(James Goyder is the owner/editor of AsianMMA.com)
Rizin 20 took place at the Saitama Super Arena on New Year’s Eve and saw two of the promotion’s titles change hands. Manel Kape and Seo Hee Ham both silenced the fans in Tokyo to earn bantamweight and super atomweight belts respectively.
In the main event, Kape faced Kai Asakura in a rematch which had the vacant bantamweight belt on the line. The Angolan fighter was wearing wrestling boots and saw an early takedown stuffed, but it was his striking that would ultimately make the difference.
Early on the southpaw stunned Asakura with a left hand and he got the better of the exchanges throughout the opening round. Kape was mixing up his attacks and using flying knees and spinning back firsts to set up combinations while his opponent struggled to land straight punches.
At the start of the second stanza, a right hook from Kape stunned Asakura and the Japanese fighter never recovered. His opponent swarmed all over him, attacking relentlessly until the referee had no option but to step in and call off the contest.
The finish came at the 0:38 mark and saw Kape avenge his 2018 defeat at the hands of Asakura and become only the second fighter to win the Rizin bantamweight belt. The Portuguese fighter improves to 15-4, while his opponent drops to 14-2.
Watching at ringside was former champion Kyoji Horiguchi who relinquished the belt after suffering a serious knee injury. He is coming off a loss to Asakura and looks set to be out for up to a year, but Kape ran out of the ring to say something to him immediately after the fight.
Meanwhile, Ham earned the right to call herself the Rizin super atomweight champion. A strong second round, in which she had Ayaka Hamasaki trapped in a deep triangle choke and landed numerous elbows to the head, was enough to earn her the judge’s decision.
It was a real war of attrition and both fighters were bruised and battered heading into the final round. Hamasaki got a takedown and spent the final minute peppering Ham with light punches from top position but it wasn’t enough to stop her slipping to a split decision defeat.
Ham, who is also the reigning Road FC 105-pound champion, becomes only the second fighter to win the belt and improves to 23-8. Meanwhile, Hamasaki drops to 19-3, but a fourth fight between these two super atomweights seems inevitable in 2020.
Rizin 20 Official Results
- Manel Kape def. Kai Asakura via TKO (Punches) at 0:38 of Round 2 (Wins bantamweight title)
- Seo Hee Ham def. Ayaka Hamasaki via Decision (Split) (Wins super atomweight title)
- Mikuru Asakura def. John Teixeira via Decision (Unanimous)
- Rena Kubota def. Lindsey VanZandt via TKO (corner stoppage) at 4:42 of Round 3
- Tofiq Musaev def. Patricky Freire via Decision (Unanimous) (Wins lightweight tournament)
- Jiri Prochazka def. C.B. Dollaway by KO (Punch) at 1:05 of Round One
- Simon Biyong def. Vitaly Shemetov by TKO (Submission to Punches) at 0:58 of Round Two
- Hiromasa Ogikubo def. Shintaro Ishiwatari by Decision (Split)
- Jake Heun def. Satoshi Ishii by TKO (Punches) at 1:12 of Round One
- Patrick Mix def. Yuki Motoya by Submission (Guillotine Choke) at 1:37 of Round One
- Taiju Shiratori def. Taiga by TKO (Cut) at 3:00 of Round Two
- Miyuu Yamamoto def. Suwanan Boonsorn by Decision (Unanimous)
- Patricky Freire def. Luiz Gustavo by TKO (Punches and Soccer Kick) at 0:28 of Round One
- Tofiq Musayev def. Johnny Case by TKO (Punches) at 2:47 of Round One