Five Stars of RIZIN 11

© RIZIN FF

After a few months away, RIZIN Fighting Federation returned over the weekend and somehow blew everyone’s expectations away with RIZIN 11.

As mentioned countless times, the event is – without question – one of the best we’ve seen in 2018 so far.

We saw tremendous fights, insane finishes, and everything in between as RIZIN once again took over the Saitama Super Arena. From highly-anticipated rematches to sensational last-minute performances, RIZIN 11 truly had a little bit of everything.

Five Stars of RIZIN 11

It’s hard to pick five standout performances when on this ten-fight card, nine fighters/fights could easily take any spot on this list. But let’s try.

If you’ve yet to watch this card, you must. Do so right here. You will not be disappointed.

Before going any further, check out the Five Stars of RIZIN 10, as you just may see some familiar names. Let’s get started.


1. Takanori Gomi

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On one hand, if you’re looking at the grand scheme of things, this fight wasn’t “worth” as much as most of the others on the card. No bad-blood to settle, no win streaks to be snapped, no potential title implications.

Despite this, it was a must win for both men. As both Takanori Gomi and Melvin Guillard were on, by far, the worst losing streaks of their career. With Gomi losing in the first-round in six-straight, and Guillard being winless in his last eight fights – spanning multiple weight classes.

A decade ago, this fight would have been one of the best lightweight fights ever. Two heavy-hitters, and two men who were famous for knocking people unconscious.

But, in late 2018? It was a must-win fight for both. This is why it was so intriguing.

A vast majority of fighters in the situation that both of these men were put in would play it incredibly safe. Valuing a win above all else. Not these two. They made a name for themselves years ago by being two of the most exciting fighters in the world. And they fought as such.

It was a one-round war that began to look like Gomi was about to lose. Yet on the brink of defeat, the Japanese legend turned up his aggressiveness and knocked out Melvin Guillard against the ropes.

It was one of the most tremendous sights in recent memory as we saw Takanori Gomi win a fight, and celebrate using his signature celebration he was known for in his PRIDE days.

This was the high-spot of the night for virtually everyone watching. The Saitama Super Arena came unglued at the site of the longtime PRIDE FC champion winning, as did the fans at home. It was impossible to watch this and not get goosebumps, as Takanori Gomi improves his legendary record to 36-15. picking up his first win since 2014, and his first knockout since 2012.

2. Diego Brandão

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Coming into Japan whilst still under contract with Fight Nights Global, heavy-hitting Brazilian slugger Diego Brandão was thrown right into the deep end of RIZIN’s lightweight division.

He took on a near-70-fight veteran in the form of Satoru Kitaoka, a man who has beaten the likes of Carlos Condit, Daron Cruickshank, Takanori Gomi, and Paul Daley, to name a few.

Kitaoka has some nice chokes, but his leg locks are absolutely deadly. And about one minute into his fight against Brandão, he was looking to attack the leg of the Brazilian while on the ground.

As Kitaoka started to work for a heel hook, Brandão seemed to remember that defense is the best offense. Rather than fighting the hands of the always dangerous Japanese Ace, Brandão began to pound the face of Kitaoka with heavy punches. Eventually putting him unconscious.

It was a shocking win, but also a massive one.

Satoru Kitaoka is a man who has been able to put the likes of Carlos Condit away thanks to his leg locks. So for Brandão to even survive that position is a big deal. But to put Kitaoka away in such devastating fashion – in 90-seconds mind you?

Satoru Kitaoka took an absolute beating from Daron Cruickshank and still managed to come back and finish the American. His toughness is undeniable. But Diego Brandão managed to put him away, in quick and brutal fashion.

Brandão is hell-bent on becoming the second coming of PRIDE Wanderlei Silva, and he picks up yet another highlight-reel KO to improve his record to 23-12.

3. Daron Cruickshank

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I am not ashamed to admit that, heading into this fight, I was incredibly high on Tom Santos.

After watching his showings in Pancrase and ROAD FC, he seemed to be a genuine threat to a guy like Daron Cruickshank. I won’t go as far as saying that I believed Santos was a lock, necessarily. Because I recognized that “The Detroit Superstar” was a big step-up for Santos. But, at the very least, I thought Tom Santos would put forth a great effort – despite the eventual outcome.

I was wrong. It was three rounds of violence, but all of this was thanks to Daron Cruickshank as he absolutely styled on Tom Santos.

Cruickshank was red-hot from start to finish. “The Detroit Superstar,” though known for his flash, truly did everything in this one. Wheel kicks, spinning back-fists, jumping switch-kicks, 360-degree soccer kicks, headstomps, a rolling thunder. It was a wild performance from the American.

In round three, the fight-ending sequence came as Cruickshank faked a takedown so Santos would use a heavy sprawl. In doing so, he took down Santos essentially – without even touching him. And as Santos laid on his back, Cruickshank frontflipped onto his downed foe.

Not long after, we saw the flashy striker take mount and land multiple devastating elbows on the face of Tom Santos. The Brazilian was sliced open in numerous spots as a result, and with blood streaming down his face he tapped out.

This was Daron Cruickshank’s best performance in quite some time, and certainly his most impressive in RIZIN. It’s almost impossible to point out a flaw in it, honestly. He improves to 21-10.

