Rizin Fighting Federation returns to action on September 27 at the Saitama Super Arena, their third event since resuming on August 9th following the COVID-19 pandemic.
Rizin 24 is headlined by a 58.5kg catchweight kickboxing bout between 22-year-old prodigy Tenshin Nasukawa and former ISKA lightweight world champion, 31-year-old Koji Tanaka.
The co-feature of the mixed card, featuring both MMA and kickboxing bouts, pits Kai Asakura (15–2) against Shoji Maruyama (18–12–1) in an all-Japan bantamweight MMA bout.
I’ll do my best to analyse and predict the card:
Catchweight (58.5kg) kickboxing: Tenshin Nasukawa (37–0) vs. Koji Tanaka (28–13–2)
Tenshin Nasukawa is most recognisable to western audiences for his first round TKO loss to Floyd Mayweather in an exhibition boxing bout back in 2018. However in Japan, he is still a huge star. He is still undefeated in his preferred discipline of kickboxing, however there have been criticisms of his level of competition. Most of his bouts to date have been arranged to showcase his skills and add to his highlight reel.
Nasukawa is fighting for the second time in 2020, his last outing a first round TKO win over Yuki Kasahar at the RISE on ABEMA event in July.
Koji Tanaka, presents a reasonably well-credentialled opponent for Nasukawa. The 31-year-old is a former ISKA world champion, although he usually campaigns at lightweight. He has agreed to a catchweight in order to secure the opportunity against Tenshin. Tanaka comes to Rizin 24 off the back of 3 straight wins in K1, the most recent a knockout win over Seiya Kawahara back in November 2019.
Tanaka will provide a stiffer test than Tenshin’s previous opponents, he also has not been stopped since 2011. Tanaka will use his experience to give Tenshin some problems, however Tenshin has more tools at his disposal and once he finds his range, should prove too quick for the veteran Tanaka.
Prediction: Nasukawa by decision
Rizin Bantamweight Championship(61kg) MMA: Kai Asakura (15–2) vs. Shoji Maruyama (18–12–1)
In the event’s featured MMA contest, Kai Asakura will look to defend his Rizin bantamweight championship for the first time, building on his August knockout win over UFC veteran Hiromasa Ogikubo. Asakura’s main claim to fame is his upset win over Japanese superstar Kyoji Horiguchi back in August 2019. Asakura takes significant momentum into the bout, going 7–1 in his last 8 contests, the only setback a knockout loss to UFC-bound Manel Kape in December.
Shoji Maruyama for his part, is a 37-year-old veteran, riding a 2 fight win streak of his own since a loss to Takeya Mizugaki back in May 2019. He is a former lightweight King of Pancrase, however his best days appear behind him, his record stands at 10–10–1 in the 12 years since his last appearance in Pancrase. Maruyama’s last outing was a knockout win over Kosuke Terashima in August.
This bout should also prove to be a showcase for the 26-year-old Asakura, 11 years the junior of his opponent. Crossroads bouts such as this typically go the way of the younger competitor, and I expect this to be no exception. Maruyama is a dangerous puncher, however Asakura is the more rounded competitor. The fight will be entertaining while it lasts, but I expect Asakura to land the more telling blows.
Prediction: Asakura by knockout
Lightweight (71kg) MMA: Koji Takeda (10–1) vs. Yuki Kawana (16–4–5)
Prediction: Kawana by decision
Lightweight (71kg) MMA: Takasuke Kume (23–6–3) vs. Satoru Kitaoka (42–20–10)
Prediction: Kume by knockout
Catchweight (55kg) kickboxing: Mutsuki Ebata (37–5–3) vs. Rasta (record unavailable)
Prediction: Rasta by knockout
Bantamweight (61kg) MMA: Yuto Hokamura (13–8–2) vs. Kenta Takizawa (10–5)
Prediction: Takizawa by knockout
Womens Stawweight (52kg) MMA: Rena Kubota (10–3) vs. Emi Tomimatsu (15–16)
Rena Kubota is always a big drawcard in Japan, so her inclusion in the lineup is important to bolster any event. The 29-year-old shootboxing specialist come to Rizin 24 off the back of a 2-fight win streak, her most recent outing a TKO win over Invicta and Bellator veteran Lindsey VanZandt back in December, avenging her previous loss at Bellator 222.
Tomimatsu is a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu specialist, stepping up a weight class from atomweight (48kg) to take on Kubota. The 38-year-old veteran has lost her last 2, the most recent a decision loss to Yoon Ha Hong in Road FC back in December.
Although Tomimatsu could give Kubota problems, given her experience and grappling background, this bout it likely to be a showcase for Kubota. Kubota will have to fend off the takedown, but I expect her to keep the bout standing long enough to pick apart Tomimatsu on the feet.
Prediction: Kubota by decision
Featherweight (66kg) MMA: Takahiro Ashida (23–10–2) vs. Kyohei Hagiwara (1–2)
Prediction: Ashida by decision
Heavyweight (120kg) MMA: Tsuyoshi Sudario (pro debut) vs. Dylan James (pro debut)
Prediction: Sudairo by decision
Catchweight (60kg) kickboxing: Yuki Kitagawa (record unavailable) vs. Taishi Hiratsuka (record unavailable)
Prediction: Hiratsuka by knockout
Lightweight (71kg) MMA: Yusuke Yachi (21–10) vs. Juri Ohara (26–18–3)
Prediction: Yachi by decision