Rizin 31 is in the books and boy was it a show to remember. Every fight but two ended in a finish. Juntaro Ushiku is the new featherweight champion. Saori Oshima came in and dominated Kanna Asakura. One fight ended in a brutal soccer kick. Almost all the fighters had spectacular performances but we can only pick a few to highlight. Here we will showcase four of the standout performances from the show.
Saori Oshima (7-2) walked into this fight the Deep microweight and Deep Jewels atomweight champion. She also walked into this fight with a notable physical disadvantage. Oshima is 4’11 while her opponent Kanan Asakura is 5’2.” Everything about this fight pointed to Asakura getting an easy win over the AACC dojo fighter. As soon as the fight started though it was clear that Asakura was facing an opponent who was on another level. Oshima was able to dominate the fight with superior grappling skills, submission attempts, and brutal upkicks.
First-round saw Oshima easily get a single leg takedown on Asakura and was able to hold her down in judo side position and even get mount position on her. She attempted some armbar and kneebar submissions which Asakura defended to finish out the round.
The second round saw Oshima again score a takedown on Asakura. As Asakura tried to get up, Oshima attempted kneebars and a foot lock numerous times. Asakura could not get past Oshima’s guard as Oshima upkicked Asakura numerous times and was able to prevent her from gaining an advantageous position.
The final round saw Oshima do a front headlock takedown which Asakura managed to defend but Oshima kept Asakura from passing her guard by blocking her with a knee on her belly. The rest of the round was spent on the ground with Asakura trying her best to get a favorable position but Oshima held her at bay with half guard and upkicks.
Oshima was awarded a split decision by the judges. The win gives Oshima a four-fight streak. “People around me felt that Kanna was the favorite, and I didn’t have good results while training at AACC, but I was able to put on a good fight in the end,” Oshima said in her post-fight comments.
With a win over the former super atomweight GP winner Kanna Asakura, Saori Oshima is someone who should be talked in regards to the next contender for the belt. The only complication is that both the Rizin atomweight champion Ayaka Hamasaki and Oshima train at the same gym. It’s not unheard of for teammates to fight but makes it harder for such a fight to be signed. If the fight doesn’t happen, you could put her against the winner of Rena vs Miyuu Yamamoto which happens at Rizin 32. The only problem with that is if Rena wins, Rena is also a teammate of Oshima. If Miyuu does not win, when in doubt maybe another GP is in order for the Rizin atomweight division.
If there’s anyone who’s had one of the best comebacks in MMA, it is 41 year old Daisuke Nakamura (31-20-1). As he said during his fight announcement press conference, “I want to show you the romance of a 41-year-old man following his dreams.” Previous to his return fight in September 2020, he went on a four-fight losing streak. When he returned, he attained a record of 3-1. And at Rizin 31, he showed why he is here to stay in the featherweight division.
Lasting only one round, the fight saw his opponent Suguru Nii get rocked by a punch. Nii tried for an elevated fireman’s carry slam (an Attitude Adjustment for you John Cena fans), but Nakamura held on to Nii’s arm. Nakamura transitioned to an armbar and got the tap for the win. It netted him his 15th win by armbar and his biggest win to date since maybe his time in Dream.
Nakamura is in one of the most interesting positions when it comes to his future in Rizin. He has a win over the Rizin featherweight champion Juntaro Ushiku in Deep. Ushiku did get his win back in a rematch shortly booked after. He also has a win over former champion Yutaka Saito in Quintet by submission. There are a number of interesting matchups that can be done because not only is he one of the best submission artists in the division, his striking has vastly improved where he has actually knocked out two opponents in the last year. A number of great featherweight fights are possible such as against fellow Deep fighter Rikuto Shirakawa, the recently returned Masanori Kanehara, or throw him in a GP that CEO Nobuyuki Sakakibara hinted at.
In one of the best comebacks during a fight this year, Seiichiro Ito (14-4-2) showed that he still has it. Previous to this fight, Ito had gone 1-2 in Rizin. He seemingly had stopped competing in MMA and instead was focusing on grappling matches in Quintet. With this fight, taking on 22-year-old flyweight prospect Kunta Hashimoto, this fight would tell us where Ito’s future could potentially land.
In the first round, Hashimoto was out striking Ito fierce. A knee to Ito’s head sent him down to the canvas and Hashimoto started to ground and pound. The fight could’ve been ended there and it would’ve been a fair stoppage but the ref not intervening quickly gave Ito time to recover and start defending intelligently. Hashimoto took Ito’s back and tried to sub him with an RNC but Ito defended it with ease.
In the second round, a bloodied Ito came in and rocked Hashimoto with a punch who tried for a takedown but got stuffed. Ito took Hashimoto’s back and submitted him with an RNC.
Ito had seemingly hit his ceiling in MMA and time had passed him by. But this win solidifies his presence in the flyweight division Rizin. And it looks like Rizin looks to be building that division strongly. A number of shows this year had flyweight fights and Rizin 32 already has two booked. With Ito in the mix, he should get a fight against another winning flyweight. On the same card, we saw Yuki Ito (no relation) put away Yusaku Nakamura. Yuki Ito is already 2-0 in the promotion and coming off losing, but a great scrap for the Deep flyweight title. Ito vs Ito might be the best fight make. It would be a great grappler vs striker match-up.
What are the odds of a fighter who got knocked out in his last fight over two years ago, who also had retired, and going up a weight class would have such a dominant win in his return match? The odds would point highly unlikely to happen. But that is what Masanori Kanehara (28-14-5) was able to do when he returned to MMA against Takahiro Ashida.
In the first round, Kanehara didn’t seem to have missed a step. He was able to takedown Ashida, who comes from one of the best wrestling camps in Japan, Brave, with ease. He also rocked Ashida with a nasty knee to the liver.
Come second round, Kanehara hit Ashida with a cross and Ashida reeled back and fell down. Kanehara went for the ground and pound and the ref waved off the fight.
With his win at Rizin 31, Kanehara inserts himself as a name in the already packed Rizin featherweight division. Given that he hasn’t fought in about two years, he will be behind such fighters as Daisuke Nakamura and Rikuto Shirakawa. During his victory celebration, Kanehara gave the middle finger to Kyohei Hagiwara who was on commentary. Hagiwara is already booked to face Shoji at Rizin Trigger 1 at the end of November. The winner of that fight would be a great matchup for Kanehara. Also, make the fight a qualifying match for the FW GP that Rizin looks like to be having.