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Five Stars of RIZIN 10

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After five months away, RIZIN returned last night. And, to no one’s surprise, RIZIN 10 was worth the wait.

We didn’t witness the most finish-heavy show go down in Fukuoka this morning, but what we did see was spectacular nonetheless. The finishes we saw were incredible, and the three-round wars we saw were back-and-forth barnburners.

Stars of RIZIN 10

It’s hard to pick five standout performances from the card, but, let’s do it.

If you’ve yet to watch the card, change that. Watch it right here. And if you’re looking for a quick recap of all the action, check out the full results right here.

Let’s get started.

1. Kyoji Horiguchi

Topping off the list, it’s a no-brainer.

Kyoji Horiguchi headlined RIZIN 10 in Fukuoka opposite fellow top-ranked flyweight fighter “Uncle Creepy” Ian McCall.

On-paper, this was a high-level contest that was sure to be a good one. People were giving McCall a solid chance to defeat the red-hot Horiguchi – and for good reason.

Ian McCall’s terrible string of bad luck has been pretty well documented over the years. From most recently losing his RIZIN Grand-Prix fight to Manel Kape after cutting himself on the ring rope early in the fight, to having six fights be canceled in a two-year span – three due to McCall having pulled out and three due to his planned foe pulling out.

But prior to this terrible run, McCall was a stellar talent. Winning the Tachi Palace title before giving Demetrious Johnson everything he could handle in his first two UFC bouts, the first of which is a highly controversial draw that most had McCall winning.

But, regardless; when McCall decided to sign with RIZIN and fight in Japan, he did it almost solely due to the fact he wanted to fight Kyoji Horiguchi. It couldn’t happen last year in the Grand-Prix due to some unfortunate circumstances, but McCall got his wish at RIZIN 10.

Kyoji Horiguchi entered this fight with the most momentum he has had in his entire career. He left the UFC after three-straight wins, and since signing with RIZIN he has won five-straight. This includes four knockouts and last year’s Grand-Prix championship, winning three fights in two days.

Now, onto Horiguchi vs. McCall. There isn’t a whole lot to talk about here. The fight began, and as McCall looked to engage, Horiguchi dropped the American fighter with a left hook, and finished him.

Eight seconds. That’s all it took for Kyoji Horiguchi to stop Ian McCall. One could argue the stoppage came a bit early. But, it certainly was not a bad stoppage. McCall was out of it after the counter, hence him wrestling the ref and still looking very dazed when he got back to his feet. Early stoppage? Maybe. Bad stoppage? Absolutely not.

The fact of the matter is, at 27-years-old, how is Kyoji Horiguchi not the second best flyweight on planet earth. He went 24 minutes and 59 seconds with Demetrious Johnson during Johnson’s insane title-defense streak. And that was in 2015.

Horiguchi has not lost since that aforementioned DJ fight and has won nine-straight since. He was nowhere near the fighter he is today back then. After knocking out McCall, he took to the microphone to call-out kickboxing superstar Tenshin Nasukawa.

Ian McCall has faced Demetrious Johnson, Joseph Benavidez, and John Lineker. None of them could knock him out – or finish him. Well, Horiguchi did… in eight-seconds. That alone is enough to warrant this top spot.

2. Daron Cruickshank

At RIZIN 10, Daron Cruickshank made his return against Shooto Lightweight Champion; Koshi Matsumoto.

Matsumoto entered the contest with a record of 19-7. Funnily enough, he trains with Satoru Kitaoka – who holds a recent win over Daron Cruickshank. During the lead-up Matsumoto revealed that Kitaoka told him “Daron’s strikes hurt, so be careful.”

Much like Kitaoka, the Shooto title-holder is primarily a grappler – having 8 wins via submission and 4 via knockout. Despite this, Matsumoto said he felt obligated to stand with Daron Cruickshank due to the American being a striker. So, let’s see if that strategy works for him.

It doesn’t.

Daron Cruickshank walked out to the soothing sound of Hulk Hogan’s WWE entrance theme, yet again rocking all-USA clothing during his entrance.

The phenomenal Michigan-based kickboxer came into the bout with a record of 19-10, oozing with confidence. After losing his last two RIZIN fights, Cruickshank referred to Matsumoto as an “old, weathered fighter,” despite him being just two years his junior.

From the opening bell onward, the stark difference in the striking between the two was evident. Daron Cruickshank landed more, and he landed harder. The finish came late in round one as the fighters clinched near the corner. Cruickshank got the dominant position after a brief barrage.

From there, he threw a knee at the face of Matsumoto before breaking the clinch. And as the two separated from the clinch, Cruickshank uncorked with a devastating left headkick, sleeping Matsumoto before he hit the ground.

