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Kron Gracie vs. Hideo Tokoro

and other Fights

Rizin 2

September 25, 2016

Saitama, Japan

Kron Gracie and former sumo wrestler Baruto impressed in Rizin 1. Could they keep the momentum? Kron's opponent in Rizin 1 was Kid Yamamoto's inexperienced nephew, Erson. Baruto's opponent in his debut MMA fight was also an MMA newby, but vastly experienced (and old). Unfortunately his experience was in K-1, and Baruto didn't stand still and exchange kicks and punches with Aerts. Baruto was not merely a sumo wrestler, but a good "wrestler" and judoka as well. He went all Gracie on Aert's ass, deposited him on the ground with an ashi-gaki, and kept him there the remainder of the fight. Aerts never had a chance. 

Baruto's next Kazuyuki Fujita, is a wrestler with plenty of MMA experience (and like Aerts, old). Fujita is 45 years old and lost his last five fights. Time to hang up the gloves? Not when there's another payday waiting. Same old story and for the same reason. Baruto is rising star (one fight, one win, but with his sumo and judo background, likely to prove popular with the Japanese fans). Up-and-comers need suitable "opponents" to acquire ring experience. People who have the experience to present problems, but without the physical qualities to pose an insurmountable barrier to the emerging star's advancement. Could Fujita do what Aerts couldn't? 

Kron Gracie also would be stepping up to a higher quality opponent in Hideo Tokoro, who, despite a 17 kg. weight disadvantage, on December 31, 2005 held three-time UFC champion Royce Gracie to a draw (dominating the Gracie representative throughout most of the two rounds) and one year later (December 31, 2006) took a lopsided unanimous decision against Royler Gracie. With a 33-28-2 record, Tokoro is as experienced as Kron is inexperienced (2 MMA fights, both wins). Youth versus experience.

As the above was written one hour before fight time, Robert hazards two predictions: Baruto and Kron will win (youth) but Fujita and Tokoro will put up valiant struggles (experience). Roberto may turn out to be totally wrong, but that's why they lace up the gloves and he personally never bets money on fights. Nevertheless, you read it here. Baruto and Kron will win. 



1. Charles Crazy Horse Bennett vs. Minoru Phillip Nomura.

Minoru entered the ring with an impressive highlight reel full of spectacular KOs (typical of highlight reels, naturally). Vanderlie Silva was in his corner so he couldn't have been totally oblivious to what was awaiting him. He apparently wanted to make a big splash in his first MMA outing. He went for a jumping right knee directly out of the gate. Unluckily for him, he dropped both hands when he did it, and Crazy Horse met him with a right hand to the face. Minoru hit the canvass, turned his back and curled up. End of story. It was over in 7 seconds, which must have set some sort of record. It was not an auspicious debut.

2. Kyra Batara vs. Kana Murata

Kyra Batara, coached by Eddie Bravo, brought a 5-3 record into the ring for her encounter with Olympic Gold medal wrestler Kana Murata. No surprise, Kana had no problems putting Kyra on the ground. Kyra generally survived there thanks to her "rubber guard" and more often than not got back to her feet. Kana did her boxing homework and despite being considerably shorter held her own in the banging department. Wrestlers are tough, even if they are small Japanese girls.  Kyra lost but did a respectable job, showed good technique, and looked rather sexy, meaning she's likely to develop a following among the Japanese male fans. That's music to the ears of Rizin.

3. Gabi Garcia vs. Destanie Yaraborough 

Gabi is not most Japanese adolescent males' idea of a girlfriend, nor a role model for the average Japanese girl, whether fan or potential MMA hobbyist. On the other hand, "large" women have been popular in Japanese rings. Japan is a country were no taste is too bizarre to attract a following (possibly true everywhere, but more so here). The mere fact that it's bizarre is often enough to make it attractive. There aren't many ways to be different or "be yourself" in Japan, and this is (ironically) one of the few.   Nevertheless, fighting and winning is what it's about (the bottom line is selling tickets and getting sponsors). Gabi, so far at least, has delivered on that. "I'm the queen of Japan, man. I'm the queen" Gabi declared after disposing of Destanie with a judo "udegarami" (not classically executed, but undeniably effective).

