Rena Kubota, Gabi Garcia Victorious At Rizin Fighting Federation 2Shoot Boxing Women’s Flyweight Champion Rena Kubota kicked off her pro MMA career with a sensational submission victory tonight at Rizin Fighting Federation 2 in Saitama, Japan. Kubota finished fellow striker Jleana Valentino with a flying armbar in the second round of their 51kg bout.

The popular Kubota, who is one of Japan’s biggest female combat sports stars, overcame a left hand injury that was aggravated very early in tonight’s bout. In other action, multi-time BJJ world champion Gabi Garcia knocked out pro wrestler Seini “Lei’D Tapa” Draughn in round one of a wild slugfest.


Kubota (31-5-1 SB/KB; 1-0-0 MMA) pressed forward early on and threw leg kicks that were met by a strong left hand from Valentino (0-1-0 MMA). Kubota caught a body kick and took Valentino down, but Valentino kicked her off and quickly stood back up. On the feet, Kubota scored with a body kick and a three-punch flurry. Valentino fired back with another hard left cross, but Kubota was unfazed and she backed her up with punches. Kubota clinched and threw Valentino to the mat, but Valentino scrambled up and both fighters landed punches before the bell.

The second round began with an exchange of body kicks and Kubota countered a left cross from Valentino with a quick combination. Valentino landed a flurry of her own and briefly backed Kubota into a corner. Kubota responded by rushing forward with lunging punches, and she tried for a takedown but wound up on the bottom. A scramble ensued and both women stood up. Seconds later, Kubota leapt into a slick flying armbar and she used it to pull Valentino down against the ropes. Valentino tried to hold on, but Kubota wrenched back on her arm and Valentino tapped out at the 3:31 mark of round two.

“Rumina Sato once taught me the flying armbar when we collaborated for a magazine interview, and I trained it at AACC,” Kubota stated backstage after the fight. “I wanted to try the flying armbar tonight and [coach] Hiroyuki Abe shouted for me to ‘fly,’ so I did fly. A very early left hook hurt my left fist, so I gave my corner a sign to indicate that I was hurt and could not use my left hand.

“I have two thoughts about competing in MMA,” Kubota added. “I can go out [victorious] in MMA beautifully with this [flying armbar], but I think that I still have lots of room for improvement, so my feelings are mixed. Jleana is good fighter who can win in shoot boxing, so I wouldn’t mind a rematch with her in a Girls S-Cup.

[Rizin FF CEO Nobuyuki] Sakakibara brought me to this big stage and I am thankful for that,” Kubota continued. “I felt that the venue was filled with fans even though we were in the first fight. [Takeshi] Caesar told me that I may not want to try MMA, but I decided to do it and I heard that he shed tears after my fight, so I’m glad that I did. I tried to fight tonight at MMA distance, but Jleana struck from a kickboxing distance and I got hit more because of that, so I need to continue to adapt.”

Valentino, who trained her grappling at UFC veteran Alessio Sakara’s gym, stated after the fight that she was very happy with her experience in MMA even though she was unable to secure a victory.

“For strikers [like me], it is hard to get good at grappling since muscle movements are different, but maybe I can adapt better next time,” Valentino said. “My left middle kick is my best weapon, and using punches and then middle kicks worked well as a strategy. [Rena] began to block punches and caught my kicks, which made for a more difficult fight. I feel that this was a dream come true to participate in such a huge event. It was the right decision to start the event with girls because girls can bring it just as much as the boys. I will definitely be back here to fight again.”


In their featured open-weight bout, hard punches were exchanged right away and Garcia (1-0-0 MMA) was dropped by an early left hook from Draughn (0-1-0 MMA). Garcia recovered and got back to her feet, and both women threw wild punches. Garcia landed a big flurry and she backed Draughn up against the ropes. A standing backfist dropped Draughn, and Garcia finished her off with punches and hammerfists from mount. The official time of the knockout came at the 2:36 mark of round one.

“It was my debut fight and I had too much adrenaline, but after I got hit I calmed down,” Garcia stated after the fight. “I’m glad that I got the KO. Tapa is a very good opponent. I got hurt and I gained respect for her. I need to improve everything because one hit can change the entire fight. I trained for distance and timing with [Rafael] Cordeiro, but couldn’t fight like I had imagined.

“I had my hardest training at Kings MMA, where I trained with champions,” Garcia continued. “Thank you to Kings MMA. They are my family. [Fabricio] Werdum punched me very hard, so I already had a tougher time in training than in the actual fight. I almost got KOed many times at Kings MMA, but I have guts and I felt revenge from my training after I knocked Tapa out. I will continue in MMA and I have more fights on my contract. I want to return to Brazil, but I also want to be a top fighter and so I will go back to the United States for training.”



(Photo Credit: Rizin Fighting Federation)