Tenshin Nasukawa (RIZIN FF/Facebook)

Rizin Fighting World Grand Prix 2017 in Fukuoka Preview and Predictions

Rizin Fighting Federation returns to Fukuoka, Japan, on Sunday, Oct. 15, for Rizin Fighting World Grand Prix 2017 in Fukuoka.

In the evening’s main event, Japanese combat-sports star Rena Kubota kicks off the women’s super atomweight grand prix against former King of the Cage atomweight champion Andy Nguyen. Shoot-boxing legend Kubota is undefeated in her MMA career, with all four wins coming by way of stoppage. Nguyen lost her title in her second defense against Melissa Sophia Karagianis in August.

In the night’s co-headliner, undefeated kickboxer Tenshin Nasukawa returns to MMA action against amateur boxer and MMA fighter Yamato Fujita. Nasukawa, 19, moved his professional kickboxing and Muay Thai career to 20-0 with a stoppage victory over Wisanlek at KNOCK OUT Vol. 4 in August. Nasukawa is undefeated in MMA with three stoppage wins.


Elsewhere on the card, UFC Hall of Famer Kazushi Sakuraba takes on former UFC champ Frank Shamrock in a grappling bout, two-time K-1 MAX champ Andy Souwer meets Dream vet Akiyo “Wicky” Nishiura, and Japanese MMA legend Tatsuya Kawajiri fights Peru FC featherweight titleholder Gabriel Oliveira.

The pay-per-view event airs live at 1 a.m. ET on FITE TV via Combat Press.

Tenshin Nasukawa puts his undefeated professional record on the line against relative unknown Yamato Fujita. Can Fujita shock the world?

Nasukawa, who just turned 19 in August, has already risen to the pinnacle of the sport in terms of his popularity. While still attending high school, he dispatched of reigning Lumpinee stadium champion Wanchalong, former boxing champion Amnat Ruenroeng and many other high-level kickboxers on his run to a 20-0 record. Nasukawa made headlines when he knocked out Nikita Sapun in his MMA debut and took to the microphone to ask for another fight two days later. Rizin boss Nobuhiko Takada obliged. Two days later, Nasukawa submitted Dylan Oligo in only his second pro MMA fight. In his last outing in the Rizin ring, Nasukawa knocked out K-1 veteran Kizaemon Saiga with a beautiful punch in the first round of their mixed-rules bout.

To say that Nasukawa has the rub, as it’s known in the pro-wrestling world, would be a severe understatement. There hasn’t been a blue-chip prospect to grace the kickboxing world at such a young age since Hiroya. Even then, Hiroya’s career never took off the way Nasukawa’s has taken off. Maybe not since the great Masato has there been a more heralded combat-sports athlete in Japan. Now, Rizin has taken its young prodigy’s popularity and turned it into something even greater, making Nasukawa the first high-level multi-sport combat athlete since Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto. Of course, MMA has featured many Japanese fighters that have reached the upper echelon of the sport, but we could be in the midst of history with Nasukawa’s rise.

His opponent, the aforementioned Fujita, is an amateur boxer with two amateur MMA bouts. He trains out of Reversal Gym Shinjuku Me, We with Kizaemon Saiga and Toshinori “Tsune” Tsunemura. Fujita submitted Ibuki Matsumaru in his first bout in May and bested Kengo Sasaki by unanimous decision in June. Fujita’s outlook in this fight is bleak against a fighter with over 150 combined amateur and pro contests.

Nasukawa will continue to build his star in Japan with a knockout victory before the start of the third round.

In the night’s super atomweight grand prix opening round, Rena Kubota takes on Andy Nguyen, Alyssa Garcia fights Maria Oliveira, Kanna Asakura meets Sylwia Juśkiewicz, and Miyuu Yamamoto clashes with Irene Rivera. In the evening’s bantamweight grand prix opening round, King of Pancrase champ Shintaro Ishiwatari fights Akhmed Musakaev, Jae Hoon Moon meets Kevin Petshi, and Erson Yamamoto battles Manel Kape. Which fighter in each tournament will have the best performance?

For the bantamweights, it’s hard not to single out Ishiwatari as one of the favorites. The long-reigning King of Pancrase has won 13 of his last 15 fights. His only losses in this time frame came against top-five flyweight Kyoji Horiguchi and UFC veteran Jonathan Brookins, whom Ishiwatari beat last year to avenge the loss. Even in the Horiguchi fight, Ishiwatari dropped the top flyweight in the first round and gave him his toughest fight outside of his last-second submission loss to Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson for the UFC title.

Ishiwatari meets combat sambo fighter Musakaev, who is unbeaten in five pro fights. Ishiwatari has the overall striking, wrestling and mental game to make it to the final of this tournament. This could mean a match-up with Horiguchi, who is slated to be in the final. Of the other bantamweight contests, the always game South Korean Moon could make some noise when he goes up against Absolute Championship Berkut vet Kevin Petshi.

Kubota is the queen of the super atomweight opening round, but don’t sleep on Garcia and Asakura. Both fighters bring a style to the table that could give the multiple-time Shoot Boxing S-Cup champ Kubota trouble later in the tournament. In the interim, Kubota faces the best submission fighter she has faced to date when she takes on former KOTC champ Nguyen. Nguyen could surprise some with an upset submission. However, this is Kubota’s tournament to lose if she has continued to progress in her grappling game at Abe Ani Combat Club with some of the best female fighters in the world, including top-three atomweight Ayaka Hamasaki and all-time great Megumi Fujii.

Fight Picks

Fight Pick
Main Card (Fite TV on Combat Press, 1 a.m. ET)
Super AtomW Grand Prix: Rena Kubota vs. Andy Nguyen Kubota by knockout
FlyW: Tenshin Nasukawa vs. Yamato Fujita Nasukawa by knockout
Grappling Bout: Kazushi Sakuraba vs. Frank Shamrock Sakuraba by submission
LW: Andy Souwer vs. Akiyo “Wicky” Nishiura Souwer by knockout
Women’s 75 kg: “KING” Reina Miura vs. Crystal Stokes Miura by submission
63 kg: Tatsuya Kawajiri vs. Gabriel Oliveira Kawajiri by decision
BW Grand Prix: Shintaro Ishiwatari vs. Akhmed Musakaev Ishiwatari by decision
BW Grand Prix: Jae Hoon Moon vs. Kevin Petshi Moon by decision
BW Grand Prix: Erson Yamamoto vs. Manel Kape Yamamoto by decision
OpenW: Jerome Le Banner vs. Roque Martinez Martinez by knockout
Women’s Super AtomW Grand Prix: Alyssa Garcia vs. Maria Oliveira Garcia by decision
Women’s Super AtomW Grand Prix: Kanna Asakura vs. Sylwia Juskiewicz Asakura by submission
Women’s Super AtomW Grand Prix: Irene Rivera vs. Miyuu Yamamoto Yamamoto by decision
Kickboxing Bout: Issei Ishii vs. Jin Mandokoro Ishii by decision
Kickboxing Bout: YUKI vs. Darvish Kurogi YUI by decision
Kickboxing Bout: Yoshihisa Morimoto vs. Ryota Renseigym Ryota by decision