Seika Izawa, Ayaka Hamasaki Lead Grand Prix Winners At Rizin FF 37In a battle between undefeated champions, Seika Izawa kept her perfect professional record intact in the Rizin Fighting Federation 37 main event tonight at Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan. Izawa submitted Maria Laura Alves Fontoura in the first round of their 49kg tournament matchup.

The bout between Izawa, Rizin’s reigning women’s super atomweight champion, and Fontoura was one of four super atomweight grand prix bouts on tonight’s card. Former Rizin FF champion Ayaka Hamasaki was also victorious in her quarterfinal, as she easily outpointed Jessica “Jag” Aguilar.


Izawa (7-0-0) was put on the defensive right away by Fontoura (7-1-0), who charged at her with punches and then jumped guard. She calmly looked to set up a triangle choke from the bottom. Izawa defended by keeping both hands in to prevent Fontoura from tightening the choke, but Fontoura landed a series of punches to her face from the bottom. Fontoura continued to punch as Izawa tried to escape from the choke, but she eventually did so and immediately locked on a top-side guillotine choke. Izawa pulled guard with the choke and Fontoura was forced to tap out within seconds at the 3:47 mark.

“I’m relieved, and I cried because I was too nervous since I’m the champion,” Izawa said backstage after her main event win. “I talked about my hopes for this tournament and that became true. I felt pressure being in the main event, but I’m glad for that and I enjoyed the entire Rizin experience before my fight. [Fontoura’s] triangle was not tight, but I could not get out of it easily, either. My fiancé Coro [Kosuke Terashima] taught me that, and it’s the ‘Coro Special,’ but I want it to be the ‘Seika Special.’

“I know Rena [Kubota] said she wants to fight me, so I want to do it,” Izawa added. “I want to get a finish again in the semi-finals. Rena has good striking and a strong body, but I’m confident. My win tonight was supported by coach [Kazunori] Yokota, my brother Fuga and my fiancé Coro.”

“I’m not happy because I lost, but it happened,” Fontoura commented backstage. “I was too nervous and went for the finish too early. My plan was to strike with her, but too much excitement led to my mistake in strategy. The loss is my fault and I need to get back to training.”


Rebounding from back-to-back losses against Izawa, Hamasaki (24-5-0) settled an old score tonight in her bout with Aguilar (20-10-0), whom she was originally supposed to face more than 11 years ago at Jewels: “12th Ring.”

Hamasaki struck first with a leg kick and she took Aguilar down in the corner. Aguilar punched the side of Hamasaki’s face from the bottom and eventually kicked her off, and the fight returned to the feet. Hamasaki landed a left cross and Aguilar came up short with every strike attempt. Hamasaki jabbed and Aguilar finally landed a right hand, but Hamasaki hurt her with a front kick to the body and then dropped Aguilar with a barrage of punches. Aguilar held on from the bottom and made it to the bell.

The second round began with another early takedown from Hamasaki, who landed on top in Aguilar’s guard. Aguilar kicked her off after a moment and Hamasaki stood over her downed opponent, kicking at Aguilar’s legs. When Aguilar got to her feet, Hamasaki greeted her with a quick combination. Hamasaki landed another body kick and Aguilar connected with an overhand right before clinching. She landed a right hook as Hamasaki circled away. Hamasaki landed a right hook of her own and tried for a takedown, but this time Aguilar defended and stayed on her feet.

Hamasaki secured a takedown 90 seconds into the final round and she worked from the top in Aguilar’s half-guard as Aguilar threw short punches from the bottom. Hamasaki mounted Aguilar and peppered her with right hands to the face. Aguilar could not buck her off and Hamasaki maintained mount. In the final minute, Hamasaki postured up with left and right hands before smothering Aguilar again. She rained down a final flurry of punches and elbows that forced Aguilar to cover up until the end of the fight.

All three judges scored the one-sided bout in favour of Hamasaki for a Unanimous Decision win.

