Rizin Fighting Federation’s first of two year-end cards in Japan featured the second round of the company’s bantamweight grand prix on Dec. 29, and it delivered.
Kyoji Horiguchi, everyone’s main target in the bantamweight tournament, met undefeated Gabriel Oliveira in the quarterfinal inside the Saitama Super Arena, and made it look easy.
The Japanese star dropped Oliveira three times in the first round, knocking him down with a left jab and a right hand before the final blow that dropped the Brazilian on the ground. Horiguchi followed up with another strike before the referee stepped in and mercifully stopped the fight.
In the co-main event, Ian McCall entered a ring to compete for the first time since Jan. 2015, when he lost a decision to John Lineker in the UFC. “Uncle Creepy”, who had six straight UFC fights cancelled, took on Angola’s Manel Kape for a chance to face Horiguchi in the semifinal, and it ended in controversy.
McCall vs. Kape started with an insane exchange before McCall went for a takedown and Kape responded with a guillotine choke. McCall was bleeding a lot from a cut that apparently was caused by the ring rope. The referee eventually stopped the action and the doctor called the fight off.
“Like I said, I knew I would win,” Kape said afterwards. “This is nothing for me, only a rock on my way that I will step on it and walk through it. I work like a slave to live like a king. Never doubt my sacrifice. Everything I say, I do. His experience will never be bigger than my life experience.”
King of Pancrase Shintaro Ishiwatari advanced to the semifinal with a brutal knockout over Kevin Petshi. The experienced Japanese talent dominated most of the first round when the fight went to the ground, but the finish came in the striking area, as Ishiwatari landed a vicious right hand that dropped Petshi out cold on the ground.
Ishiwatari will face Takafumi Otsuka in the second semifinal on Dec. 31. Undefeated prospect Khalid Taha was controlling the action against the DEEP bantamweight champion, but Otsuka pulled off a guillotine choke midway through the third round to set up a battle between Pancrase and DEEP champions inside the Rizin ring.
The semifinals are set for Dec. 31: Kyoji Horiguchi vs. Manel Kape and Shintaro Ishiwatari vs. Takafumi Otsuka.
In the light heavyweight division, Karl Albrektsson dominated the majority of the first round on the ground against Jiri Prochazka, landing good shots, but Prochazka was able to get back up in the final minute and hurt his opponent badly. Prochazka sensed the end was near, so he continued to push the pace and got the TKO finish with seconds left.
Japanese sensation "King" Reina Miura took on UFC and Invicta FC veteran Cindy Dandois in a lightweight fight, and spent the entire first round with Dandois on her back, looking for a choke. Miura and Dandois exchanged a few good right hands in the second round before “King" got a takedown and went for a keylock in the last seconds, but couldn’t get the finish.
Miura quickly took the fight to the ground in the final round, but Dandois managed to get back up shortly after. “King" tagged Dandois with a good right hand, followed by more punches, and Dandois took her down to avoid more damage and kept her there the rest of the round. In the end, Dandois gave Miura her first defeat in MMA with a split decision.
In the early portion of the event, Anthony Birchak suffered his third straight defeat since leaving the UFC, this time losing a split decision to Je Hoon Moon. Moments after the bout, Birchak indicated on his social media that this could have been his last fight.
A 95-kg fight between Gabi Garcia and Shinobu Kandori, rescheduled from last year’s card to Dec. 29, was cancelled after the Brazilian missed weight by 26 pounds.
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