Daron Cruickshank emerges victorious, and with quite a big win under his belt. In terms of quality Matsumoto might be Cruickshank’s most impressive win since leaving the UFC. There is no telling who Daron Cruickshank will fight next, but it’s a guarantee that we’re gonna see another fun performance and/or fight – win, lose, or draw.

This KO win came over a quality Japanese champion, and it earns Daron the spot of #2 on this list.

3. Kai Asakura vs. Manel Kape

Up next is one of two fights that make the list. It’s not one individual fighters performance that earns this spot – and one more on this list. It’s the stellar showing from both involved that put them here.

Here we have a fight between 24-year-old bantamweight sluggers Kai Asakura and Manel Kape.

Manel Kape has quickly become known in the MMA world for his brash attitude and very solid MMA game. He made his RIZIN debut in 2017 as part of the Bantamweight Grand-Prix. After a quick KO win over Erson Yamamoto, he defeated Ian McCall in the quarter-finals. This was after Kape and McCall exchanged some strikes at the weigh-ins.

Kape then lost his first bout in the last four years against eventual tournament winner Kyoji Horiguchi. But it is absolutely worth noting that Kape had two and a half hard-fought rounds against Horiguchi before he was submitted. Showing he is absolutely a very high-level fighter.

Kai Asakura is a veteran of the famed THE OUTSIDER promotion in Japan. His sole loss took place under the ROAD FC banner in a war against Je Hoon Moon. After starching Kizaemon Saiga in his RIZIN debut, Asakura brings his 9-1 record to the ring to take on the 9-2 record of Manel Kape. Heading into the match-up, Kape has 8 finishes opposite Asakura’s 9.

As the fight begins, things are tense between the two after some hostile exchanges at the weigh-ins. Both men are ferocious strikers intent on ending this in the first round. Spoiler alert, no first-round finish. But they put on one helluva fight.

Kai Asakura opens the round with a legkick, which Kape eventually responds to with a takedown attempt that is shrugged off. The speed showcased early is insane, as both guys are looking to lunge in and out and land the power shots that they are known for, yet both do so in such different fashion.

As they met in the center, Manel Kape catches Asakura with a straight-right as he tries to engage. This is the most significant shot of the fight thus far as it sends Asakura reeling backward before Kape throws a flying knee. By this point, Asakura seems fully recovered. But Kape keeps the pressure on, utilizing an excellent jab. After landing a few nice uppercuts from the clinch, Kape begins to really put the pressure on Asakura with an onslaught of strikes.

Asakura clinched up with Kape in order to avoid any more damage, but this did him no favors. As Kape slammed him to the mat. He looked for the guillotine while on top, but Kai Asakura used this to reverse position and stand back up.

Back on the feet, a confident Kape started to taunt Asakura, but the Japanese striker caught Kape with a right hook that sent him into panic mode.

Manel Kape got another takedown, but this time it was Asakura who locked in a guillotine choke. It was very temporary, and Kape quickly escaped and locked in a guillotine of his own before the two stood up again.

Asakura throws Manel Kape to the mat but doesn’t follow him. Instead, he stays standing and launches a soccer kick and grounded knee to the head of Kape. When they get back into the striking exchanges, Kape is still taunting Asakura. The round ends and we get more antics from Kape, who blows a kiss at Asakura after staring him down after the bell.

As round two begins, Kai Asakura takes the center of the ring immediately. Both fighters start with a very strategic approach to the round, but Kape began his taunts very quickly. Kai lands a nice kick to the body and follows it up with a 1-2.

The Angolan responds with a legkick and throws a huge right hand that is narrowly avoided by Asakura. This miss, essentially, left Kape looking at the ropes with Asakura behind him. Kape made the most of it, however. As he proceeded to, well, hump the ropes.

When the two engage again, Asakura throws a flying knee but is swatted out of midair by Manel Kape, who lands a nice combination on a bloody target.

Just about two minutes into the round, Kai Asakura secures a nice double-leg takedown. Immediately he passes to side control, but Manel Kape is holding onto the neck of Asakura. Basically putting himself into a von flue choke waiting to happen. Luckily for him, Asakura really doesn’t pursue the von flue, he instead focuses on freeing his head from Kape’s clutches.

Closing into having spent two minutes on top, Asakura hasn’t mounted much offense since securing the takedown. In the final 60-seconds, some short punches land. Before the bell, he works in a grounded knee, a soccer kick, and a flying headstomp – like old-school Mauricio “Shogun” Rua!

No antics at the end of round two. They simply slap hands and go to their respective corners to prep for the third and final round.