4. Erson Yamamoto vs. Kizaemon Saiga

Erson was back after losing to Kron in Rizin 1. His opponent this time out was a kick-boxer, Kizaemon Saiga. Saiga previously KOed Shinya Aoki with knees and had a 3-2 MMA record (Erson was 0 and 1). Saiga's strategy was to not play his opponent's game.  That is, to not excessively resist the take-downs, wasting energy in the process, but to follow Bruce Lee's advice and "be the water, man". That is, go with the inevitable, minimize the damage, and if possible, make it work for yourself. After all, getting taken down doesn't mean anything if the wrestler can't take advantage of the position. The stereotypical strategy is to jump or pull guard, but as Saiga demonstrated, that isn't even necessary. It's what happens after the take-down that matters. Erson took Saiga down almost at will, but Saiga didn't care and wasn't intimidated. After each take-down, he got back up without too much difficulty, and stalked Erson. In the 2nd round, Saiga threw a jumping left knee at Erson's face, driving him into the corner. But Erson survived. Erson walked away with a split decision but it could have gone either way. Probably he got credit for the numerous take-downs, despite not being able to do anything with them. That's the way it goes. fans don't like draws, someone had to win. It was Erson.

4. Andy Souwer vs. Daren Crucikshank

Andy is a K-1 fan fav in Japan. But Rizin is MMA. Daren had a 17-8 record in MMA. Andy had one MMA fight (he won it). Andy was confident that his striking superiority would carry the day. Daren was equally confident that Andy wouldn't get a chance to use his striking. Daren turned out to be right. Daren by judo hadaka jime (rear naked choke). It was a refreshing throwback to the early days when jiu-jitsu fighters didn't try to exchange punches with punchers and punchers didn't know how to sprawl.

5. Baruto vs. Kazuyuki Fujita

It was King Kong against Godzilla, Rizin said. Baruto had Dan Henderson in his corner. Dan is a Greco wrestler who figured out how to play the MMA game and had considerable success with it, being blessed with a gift for throwing hard punches. Baruto needs more of that if he hopes to make his new career work out. He had an easy time with Peter Aerts in Rizin 1, because Aerts had no sprawl. But Fujita is a wrestler. To beat a wrestler you have to  be a better wrestler, or if not, a puncher who can sprawl, or a jiu-jitsu fighter who can punch, or a much better, and younger fighter (see Kron vs. Tokoro below). 

Baruto started out with the right idea, getting a double collar tie and pumping in knees, Vanderlie Silva style. Fujita survived thanks to his 15-11 record, or maybe Baruto's 1-0 record.  In other words, Baruto's tie up "worked" at keeping Fujita in one place where knees could be thrown. but the knees weren't effective. Baruto needs to work on that. Fujita shot, Baruto sprawled. After that Fujita convinced Baruto that upper body wrestling wasn't going to be the answer. Fujita basically forced Baruto to engage in a boxing contest (between two men who didn't know how to box, but because there was always a possibility of an effective take-down shot, they had to be cautious with their hands. Consequently, no effective hands landed on target, with one exception. Fujita connected with his legendary "Gorilla Punch" (an over hand right) that caught Baruto's attention and precipitated copious bleeding. Baruto climbed on his bicycle and retreated. With 21 seconds Fujita applied for a guillotine choke, but too little too late. 

Baruto got the decision. Not because he did anything to earn it, but (probably) because Rizin sees potential in him for the future (Fujita has had his day). Rizin will need to be more intelligent in matching him going ahead however. No more wrestlers. More over age strikers like Peter Aerts would be ideal for Baruto. Since Vanderlie Silva and Mirko still want to fight, they would be perfect. But they are going to fight each other in the next Rizin event December 31. Roberto's prediction (above) that Fujita would struggle  before losing turned out to be literally correct, but in fact, Fujita did more than Baruto to merit the nod. He was shafted but it was a personal sacrifice for the sake of the greater collective good. Japanese people know all about that.

