Hiromasa Ogikubo came up big as an underdog to win the Rizin FF bantamweight grand prix.
Ogikubo (25-5-2) had to go through some early adversity in his semifinals bout against Naoki Inoue, but “The Ultimate Fighter 24” finalist rallied to win the final two rounds and advance to the Rizin FF 33 finals at Saitama Super Arena on Friday.
On the other side of the bracket, Kai Asakura (19-4) knocked down and outstruck Kenta Takizawa, setting him up with a finals rematch against Ogikubo, who he knocked out with a soccer kick at Rizin FF 23 in 2020.
With the odds stacked against him once again on the night, Ogikubo came out strong against Asakura. Ogikubo chopped away with leg kicks, landing an early takedown on Asakura. He was able to briefly get full mount, transitioning to Asakura’s back, who managed to stay out of any major submission threats.
In Round 2, Asakura was crisp with his jab, landing a solid left hook. But Ogikubo didn’t back down from the striking exchanges, finding a home for his overhand right on numerous occasions. After a competitive round on the feet, Ogikubo ended the round with a flurry and a takedown.
Asakura showed good takedown defense in Round 3, but Ogikubo’s overwhelming pace was too much as the 34-year-old managed to avenge his loss to Asakura and win the 2021 Rizin FF bantamweight grand prix.
In the co-main event, lightweight champion Roberto de Souza (13-1) notched his first title defense when he submitted Yusuke Yachi (23-12) with a slick armbar in Round 2. After his win, Souza asked for a Bellator champion as he eyes titles in two different promotions.
The Rizin FF 33 results include:
Hiromasa Ogikubo def. Kai Asakura via unanimous decision – bantamweight grand prix finals
Roberto de Souza def. Yusuke Yachi via submission (armbar) – Round 2, 3:30 to retain lightweight title
Mikuru Asakura def. Yutaka Saito via unanimous decision
Tenshin Nasukawa vs. Takanori Gomi – special rules bout ends in a draw
Si Woo Park def. Rena Kubota via unanimous decision
Seika Izawa def. Ayaka Hamasaki via TKO (elbows and punches) – Round 2, 2:50
Koji Takeda def. Noah Bey via submission (armbar) – Round 2, 4:12
Hideki Sekine def. Shoma Shibisai via TKO (punches) – Round 2, 2:09
Kyohei Hagiwara def. Hiroaki Suzuki via unanimous decision
Shinobu Ota def. Kazuma Sone via TKO (soccer kick and stomps) – Round 2, 3:55
Yuki Motoya def. Yuto Hokamura via unanimous decision – bantamweight grand prix reserve bout
Hiromasa Ogikubo def. Naoki Inoue via unanimous decision – bantamweight grand prix semifinals
Kai Asakura def. Kenta Takizawa via unanimous decision – bantamweight grand prix semifinals