Throughout the entirety of the fight, both men switch their stance alot. But Asakura really seems to only fight from orthodox, whereas Kape is far more unpredictable and fights from both. He opens the round with multiple stance changes before shooting in for a double leg, but he caught a flush knee to the ribs in the process.

The stabbing knee to the ribs makes Kape visibly start to lower his hands a bit to cover his body as Asakura barely misses on a headkick before eating a left body kick from Kape. Kai Asakura goes for an ankle pick but Kape maintains balance. While still holding his leg, the Japanese slugger hammers the Angolan with a right-hook.

Manel Kape is doing a great job cutting the ring off in round three, not allowing Asakura to his use lateral movement as much as he’d probably like. Through the majority of the round, they both exchange some powerful punches from the pocket before separating briefly to recover and do it all over again in a few seconds.

Both guys looked as if they know that the fight so far has been very close and that the winner will very likely be who closes out the strongest in round three. Kape repays Asakura for the knee he ate earlier by catching Kai with a knee to the ribs as he came in to throw some looping punches.

Kai Asakura appears rejuvenated in round three, whereas Manel Kape seems to be slowing down. He just visibly does not have the seem pep in his step as previous rounds, and the Japanese prospect is able to win the majority of the exchanges because of this.

Round three came to an end with Kape taunting and yelling “Ayyyyyy, Asakura’s a b*tch!”

When the decision is read, Kai Asakura gets the nod via split decision. Manel Kape was furious by this, but I am not quite sure how. In RIZIN, fights are scored as a whole. No round scoring. The judges view the fight as a whole and determine a winner. And Manel Kape gave that fight away during the latter half of this fight.

I gave the fight to Asakura, personally. But do not get it twisted. The fight was close.

Regardless, this was an awesome fifteen minute battle between two of RIZIN’s finest prospects. It had a slow round three, but round’s one and two were fantastic.

This win is Kai Asakura’s biggest to date. Now, two men in the past four years have been able to defeat Manel Kape: Kyoji Horiguchi and Kai Asakura. So he is in elite company.

4. Yusuke Yachi vs. Diego Nunes

Next up is another fight – not an individual fighter.

At lightweight, streaking RIZIN contender Yusuke Yachi took on red-hot UFC, WEC veteran; Diego “The Gun” Nunes.

On-paper, this was one of those most anticipated fights on the card – much like the other fight listed at #3 – and much like that other fight, it delivered.

Krazy Bee’s Yusuke Yachi took time out of getting drunk with PRIDE legend Takanori Gomi to make it to the fights. And we thank him for that. At just 27-years-old the Japanese striker has really started to come into his own as a fighter. He possesses a record of 19-6 and after going to decision in the majority of his initial MMA bouts, Yachi has become quite the finisher. He has finished four of his last five opponents, including Daron Cruickshank, Satoru Kitaoka, and Takanori Gomi.

Opposite the former Shooto Pacific Rim and PXC Lightweight Champion will be Brazil’s Diego “The Gun” Nunes. At 22-7, Nunes has had his ups and downs in Bellator MMA, the UFC, and WEC. But as of late he has won three-straight, including a Superior Challenge title win.

Early on we saw Diego Nunes doing Diego Nunes things. Swarming Yachi with a whirlwind of hooks in other to get a hold of him and put the pressure his opponent. Yachi broke out of the clinch relatively quickly, though. After landing a thunderous knee to the head of Nunes.

The remainder of round one saw fun striking between the two. Nunes utilizing kicks opposite Yachi’s boxing-heavy offense. Both found success at points. Yachi was employing an old-school Gomi-esque gameplan. Able to land some nice shots in the pocket, but quick enough to get back out in order to disallow Nunes to do the same.

Later in the round, Yachi threw a left headkick that just barely grazed the top of Nunes‘ head. But immediately afterward, Nunes started to hold his right hand just a little bit higher on defense, so clearly he knew that that’s a tough kick to withstand if it lands fully.

Immediately in round two, fists began flying.

The two touch gloves, as they seem to be gaining all the respect in the world for one another. Nunes swarms yet again with wild hooks, but Yachi survives and manages to clip him a few times amidst all the chaos.

Shortly after this exchange, we saw Yusuke Yachi showcase some incredible takedown defense. Diego Nunes waded in with another swarm to close the distance, again clinching up with Yachi. But this time he  tried to take Yachi to the mat, but the Krazy Bee fighter defended with relative ease in a seriously impressive display.

Another crazy exchange happens before Nunes goes for the takedown. He worked on it for a few seconds but in the end, it was Yachi who reversed position and put Nunes on his back. He quickly worked his way into a mount, albeit very briefly, before Nunes attacked the leg and went for a kneebar.

Yachi was wise to it and avoided the hold while attacking with punches, but eventually, Nunes did get a better position and it was looking dangerous. Yachi fought out of this, as well.