6. Mirko Filipovic vs. Hyun Man Myung

Mirko always understood that you don't strike with a striker, you don't wrestle with a wrestler, you don't ground grapple with a BJJ fighter. Learn enough to stop, stymie, and frustrate them at what they want to do, leaving yourself room to do what you do best and what they do worst. For a striker there are basically two thing that you need to know and be able to do well. One is to sprawl. The other is to get back to your feet. Mirko proved that he could do both. In the course of his preparations he also learned how to apply for kata-gatame (shoulder choke). Which he applied on Hyun Man Myung. The striker (Mirko) won with judo.

7. Kron Gracie vs. Hideo Tokoro

This was the main event but was broadcast in Tokyo before the Rena vs. Miyu match (below). Kron has a 2-0 record. His first fight was just to get his feet wet. The second was a tougher test, but he passed with flying colors. Kron is being guided intelligently.  Nothing is more important than picking to right opponents at a fighters stage of career development, as Mike Jacobs said about Mike Tyson. Or as Jack Dempsey said, rushing young fighters prevents them from reaching their full potential. Which is why we have champions whose idea of fighting is running away from the fight (to be clear, having a defense is good, running away is not). 

Kron's opponent for his third test was Hideo Tokoro, with a 33-28 record, which includes a draw with Royce in 2005, and a one-sided win over Royler in 2006. That's a lot of fights. Tokoro is also an old man now, at 39. Roberto predicted that Tokoro would give Kron a run for his money before losing. He did, sort of. That is, he didn't make it easy for Kron to submit him with a rear naked choke. But Tokoro was never on attack. Kron showed intelligent use of his hands. He didn't try to box with Tokoro (who isn't a boxer but why take a chance?). When Kron did throw a hand it had a strategic purpose behind it, which was to close the distance, take the back, stay there, submit the man. That's what he did. It was a decisive win, earned with what Japanese fans like to see, "aesthetic technique", and in the case also "branded technique" (or rather, what they expect or hope a BJJ guy, a Gracie especially, will show them).

So, another impressive, crowd pleasing performance from Kron Gracie, who is thereby assured of another visit to a Rizin ring in the future, probably December 31. The problem will be finding a suitable opponent for him. Someone with the right talent level, and a name to go with it. It doesn't seem, at present, that there is anyone in Japan who fills the bill (and the fans will want to see a Japanese fighter in there with Kron). The promoters will figure something out, we can assume.

8. Rena Kubota vs. Miyu Yamamoto

It was billed as "Queen vs. Queen", "Queen kills Queen", and "Fighting Queen Bee". Despite Gabi's bold proclamation (see above), Rena and Miyu are more what a Japanese fans thinks of  as a "queen" . Miyu is a member of the Yamamoto clan, (she's Kid's older sister, and Erson's mum) and represented wrestling at a highly competitive level. But Miyu is 41. Rena is a young and very cute shoot fighter (i.e, lots of fan appeal). We could have assumed that Miyu would get the take-down whenever she wanted. That's what world-class wrestlers do and there isn't a lot you can do to stop them apart from sitting down on your own initiative. 

What we said above about strikers preparing to confront wrestlers applies to shoot fighters as well. A good sprawl and the ability to get back up off the ground will take you far in MMA against superior wrestlers who haven't adapted to the MMA environment yet. So as expected Miyu took Rena down. Rena survived and in the end applied a front naked choke. Not a guillotine, which Miyu probably could have dealt with, but rather a locked in front  naked, with her (Rena's) left hand posted against Miyu's shoulder, blocking her from getting close enough to try for a fireman's for example. 

The Glory Days of the 2000's have not quite returned yet, but Rizin 1 and 2 are good starts. 

See Rizin 1, December 31, 2015, here.

(c) Roberto Pedreira, 2016. All rights reserved.

Revised September 27, 2016. Minor corrections regarding Yamamoto family. Thanks to Japan MMA expert Yoko Kondo for the heads-up. 



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