Kanna Asakura Wins Rizin FF Women's Super Atomweight Grand PrixCompeting in front of 18,316 fans in what was arguably the biggest women’s title fight in Japanese MMA history, Kanna Asakura became the inaugural Rizin FF Women’s Super Atomweight Grand Prix Champion tonight at Rizin Fighting Federation World Grand Prix 2017: Final Round in Saitama, Japan.

The 20-year-old Asakura won two fights in one night and choked out Shoot Boxing superstar Rena Kubota in the 108-pound tournament final to claim the title. Flyweight Shinju “Juju” Nozawa-Auclair avenged a loss by stopping Chelsea LaGrasse. All fighters discussed their performances backstage.


Asakura (11-2-0) shot in and took Kubota (6-1-0) down in the opening minute of tonight’s grand prix final, but she could not hold her down for long and Kubota battled back to her feet against the ropes. Asakura circled on the outside before diving for two more takedowns, but Kubota stuffed both of them and she landed a quick combination on the break. Kubota lunged in with lead left hooks and a follow-up right cross, but Asakura dragged her down into side control and took Kubota’s back seconds later. She locked on a rear-naked choke and Kubota was rendered unconscious at the 4:34 mark of round one.

Asakura’s stunning technical submission victory extended her winning streak to six, while Kubota’s run of 25 straight victories in MMA, kickboxing and shoot boxing came to an abrupt end. Kubota had not lost a combat sports fight in more than six years.

“I’m glad that I won by submission in both fights tonight,” Asakura stated backstage following her title victory. “I respect Rena and I had expected that she would advance to the final. Her striking is scary, but in the fight I saw her as just another opponent that I needed to beat. When she sprawled, I thought that I couldn’t get a takedown, but my last takedown was just what I had trained.

“I don’t remember it exactly, but training brought about that move naturally,” Asakura continued. “I want to rest in the New Year, but I bet I will go back to training soon. I don’t have a plan for my prize money [¥7,000,000]. Because of [Shigeru] Saeki’s matchmaking with me against [Saori] Ishioka, that fight brought me here. Many people thought that Rena would win. I think it still feels unrealistic for me to win, but because my father taught me wrestling I am here. Sometimes, I hated training wrestling, but it paid off. I totally thank him now.”

“I learned how difficult MMA is today,” a disappointed Kubota said backstage. “I landed my right hand well in the first fight and I felt good in the final. I’ve only had two years of MMA experience. I had to lose and now my story starts from here. I was unconscious and 5-6 people surrounded me. It was a weird experience. [Asakura] took my back and I still felt okay since I had trained for that, but I made a mistake. I will be better after this and I will avenge my loss like every other time. I’m not sure when I will be back in Rizin or SB. I need to rest a bit, as I was too busy this year.”


Prior to tonight’s grand prix final, both Asakura and Kubota first had to get past their respective semi-final opponents, and both Japanese fighters shined in victory.

Asakura slammed Maria de Oliveira Neta (10-3-0) down to the mat early in their semi-final contest and she landed a series of punches from top position in half-guard. Asakura passed to mount soon after and she threatened with an arm-triangle choke and a keylock. Oliveira escaped and scrambled up to her feet, but not before eating a soccer kick to the body.

Oliveira landed a nice right hand early in round two, but Asakura took her back down into half-guard and worked for another arm-triangle choke from the top. Asakura passed to a high mount and attempted a top-side triangle choke. She mixed in punches and kept Oliveira on the defensive. Asakura spun into an armbar and wrenched back on Oliveira’s arm, forcing the Brazilian to tap at the 3:40 mark of round two.

“I did not lose to Kanna, I lost to myself,” an emotional Oliveira stated backstage. “I have never been at an event this big and I got nervous when I realised that. It cost me the fight. Kanna was strong on the ground. I prepared for that, but I still lost.”


In the other semi-final bout, Kubota picked apart Irene Cabello Rivera (7-5-0) with punches and knees to the body before finishing her off with a final flurry late in the opening round.

After a cautious first minute, Kubota landed a body kick and a right hand as Rivera circled on the outside. The fighters clinched in a corner, where Rivera briefly secured a body triangle, and Kubota targeted her body with punches and knees. Rivera broke free, but Kubota rushed forward with a big combination. Rivera stumbled backward to the ropes but recovered quickly. More punches were exchanged and Kubota rocked Rivera with a lead left hook. Rivera wobbled and Kubota landed a final flurry that dropped her against the base of the ropes. Rivera tried to stand up, but fell on her face and the bout was stopped at the 4:39 mark of round one.

“The stoppage was not good,” a defiant Rivera claimed backstage. “I thought I could still fight. Rena was the faster fighter and I lost, but I will evolve as a fighter. I prepared to fight anywhere, including striking on the feet, but I should have taken more distance. Rena’s tactics were good, but as an athlete I think I’m on the same level.”


In a rematch from a controversial amateur bout in March, Nozawa-Auclair (2-0-0) kept her perfect pro record intact and avenged her contentious disqualification loss to LaGrasse (0-1-0) with a convincing first-round submission victory at flyweight.

Both women landed kicks in the opening seconds of the fight and Nozawa-Auclair threw knees to the body in a clinch. LaGrasse tried to jump guard and Nozawa-Auclair slammed her down to the mat, but LaGrasse quickly countered with an armbar and a triangle choke from the bottom. Nozawa-Auclair tried to slam her way free, but LaGrasse kept her trapped in the triangle for quite some time.

The fighters eventually scrambled up and Nozawa-Auclair teed off with kicks, knees and elbows. She pulled LaGrasse down to the mat with a rolling Anaconda choke that allowed her to take top position in side control. Nozawa-Auclair then switched to a straight armbar that forced LaGrasse to hastily submit at the 4:47 mark of the first round.

“I trained for a grappling battle, but her triangle was scary,” Nozawa-Auclair admitted backstage. “I felt the loss of blood to my head, but then I was back. My armbar could have been more precise. I still have some amateur-ish skills. I wanted to get to strike, but I focused on sprawlling because I expected her to come with takedowns. I’m better at striking and she thinks that she is better at grappling. A win is a win, but I wanted to show off my Muay Thai skills that I’ve trained.”

“Obviously, I am disappointed,” LaGrasse said backstage. “I controlled the fight until the final 30 seconds. She has improved her grappling. I felt calm during the fight and gave it 100%, so I do not regret my performance. I thought I had her with the triangle, but she was tough and I lost my grip. Her speed is a problem for me and I underestimated her ground game. I exposed my arm for her.”



(Photo Credit: Deep Jewels)