MMA Prospect Watch: The Most Impressive Fighters from December

Rena Kubota vs. Lindsey VanZandt Credit: RIZIN FF

Bantamweight, Hiromasa Ogikubo (20-4)

Hiromasa Ogikubo and Shintaro Ishiwatari put on a great war for the Japanese fans in a fight that is very memorable. Ishiwatari definitely had his moments but Ogikubo just mixed it up more. Ogikubo got the takedown each round and while he was taken down a few times he got back to his feet quickly. He landed many lead leg kicks and body shots but for the majority of this fight, it was a scrap. Especially in round three, Ogikubo was tired but he still pressed forward, and both men just sat in the pocket and threw from the hip. Both had incredible toughness and somehow both survived all three rounds.
Grade: B-

Light-heavyweight, Simon Biyong (7-1)

Simon Biyong came up successful in his RIZIN debut beating Vitaly Shemetov who was a big step up in competition. Biyong early off appeared uncomfortable on the feet. He dominated though, once he closed the distance and got the fight to the mat. Biyong beat up Shemetov on the mat with very good and educated ground and pound. He stayed busy going to the body-head and would cut up Shemetovs’ face. In round two Biyong quickly got the fight down and went right into the mount and started to work again. He would have Shemetov a bloody mess and Shemetov would tap due to strikes.
Grade: C+

Strawweight, Rena Kubota (10-3)

Last June, Rena Kubota lost to Lindsey VanZandt under the Bellator MMA banner, but this time out, Rena got her revenge. Round one was all VanZandt getting the easy takedown; she had top control for a while. Rounds two and three were completely different though. Kubota on the feet was landing heavy strikes including some nasty body-head combinations. Lindsay got sloppy with her takedown attempts and Rena was able to sprawl and get on top. Rena was executing some solid body punches on the mat putting VanZandt in all sorts of trouble. Round three saw Rena get into the mount where she landed strikes until the corner of Lindsey threw in the towel.
Grade: B+

Featherweight, Mikuru Asakura (12-1)

This was a fun fight where both Mikuru Asakura and his opponent John Teixeira showed impressive talent. Teixeira wanted to more so make it a gritty fight and make it into a brawl. Asakura showed solid defense for the most part and was the far more technical fighter. Teixeira threw more but Asakura landed more and that’s with the left hand, step-in knees, and a beautiful one-two he was so good at. Asakura is now on a 7-fight win streak and 6-0 in RIZIN.
Grade: A

Bantamweight, Manel Kape (15-4)

Manel Kape is another fighter that got his revenge on the RIZIN 20 card. In May of 2018, Kai Asakura beat Kape by split decision. This time out Kape shocked the world with a second-round stoppage. This was a high-velocity fight from the begging, both men throwing with a lot of speed and heat. The shot selection of Kape was excellent as he landed more, mixed it up more, and easily showed he was packing power. It was a competitive fight but Kape was just too fast and slick with his hands. In round two right off the bell, he landed a right dropping Kai. Kape swarmed with ground and pound and eventually, the ref stepped in.
Grade: A+

Lightweight, Kayla Harrison (7-0)

For the first time, a women’s lightweight champion was crowned for the PFL promotion. Kayla Harrison yet again would dominate Larissa Pacheco and this time for five rounds. Her striking wasn’t all that impressive as she is obviously out of her comfort zone there. The two-time Olympic gold medalist in Judo did dominate on the mat. Her wrestling was on point hitting trips, throws, and classic double-legs. Harrison always had her foot on the gas staying active with ground and pound looking for the finish. Her grappling was effortless moving very well and showing good transitions.
Grade: C

Light-heavyweight, Emiliano Sordi (22-8)

What a year it’s been for the Argentinean Emiliano Sordi, going 5-0 and winning the PFL 2019 championship (tournament winner). In this bout, he took out one of the favorites to win in Jordan Johnson. Right away Sordi got after it throwing punches in bunches. His hand speed was significant and he was landing flush with the one-two. He landed a nice right cross dropping Johnson early in the first. Sordi landed hammer fist and punches to the side of the head as the ref stepped in.
Grade: A+

Featherweight, Gasan Magomedsharipov (2-0)

Gasan is the younger brother of UFC featherweight contender, Zabit Magomedsharipov. Gasan at only 2-0 looks like a legit prospect in the next few years. In this bout, he took it the distance winning all three rounds comfortably. Gasan mixed it up well landing some good shots on the feet and mixing in a few takedowns. He wasn’t close to finishing the fight on top at any time but dominated with the position. Gasan fought similarly to his brother using a lot of well-executed spinning attacks. Proving to be dynamic he also landed some nice one-two combinations.
Grade: B-

Featherweight, AJ McKee (16-0)

This is the first time A.J. McKee has actually looked vulnerable in a fight. He did wind up on his back in round two and wasn’t able to get back to his feet for a large part of the round. Also mid-round-two he seemed to be a bit winded. McKee still took it to the Bellator veteran Derek Campos, always looking for the finish. He dominated round one, spending lots of time on the back of Campos looking for the RNC. In round two even though he had trouble he did knock Campos down with a very nice uppercut. Round three, McKee got the takedown and finished the fight with a submission. Just as it looked like Campos had slipped out the back door, McKee sunk in a beautifully modified armbar for the tap.
Grade: C+


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