Kyoji Horiguchi is one of the very best flyweights on the planet. After conquering Rizin Fighting Federation’s 2017 grand prix in style, he is one of the best bantamweights to boot.
On Sunday, inside of Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan, the 27-year-old Horiguchi blasted 135-pound King of Pancrase Shintaro Ishiwatari in the final of Rizin’s 2017 bantamweight grand prix. After punching out beloved “Cinderella Boy” Hideo Tokoro in July, Horiguchi prevailed over previously unbeaten Brazilian prospect Gabriel Leite de Oliveira this past Friday with another first-round knockout to move onto the semifinal round.
Horiguchi had little trouble in dominating Manel Kape in his semifinal contest, tapping the Portugal-based Angolan at 4:27 of the third round with an arm-triangle choke. Ishiwatari punched his ticket to the final round by earning a unanimous decision over gritty veteran Takafumi Otsuka in a free-swinging brawl in the semis.
For the first three minutes of their finals bout, the former Shooto 132-pound world champion worked a hands-down, feinting style in hopes of baiting Ishiwatari into engaging, which he largely resisted. Late in the opening frame, Horiguchi caught an Ishiwatari low kick, charged him into the ropes and tackled him to the mat, pounding away. When Ishiwatari found his feet in the round’s dying seconds, he swung with reckless abandon, only to be lanced by right-cross counters from Horiguchi.
The conclusion came not long after the second stanza began: in the first real exchange, Ishiwatari stalked Horiguchi and threw a right cross which was far slower than the latter’s counter. Horiguchi’s right cross crumbled Ishiwatari to his knees in the corner and the American Kickboxing Academy rep followed up with the fight-ending coffin nails. Referee Minoru Toyonaga intervened 14 seconds into Round 2.
With his pair of stoppage wins on the evening, Horiguchi moves to 23-2 as a professional and on top of his fight purses, he collects an extra 10 million yen - - approximately $88,700 USD - - for his efforts. Horiguchi has now won eight in a row, with his last loss coming in his flyweight Ultimate Fighting Championship title challenge against Demetrious Johnson in April 2015. Runner up Ishiwatari earned an additional 3 million yen, which is roughly $26,610.
Asakura Upsets Kubota and Emerges as Atom Star
Rizin’s women’s 108-pound grand prix was designed to create a superstar in Rena Kubota. Instead, it was another Japanese upstart who got the shine as 20-year-old Kanna Asakura upset the striking star in the tournament final, choking her out in the first round.
Both women were outstanding in their semifinal appearances. Kubota needed just 4:39 to clobber Spain’s Irene Cabello Rivera on the feet, while Asakura used her stalwart wrestling to ground stiff-striking Brazilian Maria de Oliveira Neta, eventually armbarring her at 3:40 of the second round.
From the outset, Kubota stalked her foe and sought to land her signature body-head combinations but Asakura was waiting with well-timed level changes and beautiful takedown attempts. Her first double-leg takedown put Kubota on the mat briefly, but the four-time Shoot Boxing S-Cup was quickly to kick her opponent off and scramble to her feet. She was able to stuff Asakura’s next two takedown attempts, but another powerful, well-timed double put Kubota on the mat. The minute she tried to scramble to her knees, Asakura deftly took her back in one fell swoop and quickly sunk the rear-naked choke, forcing her foe’s face into the mat and choking her unconscious at 4:34 of the opening round.
Asakura collects an extra 7 million yen for her bracket victory, or approximately $78,120 USD. Kubota suffers her first MMA loss, falling to 6-1, while Asakura improves to 11-2, having won six consecutive contests, all in 2017. The Paraestra Matsudo product turned pro in October 2014 as a 17-year-old teenager.
Kubota for her second-place finish nabs an extra 2 million yen, or $22,320 USD.
The announced attendance at Saitama Super Arena was 18,316.