24-22-1, 0-4 Rizin) with vicious soccer kicks and stomps at the 3:55 mark in Round 2; in the alternate grand prix semifinal, Yuki Motoya (29-10-1, 1 NC; 6-5, 1 NC Rizin) defeated Yuto Hokamura (18-12-2, 2-3 Rizin) via unanimous consensus.
In the featherweight amateur battle that opened the event, Kota Miura stopped Yushi Sakura with a soccer kick followed by a punch at the last second of the first frame.
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