Kai Asakura Outstrikes Alan Yamaniha, Advances to Grand Prix Semifinals at Rizin 30

By Tudor Leonte Sep 19, 2021

Eight men collided at the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan, on Sunday in hopes of eventually earning a shot at Rizin Fighting Federation bantamweight titleholder Kyoji Horiguchi’s belt. Now only four of those athletes are one step closer to that goal.

The Rizin 30 main card featured all four quarterfinal bouts of the Japanese promotion’s bantamweight grand grix. In the main event, former 135-pound kingpin Kai Asakura (18-3, 10-2 Rizin) extended his winning streak to two after defeating Alan Yamaniha (18-9-4, 1-1 Rizin) via unanimous decision. Both contenders started strong in the first couple of minutes in Round 1, as the 27-year-old Asakura aimed for “Hiro”’s body with wide right hooks and mixed it up with shots to the face, while his opponent attempted to rip the Tri-force Akasaka export’s head off his shoulders. After several hard exchanges, it become clear that Asakura’s striking skills were superior, although Yamaniha held his own.

The second stanza saw an unintentional low blow from Yamaniha halt the contest for a few seconds. After Asakura recovered, the Brazilian worked hard to take his opponent down. For a split second, the 35-year-old was able to accomplish that goal, but the former divisional champion bounced back and retaliated with his overhand. “Hiro” regained energy for some stubborn takedown attempts in the third frame, but there was no way to keep Asakura on the mat, as the Japanese standout stuffed his opponent's takedowns and scored precious points with his hands. After three action-packed rounds, the younger brother of Mikuru Asakura won the grinding battle via unanimous decision.

In the co-headliner, Ultimate Fighting Championship alum Naoki Inoue locked horns with Yuto Hokamura. The 24-year-old Inoue (15-2, 5-0 Rizin) made the most out of his longer reach, moving in and out from “Kintaro”’s guard with his jab and finishing his combinations with calf kicks. Hokamura (18-11-2, 2-2 Rizin) evened the score with power shots, but he could hardly match the head movement and the footwork of the Hakushinkai Karate representative. The calf kicks were the most lethal weapon in Inoue’s arsenal as Hokamura entered the third round with a battered lead leg. Sensing that he was losing on the scorecards, the Pancrase Inagakigumi standout swung wide with haymakers, missing his target most of the time but forcing his opponent to fight on his back foot as the contest concluded. Ultimately, all three ringside judges rewarded Inoue with a unanimous decision victory.

In the remaining two quarterfinals, “The Ultimate Fighter Season 24” competitor Hiromasa Ougikubo (23-5-2, 5-2 Rizin) laid claim to a unanimous decision over T-Grip Tokyo rep Takafumi Otsuka (29-18-2, 3-2 Rizin), and Kenta Takizawa (13-7, 3-2 Rizin) put away Yuki Motoya (28-10-1 1NC, 5-5 1NC Rizin) with a flurry of punches that stopped the contest via technical knockout at the 2:27 mark in Round 1.

During the intermission, the Japanese promotion honored former bantamweight King of Pancrase Shintaro Ishiwatari, who hung up his MMA gloves after 39 fights. He recently suffered back-to-back defeats at the hands of Ougikubo and Inoue, but he mentioned neck injuries as the main reason for retirement.

In the featured bout on the preliminary card, speed and an accurate right hook spurred atomweight queen Ayaka Hamasaki (23-3, 9-1 Rizin) to a unanimous decision over Emi Fujino (25-12 1 NC, 0-1 Rizin) in their non-title rematch.

Prior to that, Krazy Bee’s Yusuke Yachi (23-11, 8-5 Rizin) scored his second consecutive decision victory after outpointing Koji Takeda (12-2, 2-2 Rizin) at lightweight; Yoshinori Horie (11-3, 2-0 Rizin) took a unanimous decision victory from long-time UFC vet Yuta Sasaki (23-9-2, 2-3 Rizin) at featherweight; Olympic medalist Shinobu Ota (1-1, 1-1 Rizin) gained his first MMA victory after upending former K-1 welterweight champion Yuta Kubo (0-1, 0-1 Rizin); and Shoji Maruyama (17-14-1, 1-1 Rizin) crushed Chihiro Suzuki (5-3, 0-1 Rizin) with punches 20 seconds into their featherweight affair.

The card opened with the first women's kickboxing bout in promotional history, where 27-year-old sensation Rina Okamoto outpointed Momoka Mandokoro at atomweight.

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