And then there were eight. But there can only be four who advance. With the quarter-finals set for the bantamweight Grand Prix at Rizin 30, we will see some of the top BW fighters clash and make their way to the semi-finals and eventual finals on New Year’s Eve. We will look at the fighters who made it through the first round, their strengths and weaknesses, and what they can do to win.
Hiromasa Ougikubo vs. Takafumi Otsuka
In this fight, we get to see strong, durable grapplers take on one another.
Hiromasa Ougikubo (22-5-2) has shown to be a fighter who never gets exhausted during a fight. He will force his opponents to go at the pace he’s going and most cannot keep up. He is always coming forward with pressure and while not always getting the finish (all his Rizin wins have been by decision), he will have the tools of striking and grappling to overwhelm his opponents. We got to see in his fight against Takeshi Kasugai that despite breaking his hand during the fight, he was able to smother and take his opponent down multiple times.
Takafumi Otsuka (29-18-2) is a vet’s vet. He has fought in multiple weight classes and is a former two-time Deep bantamweight and featherweight champion. Like Ougikubo, he is a strong grappler and has won most of his fights by decision. Despite fighting since 2006, he still has a strong chin as we saw in his fight against Shian. While he may not necessarily excel at all the aspects of the game, he has the ability to mix it all up and use that to his advantage.
Will the two grapplers try to grapple or will they fight another way. That’s what makes this fight intriguing. I do think Ougikubo has the edge in takedown offense between the two but when it comes to striking and submission grappling, I think Otsuka will be better in those departments.
For Ougikubo to win, he will have to try to mix up a little of everything. Keep Otsuka guessing and land with the unexpected offense. Keep Otsuka outside his pocket and push forward without getting hit. Ougikubo is faster than Otsuka so mixing up everything should be no problem.
Otsuka will need to use his striking and try to keep Ougikubo on his feet while being aware of takedowns. Closing in on Ougikubo and use volume to try to wear and slow him down. If Ougikubo tries for the takedown, he will need to utilize soccer kicks which will be legal during the fight.
Yuki Motoya vs Kenta Takizawa
In this fight, we have a grappler vs. striker contest.
Yuki Motoya (28-9) has the most submission wins in Rizin and is one of the most underrated MMA grapplers. He has finished most of his opponents by a variation of a choke including a leg scissors choke. However, in his opening round fight against Ryo Okada, he chose to take the path of making it almost entirely a stand-up fight. He pieced up Okada badly and showed that he is a versatile fighter on the feet.
Kenta Takizawa (12-7) is a tall and long fighter. We saw in his fight against Masakazu Imanari, he was able to strike Imanari from quite a distance and evade his rolling heel hook attempts. Takizawa is a very tough fighter and will have an incredible striking advantage. He has the ability to strike hard seemingly from almost all angles.
While we got to see an incredibly different Yuki Motoya in his previous fight, trying to strike with a long fighter like Takizawa will probably not be best the game plan. He will need to close in on Takizawa and bring him down to the ground and work his A+ submission game from there. Most of Takizawa’s losses come from grapplers and he will need to exploit that.
Takizawa will have to try to keep Motoya at a distance and strike from there. Letting Motoya get too close could get him down on the ground and getting submitted. If he has to run away to get out of a bad situation as he did with Imanari, by all means, he should do that. It might make the audience turn on him but if he wants to advance, he will need to fight and defend smartly.
Naoki Inoue vs Kintaro
Naoki Inoue (12-2) has had incredible success in his post-UFC career. His Rizin stint has seen him go undefeated and in the opening round of the GP, he scored his first KO/TKO of his career against Shintaro Ishiwatari. Perhaps the best grappler in the bracket he has submitted other top submissions artists such as Yuki Motoya and Shooto Watanabe.
Kintaro (14-9-2) is one of the most dangerous strikers on the Rizin roster. An incredibly popular fighter from Osaka, when he has finished his opponents, all but one has been in the first round. His ability to weather through the damage as the fight goes on as seen in his fight against Kuya Ito makes him a force to be recokned with. Despite suffering damage to his eye, he was able to pull off a win in front of his hometown.
Inoue is maybe the best submission artist in the BW division and he will need to focus on that if he wants to beat Kintaro. He will need to use strikes to get Kintaro to let his guard down and then proceed to work some back take submissions. I wouldn’t even recommend getting into closed guard because Kintaro is strong enough to still score major damage there.
Kintaro will have to keep Inoue on his feet and not try to make it a grappling fight. Inoue’s grappling is top tier and Kintaro would do best to try to aim for the body and legs to try to slow and weaken Inoue. He also better be working on grappling defense because if he hasn’t, he’s liable to get choked out.
Kai Asaskura vs Alan Yamaniha
Kai Asakura (17-3) is one of the most popular fighters on the Rizin roster. Unlike other fighters in other organizations who have bought into their own hype, Asakura continues to achieve consistent strong wins. The former bantamweight champion made short work of opening-round opponent Shooto Watanabe TKOing him while in his guard.
Alan “Hiro” Yamaniha (18-8-4) comes from the top-tier BJJ school Bonsai. While not an accomplished grappler himself, he has some nasty striking. Just check out his opponent in the opening round Kazuma Kuramoto’s eye during their fight. If he doesn’t knock you out during the fight, you will come out of the fight hurting badly.
Asakura has shown to have some of the precise and powerful striking in the division. He has knocked out numerous opponents in the first round. Against a powerful but less coordinated striker such as Yamaniha, he will need to use make use of all his limbs. Clinch Yamaninha and use elbows, hooks, and knees to the body.
Yamaniha has said he is working on his grappling for this fight. If he wants to win this fight, a submission will likely be the way. Having training partners such as the D’Souza brothers, he will need to make the ground like fire for Asakura. Asakura is the superior striker in this case and while Yamaniha has heavy hands, he should use striking to keep his opponent at bay and set it up for grappling.
Kai Asakura vs Alan Yamaniha – RIZIN Bantamweight Grand Prix Quarterfinal bout
Naoki Inoue vs Kintaro – RIZIN Bantamweight Grand Prix Quarterfinal bout
Hiromasa Ougikubo vs Takafumi Otsuka RIZIN Bantamweight Grand Prix Quarterfinal bout
Yuki Motoya vs Kenta Takizawa – RIZIN Bantamweight Grand Prix Quarterfinal bout
Ayaka Hamasaki (c) vs Emi Fujino (non-title match)
Koji Takeda vs Yasuke Yachi
Ulka Sasaki vs Yoshinori Horie
Shinobu Ota vs Yuta Kubo
Shoji vs Chihiro Suzuki
Panchan Rina vs. Momoka Mandokoro – kickboxing bout
You can check out Rizin 30 live Sunday 9/19/2021 at 1:30 AM EST on Live-Now here.