As the two stood up, finally it was Diego Nunes who got the takedown he has been looking for. He spent a bit more time in top position but didn’t really mount much offense. And Yachi used the ropes to get back to his feet.

In the final minute of round two, the wild exchanges began again. And as Yachi backed Nunes up with heavy knees and punches he flew through the air for a flying knee and ended up falling to the mat as a result. When Nunes went to capitalize on this situation, Yachi connected flush on two upkicks. The latter of the two visibly did damage.

Nunes was bloody, but for the final forty-seconds, he maintained top position as he closed out the round with a few nice punches. The round ends with him looking very fatigued

Yachi opens up the third round with a body kick, Nunes responds with a few kicks of his own. As the Brazilian started to throw his signature barrage, Yachi caught him with a clean right-hook to stop him in his tracks. As Nunes clinched and began to work in the corner, Yachi turned him and got another takedown. But very quickly Nunes hit the switch and got back to his feet.

After some more work from the clinch, the two separate only for Diego Nunes to rush back into the pocket and land a very nice flying knee. Yachi sprints to the center to recover and Nunes follows to throw yet another flying knee, this one doesn’t land as flush.

The tide begins to turn a bit in Nunes‘ favor as he gets another takedown and does some work from guard. The two stand back up and the exchanges start up one final time. Right before the bell to signal the end of the fight, Yachi rocked Nunes with a right-hand during the final exchange of the fight.

It was a fantastic fight between two high-level lightweights. But in the end, two judges gave the fight to Yusuke Yachi while just one gave it to Diego Nunes. Meaning the winner by split decision is Yusuke Yachi.

Given Diego Nunes’ resume, it’s yet another high-profile win for Yachi. He showed a lot of adversity here while still looking solid, and his stock goes up with a big sixth-straight win.

As for Nunes, he had plenty of moments as well. But, above all else, he showcased that he is an exciting fighter. And the Japanese fans value that more than wins. So he will surely be welcomed back to RIZIN, and that is good for everyone.

5. Tenshin Nasukawa

If you are not familiar with Tenshin Nasukawa, you probably should be.

At just 19-years-old, the kid is a true phenom. He boasts a record of 4-0 in MMA and, following RIZIN 10, he improved to an insane 30-0 in kickboxing.

Sadly, opposite the phenomenal striker, was yet another MMA fighter in a RIZIN kickboxing bout.

Fighting out of Team Alpha Male Japan, Yusaku Nakamura is a former DEEP and WSOF Global world champion. He holds a record of 14-5-1 in MMA and is primarily a striker, but he had never had a pro kickboxing fight prior to the fight Tenshin fight. So… helluva debut.

The entirety of round one featured Tenshin Nasukawa unsurprisingly lighting Nakamura up in between Yusaku Nakamura’s many, many takedown attempts. Yes. Takedown attempts. In a kickboxing match. I don’t know who expected anything less given the matchmaking.

This was a showcase fight for Tenshin and not even a subtle one.

Nasukawa did show some moments of brilliance in round one, though. As he closed out the round with an impossibly fast rolling thunder of sorts.

In round two, the real beatdown began. Nasukawa scored a knockdown thirty-seconds into the round with a thunderous 1-2 combo, but Nakamura would get back to his feet. Just 40-seconds later Nasukawa scored another knockdown with a nice straight left. Nakamura answered the count, stood back up, and immediately got tagged with another straight-left.

This sent him crashing to the canvas once more, and that is it. Tenshin Nasukawa, to no one’s surprise, dominated Yusaku Nakamura and scores a stoppage in round two.

This must be said. RIZIN needs to give Tenshin better competition. With all due respect to Yusaku Nakamura, this was a silly fight to make. Hell, if you insist on having this fight, do it under MMA rules.

Tenshin Nasukawa is a phenomenal talent, and he fighting some very good competition in RISE. So there is no reason he can’t do the same in RIZIN. There is one Tenshin vs. MMA fighter match-up that myself and every other fan would allow: Tenshin Nasukawa vs. Kyoji Horiguchi. Anything else is silly, that is why it earns spot #5.

Credit to Yusaku Nakamura for taking the fight. And props to Tenshin Nasukawa who showed why he is a huge star in Japan at just 19-years-old… despite the competition, or lack there of.

To wrap it up, RIZIN 10 was great. Beyond these five stars, there was plenty more to offer.

A great return from Kanako Murata, some strong heavyweight debuts, a great atomweight scrap between all-time great Ayaka Hamasaki and massive underdog Alyssa Garcia, the return of Kanna Asakura.

RIZIN 10 was a fantastic show from top to bottom.

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