Rena Kubota, Miyuu Yamamoto Prevail In Rizin FF 20 Feature BoutsJapanese star Rena Kubota avenged a disappointing loss and scored one of her most high-profile victories to date tonight at Rizin Fighting Federation 20 in Saitama, Japan. Kubota stopped Lindsey “Damsel” VanZandt late in the third round of their back-and-forth rematch on tonight’s main card.

In addition to Kubota’s emotional victory, another Rizin FF mainstay also picked up a key win tonight. Miyuu Yamamoto, competing for the tenth time under the Rizin FF banner, earned a clear-cut Unanimous Decision victory over talented striker Suwanan “Amp The Rocket” Boonsorn at 49kg.


Kubota (10-3-0) scored with an early right hand and VanZandt (7-3-0) responded with leg kicks and a takedown. She struck from the top with punches and hammerfists to the body and head as Kubota worked to tie her up from the bottom. VanZandt postured up with harder hammerfists in the final two minutes and she passed to side control. Kubota swept into top position and took side control herself, which allowed her to land knees to VanZandt’s head. The fight returned to the feet and Kubota landed another knee before stuffing a takedown at the bell.

In round two, Kubota closed the distance and landed a kick-punch combo that backed VanZandt into a corner. She circled away, but Kubota kept her on the defensive and walked her down with more strikes. A hard one-two landed for Kubota and she defended a takedown, but VanZandt scored with a body kick and she shot in for another takedown attempt. Kubota thwarted her again and kept the pressure on with her punches. After two more failed takedowns, VanZandt threw a jumping kick and Kubota surprisingly tried to take her down, but VanZandt hopped on her back in the process. She tried for an armbar and switched to a triangle choke after dragging Kubota down to the mat, then attacked Kubota’s face with elbows and pulled back on her arm before time expired.

The final round began with Kubota pressing forward again and VanZandt shot in for a takedown. Kubota stuffed it and landed knees to the head that forced VanZandt to roll, but she wound up on the bottom in side control. After softening VanZandt up with punches, Kubota tried to torque back on a kimura, but VanZandt defended and she scrambled up to her feet. Kubota fought off another takedown and took top position in side control again. She moved to North-South and punished VanZandt’s body with punches before standing back up. As time ticked down, Kubota countered a takedown attempt with a rear-naked choke and VanZandt rolled to her back. Kubota took mount in the final minute and she postured up with punches that forced VanZandt to roll over. Kubota continued to land punches and VanZandt’s corner threw in the towel at the 4:42 mark.

“I felt scared this time, but my teammates supported me and that led to this result,” Kubota admitted backstage following tonight’s event. “My opponent is strong and she studied me even more after she had already beaten me. That shows how serious she is. I was in the dark after losing to her [in the first fight]. I found a weak point for myself, so I need to fix that in 2020. In the first round tonight, [VanZandt] was aggressive and made an impression, but I have experience with comebacks. I tested rubber guard today and I wasn’t too afraid to grapple like in the old days. My takedown was awkward, though, and I need to practice that. I got my first ground-and-pound TKO today and that was a good experience.

“I don’t know how much strength is needed to satisfy me as a fighter, but if my pursuit of that strength ends then my career is over,” Kubota added. “[New champion Seo Hee] Ham’s style is striking-based, so that’s a good fit for me, but I need time. [VanZandt] travelled to fight me with nothing to really gain, so I can go to [the United States] to fight her again. My friend passed away recently and I went to a ceremony before this event. I believe that she watched the event from above.”

“I am disappointed with my performance, but in fighting the result will come as a win or a loss and Rena fought with good tactics today,” VanZandt said backstage after the fight. “I need to rest and then begin training to fix the problems. I fought five times this year. I was still moving [tonight], but the ref stopped it. I didn’t know that my corner had stopped the fight, but it is what it is. My weight gain [up from 105] affected me a bit. I need to train hard for this weight. That triangle choke was close and her breathing was rough. That I will remember. She is a really good fighter, and Shoot Boxing champ, but I am a better all-around fighter. So, in a third fight, I will defeat her.”


Earlier on the card, Yamamoto (6-4-0) posted an impressive victory over Boonsorn (4-3-0), who started strong in round one by landing hard leg kicks that led to a quick exchange of punches. The fighters clinched and Yamamoto punched over the top before taking Boonsorn down. She threw short punches from top position while Boonsorn tied her up from the bottom and the fighters were stood up with one minute remaining in the round. Yamamoto jabbed and Boonsorn landed a body kick before the bell.

Yamamoto secured a body-lock takedown into half-guard to begin round two and she postured up with a series of hammerfists to Boonsorn’s face. Boonsorn got back to full guard and tried for an armbar, but Yamamoto stood up. Boonsorn rose to her feet and Yamamoto backed her into a corner with a flurry of punches. She got Boonsorn down again and landed more punches while pinning her foe against the base of a corner post.

Boonsorn looked to set up combinations on the feet in the final round, and Yamamoto responded by slamming her down once more. She passed to side control and landed numerous right hands to Boonsorn’s face. Yamamoto trapped Boonsorn in a top-side crucifix and continued to punish her with punches until Boonsorn scrambled back to full guard, but that did not stop Yamamoto from punching and she soon looked for an arm-triangle choke. Boonsorn defended, but Yamamoto postured up with hard shots and she rose to her feet. Boonsorn followed and she was immediately taken down with a headlock throw. Yamamoto landed knees to the body and spun into a late-fight armbar.

All three judges scored the fight for Yamamoto, who took the Unanimous Decision victory. She has won five of her past six fights, with the lone defeat during that time coming against new Rizin champion Seo Hee Ham in October.

“I’m glad that I did not continue a losing streak tonight,” Yamamoto stated backstage. “I did too much watching because I was wary of her body kicks. Our game plan was to co-ordinate the distance of her body kicks, but I did not fare well at it. Ground-wise, I needed to be careful because she is active from the bottom. In the final round, I almost submitted her, but my confidence with grappling is not strong enough. Initially, I would think about [continuing] my career after each fight, but I evolved this year and I’m pretty good at MMA now. I will return to Guam and continue to train. My opponent [tonight] called me Mom because she is the same age as [my son] Erson.”

“I’m tired and regretful,” a dejected Boonsorn said backstage after the defeat. “As for my impression, [Yamamoto] is very strong and matured. I underestimated her because I’m young and predicted that I would have more stamina, but I was wrong. I have a Muay Thai background and wanted to pressure her [on the feet], but she has experience and she was always ahead of me in the grappling and jiu-jitsu. Today was my second time competing for Rizin and I am thankful that they gave me this fight. I will work hard to earn another chance.”



(Photo Credit: Shoot Boxing)