Five Stars of RIZIN 13

Haruo Ochi lifts Mitsuhisa Sunabe for the slam at RIZIN 13. (RIZIN FF)

After a little over a month and a half away, RIZIN Fighting Federation returned over the weekend with their biggest card to date; RIZIN 13.

The twelve-fight card was absolutely loaded with twelve fantastic bouts as nearly 28,000 fans filled the Saitama Super Arena. Check out my monster recap of the event that clocked in at 6,500 words!

We saw the biggest fight in Japanese history, we saw a legend move his historic career-best win streak to nine, we saw the sister of “KID” Yamamoto win in dominant fashion for her brother, we saw title vs. title bouts ends with a bang, we saw incredible entrances, and so much more.

Five Stars of RIZIN 13

When it comes to choosing the five stars of RIZIN 11 and RIZIN 12, in my opinion, #1 was an easy choice. That is not the case with this one.

1. Haruo Ochi

def. Mitsuhisa Sunabe via KO3
Haruo Ochi lifts Mitsuhisa Sunabe for the slam. (RIZIN FF)

Alright. This one, for me, was the clear choice for the top spot.

In terms of the match-up and what was on the line within it, this bout was one of the most pivotal on the card. It was the first male strawweight fight in RIZIN history and it put the DEEP title-holder, Haruo Ochi, against the King of Pancrase, Mitsuhisa Sunabe.

Despite being 5’3 with nearly six inches of both height and reach disadvantage, Haruo Ochi rose to the occasion here and just put on a stellar showcase vs. Mitsuhisa Sunabe.

Dominant wrestling, wild scrambles, multiple takedowns, some solid submission attempts. But it was a brutal knockout the capped it all off for Ochi.

Haruo Ochi tagged Mitsuhisa Sunabe with a left-hook that visibly sent him reeling. That was followed up with a beautiful hook to the body and overhand-right that faceplanted Sunabe. And, as if that wasn’t enough, he sealed the deal with two nasty soccer kicks.

To put into perspective the caliber of this win, this snapped a 16-fight, 7-year unbeaten streak for Sunabe in what was his first KO loss since 2007. He was very honest pre-fight in admitting that he believed Ochi was the toughest fight for him in a long time, and it played out as such.

Haruo Ochi won his sixth-straight with this being the first knockout inside of that streak, and what a massive knockout it was.

2. Ayaka Hamasaki

def. Mina Kurobe via SUB1
Ayaka Hamasaki pounds away on Mina Kurobe. (RIZIN FF)

This one had a similar theme to the previous fight. Arguably the two best in the atomweight division were set to square off in what was expected to be a thrilling contest.

The entire basis of the bout was Japan’s #1 atomweight vs. Japan’s #2 atomweight. Hell, perhaps beyond that, it was the two best atomweights in the world. The argument is certainly there for it.

Former Invicta FC Champion, Ayaka Hamasaki was looking to remain undefeated at atomweight when she took on Mina Kurobe, the DEEP JEWELS Champion.

This fight could not have been more one-sided for Hamasaki. She opened the contest with a shocking striking onslaught, and then went on to dominate on the ground with heavy punches and knees.

Eventually, a scramble ensued. And Hamasaki swept Kurobe with a kimura and tapped her in incredible fashion. It was a cakewalk, and it was seriously shocking to witness.

Ayaka Hamasaki picked up her first submission win in two years against Kurobe, a champion who had never been submitted. A massive statement made here. The entire atomweight division is on notice.

3. Daron Cruickshank

def. Diego Brandao via KO2
Daron Cruickshank knocks out Diego Brandao. (RIZIN FF)

Any time either of these two fight anybody, it automatically becomes one of the more highly-anticipated fights of any card it is on. Two violent lightweights with vastly different styles, when the two were pitted against one another, this became the fight to watch.

The always-flashy striker Daron Cruickshank faced explosive Brazilian slugger Diego Brandao.

After a very intense opening round, the finish came in round two. And it was the American who picked up a shocking knockout in a contest that was pretty much guaranteed to end with a knockout.

Daron Cruickshank obliterated Diego Brandao with a flying-knee in what was his third-straight win and third-straight finish in RIZIN. Despite being known for his flash and a massive arsenal of ways to finish fights, this was surprisingly the first KO via flying-knee of Cruickshank’s career.

4. Miyuu Yamamoto

def. Andy Nguyen via UD
Miyuu Yamamoto attempts a last-minute armbar on Andy Nguyen. (RIZIN FF)

This fight had to be included. For a litany of reasons.

Miyuu Yamamoto is 44-years-old and a member of the legendary Yamamoto family, representing KRAZY/KILLER BEE Gym. She has been a powerhouse wrestler for her entire life, and the fact that this late in her career she is improving at such high degrees every time out is truly wild.

She came into the night with incredibly difficult emotions and circumstances surrounding her, as her brother had passed away two weeks prior. From walking out to the song “KID” Yamamoto used to walk out to, to dominating an opponent and dedicating it to her brother. It was beautiful.

And on top of that, this was a big win for Yamamoto! She brings her record to .500 by defeating one of the three who had beaten her previously. And she does so in utterly dominant fashion.

Andy Nguyen had no answers, and Miyuu Yamamoto dominated her from pillar-to-post with that stellar wrestling top game.

5. Kyoji Horiguchi

lost to Tenshin Nasukawa
Kyoji Horiguchi enjoying violence. (RIZIN FF)

It had to be done. The first time ever one of the five stars goes to someone who lost on the night. It’s been given to winners, it’s been giving to specific fights, but never a loser.

And before I get into this, for sure do not get it twisted; this fight was fantastic.

Tenshin Nasukawa is Tenshin Nasukawa. The kid is a phenomenal fighter. Absolutely phenomenal. As big of a super-fight as this was, it really seemed likely that Tenshin was going to mop the floor with Horiguchi.

Kyoji Horiguchi is an equally phenomenal fighter. But they represent two different sports. Horiguchi represents the #2 MMA flyweight on the planet, and Tenshin Nasukawa represents kickboxing as one of the sport’s most thrilling and dominant in Japan, sporting a record of 28-0.

And to top it all off, this was Horiguchi’s kickboxing debut. What a tall task.

Kyoji Horiguchi may not have ‘passed’ the test due to the loss, but boy did he ever exceed expectations. He threw down with Tenshin better than some world-class kickboxing and muay thai fighters have been able to – and that is insane.

Yes, down the stretch Tenshin absolutely began to take over. And it became a bit one-sided towards the end of round three, but it was still insanity. Nasukawa threw everything including the kitchen sink at Horiguchi and he just could not drop him.

To call it a gutsy or commendable effort by Horiguchi would be an understatement. It was a super-fight that truly felt like a super-fight, and as Tenshin’s stock continues to rise, Kyoji Horiguchi’s also goes nowhere but up.

For a far more detailed recap of all this and more, here.


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