“I couldn’t get a finish but I’m still relieved,” Hamasaki stated following her victory. Landing the crescent kick was in my plan, but she was tough. I want to fight Rena in the final, and there is a possibility of a rematch [against Izawa] first, so I want to face [Si Woo] Park next because I have not fought her yet. I was emotional because the last fight [against Aguilar] was cancelled due to the earthquake. Megumi [Fujii] was very happy for me after this fight.”

“I think it’s never a good feeling when I lose, but I am grateful to Rizin for this opportunity,” Aguilar said. “I will think about my future and coming back. She hurt my liver with the kick, and chased after me and landed strikes. I did not underestimate her. Her gym is great and Megumi did a good job coaching her. Megumi was my idol. Ayaka has nice top control and I could not move well from the bottom. I hope Rizin will bring me back. I made this weight [49kg] for the first time. The earthquake hit when I was going to fight with Hamasaki the first time, but finally I can proudly say that I got to face her.”

Seika Izawa Backstage At Rizin FF 37Ayaka Hamasaki Backstage At Rizin FF 37
Seika Izawa (left) and Ayaka Hamasaki (right) backstage following Rizin FF 37.


In earlier grand prix quarterfinal action, Si Woo Park (8-4-0) scored her third straight win by defeating inaugural Rizin FF GP champion Kanna Asakura (19-7-0).

Park kicked at Asakura’s body in the opening minute and Asakura landed an overhand left. Park backed her up with a hard right cross and Asakura attempted a takedown after catching a kick. Park stayed on her feet and time was called when Asakura was poked in her left eye. After the restart, Asakura shot in for a takedown and Park sprawled below the ropes. She rose to her feet and shrugged off another clinch from Asakura, then landed a body kick and Asakura answered with an overhand left. Park flurried with punches and finished with another body kick. As Asakura dropped levels for a takedown late in the round, Park cracked her with an uppercut.

The second round began with Park landing three more kicks to Asakura’s lead leg and body before stuffing a takedown. She held Asakura against the ropes and then pinned her in the corner. Asakura could not break free and Park kneed her in the thigh. The fighters were eventually separated and Asakura dove at Park’s ankles, but Park sprawled again and threw hammerfists to the side of Asakura’s face. Park pushed Asakura’s face down and landed a knee to the side of her head. Asakura stood and Park pinned her in the corner again. Two more knees and an elbow scored for Park, who swept out Asakura’s leg and tripped her into side control. Asakura scrambled up to her feet and Park threw knees while holding her in a front headlock.

Asakura opened the final round with a left hook, but she still could not get Park down to the mat and Park took her back in a standing clinch. Park landed short knees and then took Asakura down. She immediately transitioned to a reverse triangle choke and then to an armbar. Asakura was able to escape, but Park landed an upkick from the bottom and got to her knees. She pushed Asakura’s face down into the mat until Asakura stood up. Park hurt her with a body kick and a flurry of punches, which forced Asakura to dive at her ankles again. Park’s takedown defence was too strong for Asakura, who could not get her down, and Park teed off with punches to Asakura’s head and body. She forced Asakura to stay on her feet and punished her with punches in the corner. The fight ended with Park landing knees and she dropped Asakura with a vicious head kick just as the bell sounded.

The judges were united and they awarded a Unanimous Decision win to Park.

“I’m glad that I won, but I’m friends with Kanna and so my heart hurts,” Park admitted backstage. “She is a fighter that I respect. I don’t have an opponent in mind [for the semi-finals]. I will fight anyone. I’m good at striking, but this is MMA and Kanna kept trying for takedowns. I have done sprawl training and grappling since my very early days in MMA, and that came into play in the fight today. [Teammate] Miyuu [Yamamoto] has great advice for me, and she and I have grown together. I train with many men, too, which helps to build my strength.”

“I am happy that I got to face Park, but I could not win during training and now also in the fight,” Asakura said during a brief backstage interview. “I am calm now and I don’t know about my future.”