4. Kyoji Horiguchi

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One of two non-finishes on this list, but it would be almost irresponsible to not give these next two showings their due just because of the fact neither finished.

Much like the night’s main event, Kyoji Horiguchi and Hiromasa Ogikubo met in a highly-anticipated rematch as part of RIZIN 11’s co-main event. Unlike the main event, however, this one had far more than seven months to build, and both fought far more than one time since the initial meeting.

The two last met in 2013, and both were on hot-streaks heading into the rematch. It was an intense battle between some of Japan’s finest. As since their first meeting, Kyoji Horiguchi has become a veteran of the UFC and RIZIN, challenging for a title in the former, winning a title in the latter, and picking up nine-straight wins across both promotions. Ogikubo became a fan-favorite on TUF 24, making it to the finals, and a two-division Shooto tile-holder.

Horiguchi finished the fight in the first meeting with a second-round rear naked choke but wasn’t able to do the same this time around.

Despite the lack of finish, Kyoji Horiguchi still put on a show. As an aggressive Ogikubo came out immediately looking for takedowns, and even shockingly dropping Horiguchi in round one.

Kyoji was able to recover with ease and take over big-time down the stretch. Using a slick striking game coupled with a few nice moments of ground-and-pound to cut open Hiromasa Ogikubo.

The longer the fight went, the more beat up Hiromasa Ogikubo became thanks to the hands of Horiguchi. It was a very great all-around performance from Kyoji Horiguchi, who gets his hand raised against a very game – and very bloody – Hiromasa Ogikubo.

Both men entered the night on a roll with big win streaks, but it was the #2 flyweight in the world who left with his still intact.

Kyoji Horiguchi was forced to show a bit of adversity early, but he still managed to rally and finish the fight while looking spectacular. He improves to a stellar 25-2 and is fast running out of genuine challengers to face.

5. Kanna Asakura

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The second of two non-finishes on this list, in a rematch of their December 2017 meeting, 20-year-old grinder Kanna Asakura took on Shoot Boxing star RENA.

It was the main event of RIZIN 11 between two of the biggest stars in RIZIN Fighting Federation. Their first meeting was the Atomweight Grand-Prix Final, in which Kanna Asakura was the underdog throughout the entire tournament, whilst RENA was the big-time favorite.

Of course, Asakura wound up winning the fight by first-round submission.

Heading into their rematch, RENA entered the fight as “Evil” Rena if you will. Wearing all black to the ring, and citing the fact she feels as though RIZIN “wants her to be the villain.”

Even though from an outsiders perspective, it seemed as though RENA was still being billed as the favorite over Asakura despite the result of their first meeting. But RENA clearly saw things differently, and she looked like a million bucks heading into the fight.

There wasn’t a finish this time around, but this showing was arguably more impressive from Kanna.

RENA seemed hesitant in their first meeting. The two came into the contest as friends with no desire to fight each other. This time around, both were firing on all cylinders. She had to work harder for it, but Kanna Asakura eventually got the win over a much-improved RENA.

She secured the win with wrestling, submission attempts, ground-and-pound, and determination. This was her eighth-straight victory and her second over the otherwise seemingly unbeatable RENA.

Kanna Asakura continues to impress as she improves to 13-2.


It wouldn’t feel right to mention a few other people from the card, so let’s get into some honorable mentions.

Honorable Mention: Jiří Procházka

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Jiří Procházka is a violent 25-year-old Czech striker who puts on a show virtually everytime he steps into a cage or ring. After making it the finals in RIZIN’s inaugural grand-prix and losing to King Mo, Procházka has since gone on to win five-straight with four knockouts.

The latest of those being at RIZIN 11, when he recovered from being rocked by Jungle Fight title-holder Bruno Cappelozza, only to stop the Brazilian with heavy punches seconds later. This brings his record to 21-3-1.

Honorable Mention: Kaito

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In a battle of young-guns, a man dubbed by some as “The Prince of Shoot Boxing,” Kaito took on a far less experienced REBELS vet in the form of Yoshiya Uzatsuyo.

The fight was thrown together on 24-hours-notice, but man did Kaito ever impress. He brutalized the leg of Yoshiya early before knocking him out with a picture-perfect knee to the jaw in round two. It was a flawless victory, and the short-notice didn’t hurt him in the slightest.

Honorable Mention: Topnoi Tiger Muay Thai

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Last but certainly not least…

Man, it physically pains me to only give this an honorable mention spot. As realistically, this could’ve gotten one of the top spots.

The fight barely lasted a minute, but what a war it was. As Topnoi Tiger Muay Thai and Tadaaki “Onibozu” Yamamoto exchanged knockdowns before the Thai slept “Onibozu” in the corner with a right hand.

It had multiple momentum shifts in such a short amount of time. We saw aggressiveness from both, power from both, adversity from both. But the finishing sequence by Topnoi was a thing of beauty. Soccer kicks and heavy hands. What is better?

Nothing. RIZIN; bring Topnoi back. Re-book the Asakura fight. Give him Manel Kape. Give him anybody. We need more Topnoi. The world needs more Topnoi.

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