On Sunday, Sept. 25, former Pride Fighting Championship boss Noboyuki Sakakibara brought Rizin Fighting Federation back to the Saitama Super Arena in Japan for the Rizin Fighting World Grand Prix 2016: 1st Round.
In the main event of the evening, one of the best grapplers in the world, Kron Gracie, returned to Rizin for his third professional MMA fight. The multiple-time BJJ world champion has earned first-round submission victories in first two fights. Gracie faced his toughest opponent to date, the Japanese MMA legend Hideo Tokoro, when he returned to the ring after submitting rising prospect Erson Yamamoto in his most recent outing. Tokoro has won 33 fights including 19 submissions and 5 knockouts in his 16-year career. Tokoro was successful in his Rizin debut when he locked up an armbar on the former K-1 veteran Kizaemon Saiga in the promotion’s inaugural event.
In the co-main event of the evening, multiple-time freestyle wrestling world champion Miyu Yamamoto made the move to MMA just like her son, Erson, did on the last Rizin show. Yamamoto is the sister of one of Japan’s biggest MMA stars, Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto. She made her debut at the age of 42. Yamamoto will fought one of Japan’s most popular female combat sports stars, Rena Kubota. She returned to Rizin for her second professional MMA bout after a successful Shootboxing career that features wins over UFC veteran Seo Hee Ham and top-10 atomweight Mei Yamaguchi. Rena won her MMA debut against Jleana Valentino with a flying armbar on last year’s Rizin card on New Year’s Eve.
In the opening round of the 2016 Rizin World Grand Prix, Pride openweight grand prix winner Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic submitted former K-1 kickboxer and ROAD FC veteran Hyun Man Myung. Japanese MMA mainstay Kazuyuki Fujita took on one of Sumo’s fastest rising stars, Baruto Kaito. Jiri Prochazka returned to Rizin against Lebanese heavyweight Mark Tanios. Unbeaten prospects Valentin Moldavsky and Karl Albrektsson battle for positioning in the field of 16. Former Greco-Roman wrestling world champion Amir Aliakbari defeated Jungle Fight 100-kilogram champion Joao Almeida. Lithuanian prospect Teodoras Aukstuolis lost against KSW veteran Szymon Bajor.
In the rest of the evening’s action, kickboxing legend Andy Souwer returned to Rizin for his second MMA rules bout against UFC veteran Daron Cruickshank. Current top-10 featherweight kickboxer “Minoru” Kimura made his MMA debut against Pride and EliteXC veteran Charles “Felony” Bennett (formerly Krazy Horse). Former K-1 veteran Kizaemon Saiga fought 20-year-old Erson Yamamoto in a battle of young Japanese prospects. Multiple-time Japanese national wrestling champion Kanako Murata dominated rising Combate Americas prospect Kyra Batara. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu world champion Gabi Garcia fought the previously undefeated Destanie Yarbrough.