By Alistair Hendrie
If ever you ever thought Tenshin Nasukawa was all style and no substance, you might feel differently after he toughed out Kyoji Horiguchi in the Rizin 13 main event on Sunday. The flamboyant youngster backed up his undefeated record with a unanimous decision over the MMA star and it’s no surprise he attracted 27,208 attendees on the night –a promotional record. Here, though, he showed guts and character that belied his booming profile and media empire.
The 20-year-old was outworked in the first frame and almost lost a point in the second when he hit Horiguchi low with a thwack that reverberated around Japan’s Saitama Arena. A rally at the death then helped Tenshin earn tallies of 30-29, 29-28, and 30-28.
Round one was a blur of quickfire striking as Horiguchi connected with overhand punches while Tenshin responded in kind with kicks to the calves and head. The drama continued in round two as Tenshin was warned for his low blows. Sensing he was in trouble, the favorite pulled the trigger for the first time, firing a salvo of high kicks and spinning attacks that barely missed the mark. Still, he’d stamped his authority. He’d reminded Horiguchi that kickboxing was his domain.
Tenshin saved his best for last as he finished the deciding round with a rolling thunder kick, following up with punches to the torso and abdomen that sent Horiguchi wobbling towards the ropes. Although the one-time ISKA, DEEP, and RISE titlist had done enough for his 28th professional victory, it’s fair to say the rest are getting closer. Tenshin outscored Rodtang Jitmuangnon by a hair’s breadth in June and this was just as tense.
Miyuu Yamamoto secured an emotional victory in the atomweight co-main event, outpointing Andy Nguyen 12 days after the passing of her brother Kid Yamamoto, one of the greatest lighter-weight fighters of all-time. Yamamoto was in control from start to finish, taking it to the ground and staying patient on top, punching around the guard and keeping her head and arms out of danger.
Mirko Cro Cop, one of the best heavyweight strikers to ever do it, scored a first-round TKO over Roque Martinez, slashing his foe open with an elbow that ended the show. At 44, Cro Cop aims to retire after competing at Rizin’s New Year’s Eve event, potentially against Czech light-heavyweight Jiri Prochazka. Prochazka also won on Sunday, stopping Jake Heun in round one after a rally of malicious boxing.
Two other big men, super-heavyweights Bob Sapp and Osunaarashi, fought to a hilarious standstill with Sapp earning a decision for his first MMA triumph in seven years. Osunaarashi opened with a cluster of hooks and hammer fists around the guard but as both competitors tottered into exhaustion, the match became a glorified staring contest with both men plodding around the ring and gasping for air. Sapp’s wild hooks, thrown without a trace of speed or disguise, just about got him the W.
Elsewhere Deep strawweight king Haruo Ochi stopped Pancrase titlist Mitsuhisa Sunabe in three, closing matters with a body-head combination and soccer kicks. Lightweight Daron Cruickshank put an end to Diego Brandao in two, punishing the Brazilian’s takedown entry with a flying knee that marks his fourth consecutive stoppage.
There was also reason for the Asakura brothers to celebrate, as Kai and Mikuru both savored wins over Tiger Muay Thai competition. Kai, the 24-year-old bantamweight, won every session against Topnoi Tiger Muay Thai, while Mikuru, the 25-year-old featherweight, racked up a unanimous decision over Karshyga Dautbek.
Finally, Manel Kape choked out Yusaku Nakamura in round three of their 130 lbs clash, Ayaka Hamasaki submitted Mina Kurobe in round one of their super-atomweight dust-up, and Taiga Kawabe and Kento Haraguchi drew their 130 lbs kickboxing meeting.
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