Reina Miura, Miyu Yamamoto Victorious At Rizin FF GP 1st RoundCharismatic rising star “King” Reina Miura kept her perfect record intact with a close and competitive decision victory tonight at the 2017 Rizin World Bantamweight Grand Prix 1st Round in Saitama, Japan. Miura edged out pro wrestler Seini “Lei’D Tapa” Draughn in a 194-pound matchup.

In other action, Miyu Yamamoto earned her first MMA win with a hard-fought decision over Cassie “The Hulk” Robb, and Shinju “Juju” Nozawa-Auclair won her pro debut by stopping an overmatched Sheena “Star” Brandenburg. Gabi Garcia and Oksana Gagloeva fought to a 16-second No Contest.

 

Miura (5-0-0) gave up a significant size and reach advantage to Draughn (0-2-0) tonight, and she was repeatedly tagged by Draughn’s heavy punches and head kicks in the early goings. Draughn continued to score with hard left hands until Miura took her down. Miura dominated the remainder of the round on the mat with knees and punches, and she threatened with a keylock and an armbar before the bell.

Draughn continued to get the better of the striking exchanges in rounds two and three, and she knocked the smaller Miura off-balance on multiple occasions with straight left hands. Miura scored another takedown late in round two and nearly finished the fight with an armbar, and Draughn was again saved by the bell at the end of round three when Miura transitioned from a keylock to a tight belly-down armbar just as time expired.

The bout went to the scorecards and all three judges favoured Miura’s ground dominance and near-submissions over Draughn’s superior striking. Miura walked away with a Unanimous Decision victory, but she was not satisfied with her performance and identified areas of her game that need improvement.

“I got frustrated because I couldn’t get the finish,” Miura noted backstage. “She hit me, but she did not hurt me. I could take her down, and that part of the fight was not bad because my background is in judo, but I want to add more striking skills. So I showed my striking today, but I couldn’t finish and so I feel that I need to improve my ground game, too. If I am offered a Gabi [Garcia] fight, I will take it. We’ve both improved, so I need to train hard.”

“There is not much to say. I could have done better,” Tapa reflected backstage following her defeat. “[Miura] stuck to her game plan. I need to accept the judges’ decision.”

 

Yamamoto (1-2-0) had to fend off numerous submission attempts in her atomweight bout with Robb (2-6-0), but ultimately prevailed thanks to some impressive takedowns and ground and pound.

Robb attacked with standing guillotine choke and an armbar early on after Yamamoto got the fight to the ground in a corner. Yamamoto, who suffered submission setbacks in her first two fights for Rizin, stayed calm and landed hammerfists and knees to Robb’s face after escaping from the armbar. She took Robb down again in rounds two and three, avoiding armbars in both rounds, and punished the American with punches to the face and liver. All three judges scored the fight for Yamamoto, who celebrated the Unanimous Decision victory with family members in the ring.

“I’m still excited!” Yamamoto exclaimed backstage following the win. “I was finished in the first round both times so far in my career, so I wanted to get past the first round tonight and we fought all three rounds. I’m happy because my family and team come into the ring. I want to be in the [upcoming women’s] tournament and win it in December so that I can avenge my loss to Rena [Kubota]. I only had takedowns before, but I have improved in all areas.”

“I did pretty good,” Robb stated backstage of her performance. “[Yamamoto] had strong power and her takedowns are really good. I’m not bad on the ground, but I wanted to fight on the feet.”

 

Nozawa-Auclair (1-0-0 pro; 2-1-0 amateur), whose mother, Japanese comedian Naoko Nozawa, was in attendance tonight, cruised to a quick and easy win in her pro debut against Brandenburg (0-1-0 pro; 3-17-0 amateur), who has now been finished in all 18 of her losses.

After punching her way into an early clinch, Nozawa-Auclair took Brandenburg down into back control and she transitioned to mount soon after. Nozawa-Auclair dropped elbows that opened a cut on the side of Brandenburg’s head, and she nearly finished the fight with a mounted gogoplata. When Brandenburg did not tap out, Nozawa-Auclair quickly spun into an armbar and Brandenburg hastily tapped out at the 1:50 mark.

“I wanted to stand and strike, but the fight hit the ground and I was nervous,” Nozawa-Auclair noted backstage. “After a minute, I calmed down. I tried to finish with the gogoplata because it’s cooler than an armbar, but I couldn’t make it happen. I want give my trophies to my mom, but she refused. My background is in karate, and my personal heroes are Joanna [Jędrzejczyk], Angela Lee and Megumi Fujii. I want to be active as a fighter and to fight again soon. I would like to train and grow my skills naturally instead of training for one particular opponent.”

“I’m better than that,” Brandenburg professed backstage. “With the adrenaline dump, my body didn’t work well. My opponent did well, though. I normally don’t tap, so she did really good. Shinju has a great future and is such a good athlete, but we should this again.”

 

A heavyweight bout between Garcia (4-0-0, 1 NC) and Gagloeva (0-0-0, 1 NC) ended in just 16 seconds when Gagloeva was poked in the eye and deemed to be unable to continue. The accidental foul occurred when Garcia stretched out her hand to defend as Gagloeva closed the distance in search of a clinch. After several moments of checking on Gagloeva’s condition, the fight was waved off. Garcia fought to another No Contest under shoot boxing rules against Megumi Yabushita earlier this month.

“Every event has its own charm to it and I felt the fighters’ passion tonight,” Rizin FF founder and CEO Nobuyuki Sakakibara commented backstage. “[Dan] Henderson joined us for a return back to Japan, and I thank him for that. Kyoji [Horiguchi] and Tenshin [Nasukawa] showed dominance, and that was impressive. Miyu got her first win and Shinju did as well.

“Gabi’s fight was unfortunate,” Sakakibara continued. “Accidents can happen in MMA. Reina showed a strong performance. We had our best attendance for any Rizin event at 17,730, but we aim to reach Pride attendance levels. I will co-ordinate Kron Gracie’s fight, possibly against Yachi or another opponent. Henderson had no plans to come back, but grappling with Sakuraba to help to revive Japanese MMA brought him back.”

Full play-by-play for all bouts on tonight’s Rizin FF card can be found here.

 

 

(Photo Credit: Deep Jewels)