RIZIN 13: Five Fights to Watch

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RIZIN 13 is just over a week away, and the card has filled out with an assortment of exciting fights. The event goes down Sunday, Sept. 30 in the morning, and will be available on FITE TV. On a stacked show, here are five fights MMA fans shouldn’t miss.

Tenshin Nasukawa vs. Kyoji Horiguchi (kickboxing)

One of the most fun fights on the card may not be an MMA fight, but it will be an all-out kickboxing war between two dynamic flyweights. Both men possess fight-ending power in the stand-up and have been the aggressor in each of their appearances.

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Nasukawa has made a habit of knocking out most of his opponents with flashy techniques. His most notable victims in his combat career have been Amnat Ruenroeng and Taiki Naito.

Horiguchi, on the other hand, is riding a 10-fight winning streak in MMA. He hasn’t lost since a April 2015 title fight to then-UFC flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson. “Gooch” has since gone 7-0 in RIZIN with finishes of Ian McCall, Shintaro Ishiwatari, Manel Kape and Gabriel Oliveira.

Kickboxing expert will meet MMA striking expert in a clash that will almost certainly produce fireworks.

Daron Cruickshank vs. Diego Brandao

There’s a lot in common between Cruickshank and Brandao heading into their RIZIN 13 contest. Both are UFC veterans, The Ultimate Fighter contestants, capable of ending fights at any moment, and violently finished their opponents at RIZIN 11. If that’s not enough to sell you on this fight, what is?

Cruickshank enters the fight riding a three-fight winning streak. He holds RIZIN victories over Koshi Matsumoto, Tom Santos, Andy Souwer and Shinji Sasaki. His UFC resume includes wins against Erik Koch, Anthony Njokuani and Yves Edwards. “The Detroit Superstar” is known for his dynamic kicking offense where he’s been known to end bouts with spins, high kicks and everything else in his arsenal.

Brandao is coming off a destructive win where he KO’d grappling ace Satoru Kitaoka with strikes from the ground while Kitaoka attempted a submission. That marked his RIZIN debut. He’s gone 3-1 since his UFC release. In the UFC, Brandao has fought the likes of Conor McGregor, Dustin Poirier and Brian Ortega. He owns victories over Dennis Bermudez, Jimy Hettes, Katsunori Kikuno, Murad Machaev and Vener Galiev.

Cruickshank will test his stick-and-move striking approach and eight-inch reach advantage against Brandao’s powerful inside offense and slick Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu game. This fight between two veterans arguably in their prime is one you won’t want to miss.

Mirko “Cro Cop” vs. Roque Martinez

After a nine-month layoff, “Cro Cop” is set to return to the RIZIN ring following an injury he suffered in the lead-up to a scratched Bellator fight with Roy Nelson. Filipovic is on an eight-fight winning streak dating back to November 2013. The opponent? UFC heavyweight contender Alexey Oleinik.

Call it a resurgence, as Filipovic is on the longest win-streak of his career. His streak includes five in a row in RIZIN. In that span, he also won the 2016 RIZIN Heavyweight Grand Prix, defeating the likes of Muhammad Lawal, Amir Aliakbari and Baruto Kaito. He finished all three men.

His opponent, Martinez, also enters the bout on a tear. He’s 8-0-1 in his last nine. He’s 2-0 in RIZIN with finishes of Kiyoshi Kuwabara and Jerome LeBanner. The Guam fighter will face his most high-profile opponent and a legend in “Cro Cop.” And at heavyweight, a finish is always imminent.

Ayaka Hamasaki vs. Mina Kurobe

Former Invicta FC atomweight queen Hamasaki will go up against the No. 1-ranked woman on the Japan regional scene in Kurobe, who is DEEP JEWELS atomweight champion. This fight was one of the more high-profile atomweight bouts any promotion could put together.

Hamasaki is 6-1 in her last seven, only losing a foray into strawweight against Livia Renata Souza. She holds wins over Jinh Yu Frey, Amber Brown, Herica Tiburcio, Mei Yamaguchi and Alyssa Garcia in a career that saw her capture Invicta’s atomweight crown. She defended the title twice after capturing it off Tiburcio.

Kurobe is 7-1 in her last eight. Her lone loss in that span was to former UFC strawweight Seo Hee Ham, who rediscovered herself in her natural weight class of 105. Kurobe holds victories over Naho Sugiyama, Saori Ishioka and Satomi Takano.

Kai Asakura vs. Topnoi Tiger Muay Thai

This fight will be fast-paced and full of action. Both 130’lers are aggressive finishers, and this fight likely won’t be any different. Even if it does go the distance, it will be as exciting as Asakura’s split decision victory over Manel Kape at RIZIN 10.

Asakura is 2-0 in the RIZIN ring; his other win was a grounded knee finish of Kizaemon Saiga. The lone loss of his 11-fight pro career was to Je Hoon Moon, in which he was finished. Asakura appears to be a finish-or-be-finished type of fighter, the lone exception being the back-and-forth contest with Kape.

T. Tiger Muay Thai seems to share Asakura’s penchant for winning and losing via finish. At 6-1, he made his stamp on RIZIN at RIZIN 11 when he scored a comeback knockout win over Tadaaki “Onibuzo” Yamamoto. That bout lasted just over a minute, but it was a crazy minute where both men were badly rocked. There should be plenty of those moments in this match-up as well, so, enjoy.

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Michael is a big MMA fan who enjoys interviewing the sport's athletes, writing about the sport, and just discussing it. He earned his Master's in Journalism at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism and his B.A. in Journalism at Stony Brook University. He also enjoys hockey, football and baseball. Feel free to hit him up if you want to discuss MMA, or any other sport!

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