Kanna Asakura, Claire Lopez Victorious At Rizin: Landmark Vol. 5With thoughts of a potential retirement on her mind, Kanna Asakura put on one of her best performances to date tonight at Rizin Fighting Federation: “Landmark Vol. 5” in Tokyo, Japan. Asakura scored a Unanimous Decision victory over “V.V.” Mei Yamaguchi in featured super atomweight action.

In a second women’s clash on tonight’s card, Combate Global contender Claire Lopez upset top Rizin FF star Rena Kubota in their 51kg bout. Lopez overcame fatigue and submitted Kubota with a unique kneebar variation late in the third round, which resulted in Kubota being transported to a hospital.


Asakura (20-7-0) pressed forward with jabs early in tonight’s fight and Yamaguchi (21-15-1) landed a right hook before the fighters clinched against the cage. Yamaguchi kneed Asakura’s thigh until Asakura used a headlock throw to get her down. Yamaguchi almost swept into mount from the bottom, but Asakura reversed it and the fighters stood up. Asakura took Yamaguchi’s back in a standing clinch and tried unsuccessfully to suplex her. Yamaguchi turned into the clinch and Asakura threw her down from another headlock. Yamaguchi countered with an armbar from the bottom and Asakura rolled through. She took Yamaguchi’s back in the final seconds.

Yamaguchi scored with a right hook and the fighters clashed heads in round two. Asakura recovered from it and landed an uppercut. She took Yamaguchi down and Yamaguchi sat up against the cage after getting back to full guard. Asakura held her down and landed short left hands. Yamaguchi got to her feet and Asakura pulled her back down from back control. She avoided a calf slicer attempt from Yamaguchi and passed to side control. Asakura threw short knees and elbows to the side of Yamaguchi’s head, then took her back. She landed more elbows and attempted a rear-naked choke.

Asakura scored with a left hook in the final round and that set off an exchange of power punches. She took Yamaguchi down and Yamaguchi countered with a straight armbar attempt. Asakura stood up to escape, then moved to side control and landed short elbows and a knee. Yamaguchi got to her feet, but not before eating more knees to her face on the way up. Yamaguchi elbowed the side of Asakura’s head, but Asakura let go of the clinch and teed off with punches as Yamaguchi threw three hooks in response. Asakura took Yamaguchi down and eyed an arm-triangle choke from the top. Yamaguchi defended well and Asakura let the choke go in favour of striking from Yamaguchi’s half-guard. She transitioned to a belly-down armbar and Yamaguchi defended with soccer kicks.

All three judges scored the fight in favour of Asakura for a clear-cut Unanimous Decision. The win was a crucial one for Asakura, who had dropped decisions in three of her past four bouts for Rizin.

“I’m relieved,” Asakura said backstage following her big win. “I yelled because I felt like I did it. She was a strong opponent. My gameplan by [Hiroshi] Tsuruya and [Hiromasa] Ougikubo worked out. Her submission attempt hurt my elbow, but my striking improvements paid off. I was confident that I had won when the fight ended. I can’t think about my [fighting] future right now.”

“I didn’t fight aggressively,” a disappointed Yamaguchi stated backstage. “I needed to take risks but couldn’t. I threw too many elbows and it actually hurt me. She fought as I had expected, but my reflexes were slow. She tried to take position and submit me. I didn’t think I would get submitted, but I fought passively. I needed to take initiative but couldn’t. I needed a ‘go for broke’ attitude. I want to fight again for Rizin if there is a chance to.”

Kanna Asakura Backstage At Rizin: Landmark Vol. 5Claire Lopez Backstage At Rizin: Landmark Vol. 5
Kanna Asakura (left) and Claire Lopez (right) following Rizin FF: “Landmark Vol. 5” wins.


Lopez (8-4-0) staggered Kubota (13-5-0) with her first right hook of the fight and then took Kubota down into half-guard. She briefly passed to mount, but Kubota got back to full guard and Lopez postured up with an elbow. She dropped more short elbows and kept Kubota pinned down against the base of the cage. Kubota tried to set up an armbar and Lopez defended with a soccer kick and stomps. Kubota maintained her grip and Lopez blasted her with hammerfists and two more stomps. She escaped from the armbar attempt and closed out the round with more hammerfists from the top.

Kubota kept her distance and landed a leg kick in the second round. Lopez jabbed to the body and missed with a right hook. She took Kubota down and proceeded to put herself in a triangle choke. Kubota looked to switch to an armbar, but Lopez escaped and took her back as the fighters rose to their feet. Lopez was clearly fatigued and slowing down as Kubota began to have success with body shots. She attacked Lopez’s lead leg with kicks and Lopez landed one uppercut in response. Kubota targeted Lopez’s body with left hooks and held her against the cage. She landed a knee and a combination before the bell.

The final round began with an exchange of leg kicks and Kubota followed with a front kick to the body and a lead left hook. She cracked Lopez with a right-left combo and followed with a strong leg kick. Lopez landed an uppercut and Kubota scored with another front kick to her midsection. Lopez’s offence continued to slow down and Kubota landed more leg kicks until Lopez finally took her down. Kubota briefly attempted a guillotine choke, but Lopez used her own legs to scissor Kubota’s right leg in a unique kneebar. Kubota hastily tapped out in great pain at the 4:21 mark.

“This was the best experience of my life,” an elated Lopez said backstage. “The audience is amazing. Rena is a good fighter and a superstar here, so it was a new challenge and that motivated me. She is a striker first, so I tried to wrestle and submit her. I didn’t know her BJJ level, and her body work was effective, so I fatigued as the fight went longer.

“I trained that leg lock,” Lopez added. “I learned it one or two years ago. That leg lock fits me, so I used it and I heard [Kubota’s] knee crack at the end. I want to come back and compete at super atomweight, as that weight fits my frame. I can fight in both a ring and a cage, so that does not matter.”



(Top Photo Credit: Deep Jewels)