‘RIZIN: Heisei’s Last Yarennoka!’ Recap & Post-Fight Quotes
RIZIN’s year-end NYE festivities have come and gone once again. Before the biggest show in promotional history went down in the early morning of December 31, RIZIN held a Yarennoka! card to feature fighters who did not make the big RIZIN 14 show.
With 7,498 in attendance at ‘RIZIN: Heisei’s Last Yarennoka!’ we saw legendary lightweights meet after years of anticipation, we saw two highly-anticipated rematches, we saw legends fall, and we saw debuts spoiled.
For a short-form version of the results, go here. Otherwise, if you’re looking for a more detailed breakdown of what transpired on this show, here it is. The ‘RIZIN: Heisei’s Last Yarennoka!’ recap with backstage interview quotes!
*records listed are all post-fight
Ai Shimizu (1-0) def. Nanaka Kawamura (2-3) via TKO1
Backed by KRAZY BEE gym, Ai Shimizu made her pro debut against Japanese pop/metal musician Nanaka Kawamura. This debut comes following a two year hiatus after going undefeated (2-0) as an amateur fighter. In Shimizu’s corner it was the typical KRAZY BEE squad of Kotetsu Boku and Issei Tamura, opposite her in Kawamura’s corner we saw Kanako Murata.
Despite the ‘celebrity’ status, Kawamura entered the fight as a four-fight MMA veteran. And, within a year’s time, had become one of the most popular fighters on the DEEP JEWELS roster.
Nanaka Kawamura was able to land some nice punches early, but it took virtually no time at all for Ai Shimizu to secure a takedown, work to mount, and pummel her foe with big punches for the early TKO.
Within seconds of the fight ending, Kawamura is on the ground in tears on the heels of the first (T)KO loss of her mixed martial arts career. Prior to this she had lost a somewhat controversial decision in her pro debut before being put away with a choke six months later.
Ai Shimizu is, to no one’s surprise, all smiles after winning her first professional outing. Winning in this fashion isn’t unfamiliar to her, however. In her final victory as an amateur, she defeated Natsuki Shimomakise in similar fashion, albeit in round two.
Yuta Uchida (2-0) def. Takuma Konishi (22-6) via UD
In the first of two kickboxing contests of the night, former karate champion and Tsuyoshi Kosaka pupil, Yuta Uchida, takes on kickboxing veteran Takuma Konishi. Despite training with Kosaka early on, Uchida is now working with legendary K-1 fighter Peter Aerts who is in his corner for this bout. This is his second appearance in RIZIN, as he competed on their inaugural show in 2015 in a losing MMA effort to Team Fedor fighter Valentin Moldavsky.
It was a hard-fought three round match-up that saw Konishi being aggressive throughout but Uchida was lighting him up all night with big counters in the form of beautiful right hands and kicks.
He had a big time disadvantage when it came to experience, but Yuta Uchida looked great out there and won a clear unanimous decision. Scoring a knockdown in round two certainly helped him accomplish this.
Taiju Shiratori (12-5) def. Yoshiya Uzatsuyo (4-3) via KO3
In the second and final kickboxing bout of the night, Taiju Shiratori out of Tenshin Nasukawa’s Team TEPPEN was slated to face the brash Yoshiya “Uza Strong” Uzatsuyo.
The fight began with some beautiful leg kick exchanges and both guys got their licks in throughout the opening three minutes. The action picked up in round two with more of the same, except Shiratori scored two knockdowns in the round. The first of which being GIF’d below, and the other taking place in the final seconds of that same round.
It appeared as is Taiju Shiratori was taking over the fight, but just seconds into round three it was Uzatsuyo who caught Shiratori with a bomb to score a knockdown of his own, drawing blood in the process.
Cool as it would’ve been, Yoshiya Uzatsuyo wasn’t able to complete the would-be insane comeback, as moments after being knocked down we saw Taiju Shiratori put Uza Strong away with a ferocious flying knee to the head in the corner.
Following some excitement throughout, Taiju Shiratori was declared the victor by way of knockout late in round three. He stops Uzatsuyo with a knee to the head, not unlike what Kaito did at RIZIN 11 back in July.
Kai Asakura (12-1) def. Jae Hoon Moon (11-12) via UD
In one of the most highly anticipated fights of the RIZIN NYE weekend double-header, Jae Hoon Moon and Kai Asakura were scheduled to rematch after their war in ROAD FC over a year prior.
Asakura’s sole loss as a professional comes at the hands of Jae Hoon Moon after being knocked out by the South Korean in round three of a firefight in their first meeting. Since then however, Asakura had signed with RIZIN and gone on an impressive win streak whereas Moon has exchanged wins and losses.
In the rematch it was clear that Kai Asakura was looking to take a far more calculated approach this time around, and he focused heavily on wrestling, something he did not do at all in the first fight.
Not including some wild punch exchanges at the beginning and ends of each round, this is essentially the story of the entire fight. The grappling of Asakura was clearly sapping all the energy from Moon as when the final bell sounds he puts his hands on his knees and is visibly exhausted.
The two did show some shades of their first fight, however. As for the final minute of the contest they both threw caution to the wind and brawled it out.
The fresher of the two, Kai Asakura was able to out-war Jae Hoon Moon this time thanks to a good mix of stamina-draining grappling and wild striking exchanges similar to what we saw in their first bout.
“I felt as if a loss here to Moon again meant my career would be over. I wasn’t able to do anything in my last fight, really. So I feel like this win proves that I can control the fight if I can’t get a finish.”
