Rizin Fighting Federation’s New Years Eve show dragged for hours with long intermissions, but it definitely delivered. Headlined by a boxing exhibition match between pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather and rising Japanese superstar Tenshin Nasukawa, the fight card featured incredible finishes and some pro wrestling-like scenes.
A three-round exhibition match that would only have a winner in case of a knockout, Mayweather proved why he’s on another level. Nasuwaka, 21 years younger than the professional boxer, was no match for Mayweather’s speed.
”It was all about entertainment,” Mayweather said after the match, guaranteeing he’s still retired from professional boxing. “We had fun.”
”Tenshin is a hell of a fighter and is a true champion,” he added. “Tenshin, hold your head up high. You’re still a champion. I want the whole world to support Tenshin. He’s a great guy and a great champion.”
A true superfight took place in the co-main event, with reigning Bellator bantamweight champion Darrion Caldwell flying all the way to Japan to take on Kyoji Horiguchi for the Rizin bantamweight championship.
Caldwell had a couple of good rounds in his favor, using his wrestling to control the fight and keep Horiguchi on his back for most of the time. Caldwell came close to finishing the Japanese star with a kimura in the opening round, but Horiguchi escaped.
Caldwell continued to dominate the wrestling exchange in the second round, but Horiguchi found an opening on the ground to lock a tight guillotine choke and force the Bellator star to tap in the final round.
Horiguchi has now won 11 straight under mixed martial rules dating back to 2015, before he left the UFC on a three-fight winning streak. Horiguchi is 8-1 under the Rizin banner with his only defeat coming by the hands of Tenshin Nasukawa under kickboxing rules.
In the second championship fight of the card, Ayaka Hamasaki added another belt to her resume. Taking on Kanna Asakura for the inaugural Rizin super atomweight title, Hamasaki avoided some early drama with an eye poke to come back and land the better shots on the feet in the opening round.
With Hamasaki continuing to connect good hands and a high kick, Asakura decided to close the distance and clinch to prepare for a takedown, but it was Hamasaki who took the fight to the ground landed on top position, quickly moving to the back and going for an armbar. Hamasaki, 17-2 in MMA, is now 3-0 since joining Rizin earlier this year.
After years of build-up and rivalry with back-and-forth on the Brazilian media, Brazilian fighters Gabi Garcia and Barbara Nepomuceno finally met inside a ring.
The battle between a decorated grappler and a pure kickboxer started intense on the feet, with Garcia moving forward and throwing bombs before clinching and scoring a takedown. On side control, it didn’t take long for Garcia to lock her trademark keylock and submit Nepomuceno (watch here).
Seconds after the finish, 54-year-old Japanese Shinobu Kandori stormed into the ring and tried to “attack” Garcia. Kandori and the Brazilian were scheduled to fight twice before under the Rizin banner, but Kandori pulled out with an injury in 2016 and Garcia badly missed weight the following year. Kandori hasn’t fought since 2000.
After Kandori finally left the ring and walked away, Garcia grabbed the microphone and said she’s willing to fight anyone inside the ring, adding that Rizin needs “one belt for the heavyweight girls.”
The craziness continued in the following fight. Former Bellator middleweight champion Brandon Halsey met light heavyweight Jiri Prochazka in his promotional debut and almost got the finish early with a guillotine choke. Prochazka escaped the deep choke, and then Halsey ended up jumping outside the ring through the ropes and apparently hurting his lower back, earning a yellow card on his way back to the ring.
The action restarted and Prochazka started to taunt Halsey before almost getting submitted again with a rear-naked choke, but escaped and landed brutal shots to finally knock his opponent out cold.
In a battle of UFC lightweight veterans, Damien Brown made the best of his debut in the Rizin ring in Japan against Daron Cruickshank. The “Detroit Superstar” was doing great on the feet. However, Cruickshank decided to shoot for a takedown and ended up deep in a guillotine choke. Winner via first-round submission, Brown called out Japanese legend Takanori Gomi for his next bout.
Early in the card, Rizin 14 was a rollercoaster of emotions for the Yamamoto family just three months after the death of Japanese legend Norifumi Yamamoto.
“Kid’s” nephew Erson Yamamoto entered the ring to battle 42-year-old Kazuyuki Miyata. Both bantamweights opened the bout with flying knees, a classic “Kid” move, but the action quickly went to the ground. Miyata attacked with triangles, keylock and a kimura, but the stoppage only came in the second round, when Miyata attacked with a chicken wing crank from the guard to force his opponent to tap (watch here). Miyata announced his retirement after the win, leaving the sport with a 16-9 record.
After an intermission, it was time for Miyuu Yamamoto, Erson’s mother and Norifumi’s sister, to compete at the Saitama Super Arena. Facing Mika Nagano, the 44-year-old atomweight completely dominated the contest. Following an impressive first round, in which Yamamoto landed dozens of hammerfists and punches on the ground and pound, Kid’s sister slowed down the pace in the second and third rounds, but did more than enough to win via unanimous decision.
Click here for complete Rizin 14 results.