Japanese MMA promotion Rizin FF ended the decade by crowning two new champions at its traditional end-of-year event Tuesday at the Saitama Super Arena.
The main event of the evening saw Portuguese pocket rocket Manel Kape stun favored Japanese star Kai Asakura in the second round to capture the bantamweight title vacated earlier in the year by the injured Kyoji Horiguchi.
After Asakura’s stunning one-round demolition of the champion in a non-title fight at Rizin FF 18, many believed the Japanese challenger (14-2) was the natural successor to Horiguchi’s throne, but the explosive Kape (15-4) had other ideas, as he imposed his will on the bout from the opening bell and did not relent until the referee had waved off the action 38 seconds into the second round.
Kape started out the aggressor as he looked to blitz in and land heavy punches, while Asakura seemed content to work from the outside and catch his opposite number as he stepped into rage. But it was Kape who had the better of the opening round as he landed a succession of big punches, plus an eye-catching head kick, in a high-energy opening frame.
After finding himself largely on the receiving end through the first five minutes, Asakura came out of his corner for Round 2 looking to take control of the exchanges as he upped his aggression level. But things went spectacularly wrong for the Japanese star as, after stepping in and connecting with a two-punch combination, he was badly dropped by a powerful counter from Kape. The AKA Thailand man then followed his opponent to the mat and battered him with ground strikes until referee Jason Herzog decided he had seen enough and waved off the fight inside the opening minute of the round.
Also crowned a new champion was South Korea’s Seo Hee Ham, who produced a superb all-round performance to defeat reigning super atomweight champion Ayaka Hamasaki via split decision after three rounds.
Ham (23-8) came out swinging in the first round, then had Hamasaki trapped in a triangle choke for more than two minutes of Round 2, as she pushed hard to finish the defending champion. But Hamasaki (19-3) held on and survived the round, leaving Ham struggling to walk back to her corner due to the lactic acid build-up in her legs from her extended submission attempt.
But any thoughts of the South Korean challenger suffering were put to bed early in the third, as the pair went toe-to-toe in the center of the ring. Hamasaki eventually took the action to the mat and had Ham pinned to the canvas, taking shots, but referee Herzog saw the strikes weren’t concussive or damaging, and allowed the fight to go all the way to the scorecards.
And when the judges’ verdicts were read, it was a slightly surprised and very emotional Ham whose hand was raised in victory, as she avenged her loss to Hamasaki in Japanese female promotion Jewels eight years earlier.
Full Rizin FF 20 live results include:
- Manel Kape def. Kai Asakura via TKO (punches) – Round 2, 0:38 – claims vacant bantamweight title (photos)
- Seo Hee Ham def. Ayaka Hamasaki via split decision – for women’s super atomweight title (photos)
- Mikuru Asakura def. John Teixeira via unanimous decision (photos)
- Rena Kubota def. Lindsey VanZandt via TKO (corner stoppage) – Round 3, 4:42 (photos)
- Tofiq Musaev def. Patricky Freire via unanimous decision – lightweight grand prix final (photos)
- Jiri Prochazka def. C.B. Dollaway via knockout (punch) – Round 1, 1:55 – defends light heavyweight title (photos)
- Simon Biyong def. Vitaly Shemetov via TKO (submission due to strikes) – Round 2, 0:58 (photos)
- Hiromasa Ogikubo def. Shintaro Ishiwatari via split decision (photos)
- Jake Heun def. Satoshi Ishii via TKO (punches) – Round 1, 1:12 (photos)
- Patrick Mix def. Yuki Motoya via submission (guillotine choke) – Round 1, 1:36 (photos)
- Miyuu Yamamoto def. Suwanan Boonsorn via unanimous decision (photos)
- Patricky Freire def. Luiz Gustavo via TKO (punches and soccer kick) – Round 1, 0:28 – lightweight grand prix semifinal (photos)
- Tofiq Musaev def. Johnny Case via TKO (punches) – Round 1, 2:46 – lightweight grand prix semifinal (photos)
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