A few weeks ago at Rizin 28, we saw who was able to advance in the first block of the Rizin Bantamweight Grand Prix. This weekend at Rizin 29, we get to see who will advance in the opposite block. This block may not seem as stacked in terms of name-value but nonetheless looks like it will produce some compelling and interesting fights.
Kintaro vs Kuya Ito
With this fight, we get a fighter who looks to always finish in the first round taking on a fighter who likes to drag his opponent through deep waters.
Kintaro (13-9-2) is an incredibly charismatic fighter with a large social media following. He is a dangerous striker who looks to get finish early. He has over a dozen finishes in the first round. He has notable wins over tournament competitor Alan Yamaniha and Shooto fighter Kenji Kato. Surprisingly he lost what looked to be his qualifying match in Rizin against Kenta Takizawa, albeit a split decision loss. Nonetheless, perhaps thanks to his large following and being from Osaka, that helped him get a spot.
Kuya Ito (10-6-1) may not be looking for that first-round finish, but he will make the fight grueling competition the longer it goes on. The Brave Gym fighter has had an upward battle in his MMA career. He lost his first four fights and his fifth went to a draw. He managed to turn his bad luck into good fortune by going on a long winning streak in his home promotion Grachan. He won the vacant Grachan bantamweight championship last year by defeating GP competitor Shian. Rizin 29 will be his first fight in the promotion.
These two fighters are great in their respective strengths. Kintaro has precise and powerful striking with his four limbs. One shot can send you to the canvas. His weakness throughout his career has been grappling and he has been submitted multiple times. If he does not get that first-round knockout, he’s going to have to pace himself carefully so that he can keep up with Ito.
Ito is not likely to finish Kintaro. Kintaro is a very tough fighter so striking with him will likely end badly. He’s going to have to be the guy to pressure Kintaro. Dodge his powerful strikes. Do his best to take him down to the ground and maintain top position but also working to get points to win. He will need to let Kintaro overcommit and get too confident in his striking.
Kenta Takizawa vs Masakazu Imanari
Despite these two fighters having a close finishing rate percentage, they are complete polar opposites in fight style.
Kenta Takizawa (11-7) has not had the most stellar luck in Rizin but he shouldn’t be overlooked. He is a crisp striker who uses his long reach to his advantage. He debuted in Rizin with a win over Kintaro, but then lost his next two. Given an opportunity to be a part of the GP at Rizin 29, look for Takizawa to be a house of fire.
Masakazu Imanari (38-19-2) needs no introduction if you have been following MMA or grappling for a long time. Even if you have not seen him fight, you are likely to have heard of the Imanari Roll which is named after him. Fighters such as Ryan Hall have utilized the move in their fights to sweep or submit opponents. This fight will be his 60th fight! He has the most experience of all the competitors, has fought over the world, competed in multiple weight classes, and will look to add another submission win to his resume.
In terms of style, this will be a clear striker vs grappler matchup. Takizawa will need to use reach and powerful striking to knockout Imanari. Going to the ground would not be advised. Hopefully he has also trained submission defense for his lower limbs. Also if he sees Imanari rolling toward him, get out of the way!
Imanari will have to do what he’s been doing his whole career. Look for that submission with a classic heel hook or foot lock. Imanari has never had good striking and to try and stand with Takizawa will likely not end well for him. As long as Imanari can focus on grappling for three rounds, if he can’t get the submission, he can likely get a decision win.
Takafumi Otsuka vs Shian
If you wanted to play six degrees of separation with the fighters of this tournament Takafumi Otsuka (28-18-2) would undoubtedly win. He’s fought Shintaro Ishiwatari twice and once against Ryo Okada. Among that he has fought a who’s who among the bantamweights, featherweights, and lightweights. Otsuka brings years of experience, including this being his second time in a Rizin tournament.
Shian (8-8) is undoubtedly the fighter who is going to get overlooked on this block based on his record alone. In his qualifying match, he had an under 500 record and was the underdog against Kazuma Sone. Sone had come off an incredible win over Terutro Ishihara who had just been cut from the UFC. Sone was expected to walk through Shian. Instead, Shian knocked him out cold in the first round. Shian is not afraid to scrap if it winds up becoming a brawl.
Otsuka is an incredibly well-rounded fighter. He is adept at striking in volume, grappling, and knowing how to pace himself. His years of experience in competitive MMA should lead him to fight smart. He doesn’t want to scrap with a power guy such as Shian. Otsuka’s chin may not be able to take a hook from Shian.
Shian on paper shouldn’t beat Otsuka. But who doesn’t love a good underdog story. Otsuka in the pre-fight media has dismissed Shian as not being on his level. Shian should not be afraid to take risks if he has to in this fight. That doesn’t mean try for flying armbars or anything like that. I’m saying that he needs to go in guns blazing. He should use any and all power he has to knockout Otsuka. The longer this fight goes, the less this fight will go in his favor.
Kazuma Kuramoto (7-1) is a highly decorated wrestler who has made a successful transition to MMA. The 4 time all-Japan Greco-Roman wrestling champion made an explosive debut in Rizin when he soccer kicked his way to victory against opponent Taiyo Nakahara. Kuramoto is also known for delivering devasting suplexes to his opponent. Expect to see an incredibly explosive fighter in Kuramoto who will come at his opponent like a rhino.
Alan Yamaniha (17-8-4) trains out of the hottest gym in Japan right now, the Bonsai Gym. While he doesn’t have the BJJ level of training partners Roberto de Souza and Kleber Koike, he has a couple of wins by knockout including over Kenta Takizawa. While he doesn’t have the ability to finish all the time, he can breakdown his opponents physically and mentally.
Kuramoto’s excellent wrestling background might be the thing that wins him this fight. While Kuramoto has very good striking, it may not be at the level of Yamaniha’s. Kuramoto is all power and likely the longer it goes, the less power. If he can even knockout Yamaniaha with a trademark suplex, that is one sure to get himself to go viral.
Yamaniha is good at a little bit of everything but doesn’t excel at all the martial arts. But that’s why you can’t underestimate him. He might get that knockout, he might cinch in that submission, he might get that takedown. However, he is likely not to takedown an acclaimed wrestler such as Kuramoto. He will need to keep Kuramoto at distance. Tee off on him. If Kuramoto starts to get reckless and lazy, that’s when it might be safe to try to grapple and use that Bonsai BJJ against him.
Rizin 29 will be live June 27 12:30 am from the Maruzen Intec Arena Osaka. You can watch the shows with English commentary here on Live-Now.