Opening up the quarterfinals of the grand prix was a bout between Shoot Boxing champion and Rizin FF star Rena Kubota (13-4-0) and Ukrainian prospect Anastasiya Svetkivska (2-1-0). Despite a massive disparity in professional combat sports experience – Kubota has had 58 pro shootboxing, kickboxing and MMA bouts, whereas Svetkivska has only had three – this was a very competitive fight.

The bout began with an exchange of leg kicks and Svetkivska used her jab to set up a combination. More leg kicks landed for both women and Kubota scored with an overhand right. Svetkivska tried to jump guard, but Kubota stayed on her feet and she prevented Svetkivska from pulling her down. Kubota stunned Svetkivska with a counter hook and then dropped her with a head kick. She followed with punches and soccer kicks on the ground, but Svetkivska recovered and survived the onslaught. Kubota settled into Svetkivska’s guard until she stood up with 75 seconds remaining in the round. Svetkivska jabbed and landed a leg kick while keeping her distance. Kubota landed an overhand right and the round ended with Svetkivska landing two right hooks.

Svetkivska resumed kicking at Kubota’s lead leg in the second round and she landed two counter right hooks when Kubota tried to close the distance. Kubota landed a lead left hook and a leg kick of her own. She tried to clinch and Svetkivska cracked her with an elbow to the face. A left-right combo from Svetkivska caused Kubota’s face to redden. Both women landed right hooks at the same time, but Kubota’s had more power behind it and Svetkivska backed up to the ropes. Another clinch ensued soon after and Svetkivska landed a right hook on the break. Late in the round, Svetkivska landed a counter left hook when Kubota stepped forward.

Hard punches were exchanged early in the final round and both women connected with right hooks. Kubota tried to clinch and Svetkivska reversed it against the ropes before backing away. Kubota moved in with a left hook and Svetkivska landed a right hand in response. She then landed a strong left hook as Kubota stepped forward and that led to an exchange of punches in close. Both fighters landed right hooks as the fight entered its final 30 seconds, and punches were exchanged again just before the bell.

Kubota’s knockdown in the first round proved to be the difference maker. Despite Svetkivska’s rally in the final ten minutes, all three judges saw the fight for Kubota, who took the Unanimous Decision win.

“She is a more difficult fighter to face than I had expected,” Kubota noted. “I thought I could finish her in the first round, but I couldn’t and I did not expect her to try to come back. I felt her arm and leg reach were long, and she used that to survive my finishing attempt. I really learned a lot in this fight. She has nice leg kicks, and I didn’t experience that many strong leg kicks even in Shoot Boxing. I need to train more in order to make it to the final.

“Everyone in this tournament is a potential story for me,” Kubota added. “Revenge match [Park], fight against my mentor [Hamasaki] or fight against the number one [Izawa]. Most female fighters today have grappling backgrounds due to the difficulty of finishing with strikes, but I can show that women with striking backgrounds can succeed in MMA, too. I want to give a message about no war by raising the Ukrainian flag with [Svetkivska]. She is a nice person.”

“I think I was able to show my 100% effort in this fight and I thank Rizin for the opportunity,” Svetkivska said. “I do have questions about the decision, though, and how all three judges scored against me. I don’t look back, though. I trained for two months for this fight. I broke down her style. She wasn’t any different from my expectations. I got dropped by her in the first round, but I did not change my game plan. I continued my striking in the second round because I could deal with her.

“I will continue my MMA career,” Svetkivska added. “I want to be a mentor for many women and I want to come back here again. We have gone through six months of this [Russia-Ukraine] war. All people fight. Many people were killed. This is all truth. I want to say, ‘the war has not ended.’ We respect many countries’ good will because we have no choice about this. I say that Ukraine is a free democracy country and we must defend ourselves.”

Si Woo Park Backstage At Rizin FF 37Rena Kubota Backstage At Rizin FF 37
Si Woo Park (left) and Rena Kubota (right) backstage following Rizin FF 37.