Jae Hoon Moon:
“For tonight’s fight, what can I say, Asakura was well prepared. I’m heartbroken, but Kai has just changed as a fighter. He knows the whole MMA game very well now, and I think he really wanted his revenge against me.”
Asakura wins his fourth-straight bout, and third-straight decision win. Ironically enough, prior to this current streak of decisions, Asakura had never gone the distance in his career. He makes it 1-1 vs. Moon as he notches his second ever unanimous decision call, the other decision win was a controversial split.
This loss for Jae Hoon Moon moves his record into the negative as he sits at 11-12. Despite his record, Moon isn’t an easy out for anyone and has proven to be very difficult to finish as this is the eighth decision loss of his career.
Kana Watanabe (5-0-1) def. Shizuka Sugiyama (16-6-1) via KO1
In the second rematch of the night, judo specialist Kana Watanabe faced former opponent Shizuka Sugiyama once again inside the RIZIN ring after both had brief excursions under the DEEP banner.
In their previous meeting, we saw a highly-competitive affair that ended with Kana Watanabe getting the nod according to the judges. This time around? Watanabe got the win again, but by way of knockout just ten seconds into the fight.
Admittedly the stoppage appeared to be somewhat early, therefore controversial. But after multiple slow-mo replay angles, it becomes evident that Sugiyama was indeed out before she hit the mat. It may have been for a split second, but she absolutely went out and this stoppage was correct.
“I would really like in on the women’s flyweight grand-prix next year, and I think this performance helps me in asking for that. This is what I want.”
For Watanabe, this marks the first (T)KO win of her young career, but third finish overall after two prior armbar wins. This is technically the third (T)KO loss of Sugiyama’s career, but the first of it’s kind. She had previously lost via corner stoppage and (T)KO due to ground-and-pound, but was never stopped on the feet like this.
In terms of MMA competition, the last time Shizuka Sugiyama lost to anyone not named Kana Watanabe was in May of 2014.
Mikuru Asakura (9-1, 1NC) def. Takeshi Inoue (24-12) via KO2
In the co-main event of the evening, former two-division champion of The Outsider, Mikuru Asakura looked to take out yet another Shooto legend in the form of Takeshi “Lion” Inoue. And he did just that. After landing some hard shots throughout the contest, Asakura connected on a flying knee in round two to stop the former two-time Shooto Lightweight Champion.
Given the different trajectories both men are on at this stage of their careers, this result was clear from a mile away. Asakura had a big speed advantage, and really only ate one clean shot from Inoue throughout.
“My opponent seems to have studied me really well. He seemed slow, so I was prepared to not get hit at all, but he did catch me once because his timing was so good. No real damage, though. I was able to adapt and finish.”
“His striking is so quick. I really wanted to land clean with my right-hand, but his chin is solid. It was short-notice, but I wanted to participate on NYE. I would like to fight again.”
This marks the sixth finish, fifth knockout of Mikuru Asakura’s career. His first ever by way of knee strike, though. This is the second former Shooto title-holder that Asakura has knocked out. The first was Hatsu Hioki back at RIZIN 12.
Since turning pro all the way back in 2003, this bout vs. Asakura was the first time ever Takeshi Inoue had been knocked out in mixed martial arts competition. Including a bulldog choke loss to Rob Lisita in 2013, Yarennoka! marks the second time ever that “Lion” had been finished in a fight. In his last ten bouts, which date back to 2011, Inoue is just 3-7.
Satoru Kitaoka (42-18-9) def. Tatsuya Kawajiri (36-13-2) via SD
And finally, we have arrived at the main event!
It was a battle of Japanese pioneers and legends as Satoru “Crazy Eyes” Kitaoka faced Tatsuya “Crusher” Kawajiri in a bout that fans were dreaming of seeing well over a decade ago.
In one corner stood DEEP and Shooto legend Kitaoka, and in the other stood PRIDE and DREAM veteran Kawajiri.
The fight was nothing incredible, but both men fought their heart out. It was a better gameplan and execution from Kitaoka, though. He was able to do lots of work using his wrestling and grappling game, even scoring the only knockdown of the entire fight early with a lovely counter shot.
Round two was relatively competitive, but Kawajiri really came alive in the final minute or so of the third and final round. It ultimately wasn’t enough to win, but he did get the nod on one of the judges’ scorecards.
“I was able to show that I was prepared today. In my last fight, I lost my DEEP championship, so this was just a nice restart for me. It was a split decision but I’m still really happy. I hit him with the solid punch early on, but he came back twice as hard and I felt how strong his heart was. A win is a win, but I of course wanted the finish. If I participate in the lightweight grand-prix next year, it’ll be difficult.”
“I just couldn’t fight the way I had planned to. I have trained with Satoru many times, I like him as a fighter, and I am glad I was able to go out there and fight him. Honestly, my body hurts, my heart hurts, and I’m not quite sure about my future right now. As far as conditioning, I am much better suited as a lightweight. I slowed down huge in the second half of all my fights at featherweight.”
For Satoru Kitaoka, this marks the 22nd decision win of his career, but the 4th by way of split decision. This was, however, his first decision win in 2.5 years. The submission specialist is 2-4 in his last six bouts. This includes dropping two before winning one – repeated twice.
Half of Tatsuya Kawajiri’s losses come by way of decision, but none had ever been split decision prior to this Yarennoka! bout. He is 1-5 in his last 6, and 1-3 in RIZIN, which is similar to Kitaoka’s 2-3 RIZIN record.