Rizin Fighting Federation returns this weekend with a 13-fight event that features the opening round of their openweight grand prix and some interesting superfights. In Japan, the name of the game is broadcast television, and Rizin secured their timeslot on Fuji TV by acquiring the services of Miyu Yamamoto.
The former multiple-time world champion freestyle wrestler is part of a famous wrestling family. In addition to herself, her sister Seiko is also a world champion, her father Ikuei represented Japan at the 1972 Olympics, and her son Asen and brother Norifumi “Kid” are also MMA fighters.
Yamamoto recently turned 42 years old, which is certainly not the ideal age to begin an MMA career. Her three world championships came in 1991, 1994 and 1995. However, she has been competing at a high level in wrestling throughout 2016. Yamamoto hoped to make the 2016 Canadian Olympic team at 53 kg, but failed to make the team.
At the 2016 Senior Canadian Championships, Yamamoto went 4-2 and ended up finishing in fifth place. Her two losses came against eventual champion Samantha Stewart and third place finisher Brianne Barry. In those two matches, Yamamoto scored only one takedown on 16 committed attempts. However, all of her other matches were won by either technical superiority or pin fall. She finished the tournament with a 88.43 Wrestler’s Pythagorean Expectation.
Yamamoto’s wrestling background should serve her well against Rena Kubota. With a background in Shootboxing, instead of regular kickboxing, Kubota does have experience dealing with takedowns. However, in her fight against Jessica Penne, she was taken down 16 times in a 15-minute fight. In three UFC fights, Penne has only landed four takedowns.
The following are videos of Yamamoto at the 2016 Senior Canadian Championships via 49 North Wrestling.
Miyu Yamamoto vs. Kaitlin Kucharski
In the opening round of the tournament, Yamamoto quickly scores a takedown and works for the fall. She needed only 1:40 to move onto the next round
Miyu Yamamoto vs. Samantha Stewart
Things got a lot tougher for Yamamoto in the second round. Against the eventual champion, Yamamoto went zero for 10 on takedown attempts and eventually lost 12-2. While shooting from the outside without very much setup was not very effective against Stewart, it might work against a less experienced wrestler.
Miyu Yamamoto vs. Rachel Alder
Yamamoto rebounded in the consolation bracket with a dominant 10-0 technical superiority victory over Rachel Alder. She landed a takedown right away and finished with several exposures en route to the 1:25 win.
Miyu Yamamoto vs. Cara Nania
In her third shutout victory of the day, Yamamoto landed xx of xx takedowns on the way to a technical superiority win.
Miyu Yamamoto vs. Brianne Barry
Barry was able to stop five of six takedown attempts from Yamamoto and eliminate her from the running for third place. Barry earned fifth place finishes at the 2010 UWW Junior World Championships and 2014 World University Games.
This weekend's Rizin event will not be the first time Yamamoto has competed in a ring. On Nov. 20, 1994, she wrestled at Big Egg Wrestling Universe in front of 42,500 fans. The event, which was a professional wrestling show, featured a pair of freestyle wrestling matches and a Shootboxing match. The following is Dave Meltzer's description of the match from the Nov. 28, 1994 Wrestling Observer Newsletter (paywall).