RIZIN FIGHTING WORLD GRAND PRIX 2017 Autumn: Aki no Jin Fight Forecast

Fight Forecast is a recurring series at StrikeScoreMMA.com that provides a stats based preview of upcoming events. Since striking stats are not available outside the UFC, we need to get a bit creative. The following uses Fight Matrix rankings, peak rank, Tapology user votes, betting odds and Rankings Momentum.

In this case, the period used for Rankings Momentum was 1/1/2016 to 10/1/2017. Fighters must have been ranked in at least four quarters during the period to be includedTapology scores are as of Oct. 13 at 2:00 p.m. ET.

Betting odds will be added once lines are posted on BestFightOdds.com

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Rizin 2016 NYE Night2 Fight Forecast

Fight Forecast is a recurring series at StrikeScoreMMA.com that provides a stats based preview of upcoming events. Since striking stats are not available outside the UFC, we need to get a bit creative. The following uses Fight Matrix rankings, peak rank, Tapology user votes, betting odds and Rankings Momentum.

In this case, the period used for Rankings Momentum was 1/1/2015 to 10/1/2016. Fighters must have been ranked in at least four quarters during the period to be includedTapology scores are as of Dec. 30 at 11:00 a.m. ET. Betting odds are from 5Dimes as of Dec. 30 at 11:00 a.m. ET.

RIZIN Fighting World Grand Prix 2016: 1st Round Fight Forecast

Fight Forecast is a recurring series at StrikeScoreMMA.com that provides a stats based preview of upcoming events. Since striking stats are not available outside the UFC, we need to get a bit creative. The following uses Fight Matrix rankings, peak rank, Tapology user votes, betting odds and Rankings Momentum.

In this case, the period used for Rankings Momentum was 10/1/2014 to 7/1/2016. Fighters must have been ranked in at least four quarters during the period to be included. Tapology scores are as of Sept. 24 at 2:45 p.m. ET. Betting odds are from 5Dimes as of Sept. 23 at 4:30 p.m. ET.

Winners of the ADCC Submission Wrestling World Championships have gone 382-149-7 in MMA. Kron Gracie won the 2013 under 77 kg division and is 2-0 in MMA heading into this fight.

Hideo Tokoro is 1-0-1 against the Gracie family after competing against a pair of Kron’s uncles. Tokoro drew with Royce in 2005 and defeated Royler the following year.

As a 36-fight Shootboxing veteran, Andy Souwer is much better prepared for MMA than your average kickboxer. His last loss under Shootboxing rules came against former Bellator title challenger Toby Imada in 2010. They ran into each other in the semifinal of the 2010 S-Cup. Souwer was unprepared for Imada’s upper body throws and it cost him the match. He gave up seven takedowns and multiple “shoot points.” However, Souwer was prepared for the grappling game and basically shut Imada down en route to a dominant decision victory.

Despite having the ability to throw wild kicks, Daron Cruickshank still comes from a wrestling base. During his UFC career, he averaged 2.04 takedown attempts per 15 minutes.

Kizaemon Saiga is a kickboxer with a 2-1 MMA record. He is mostly known for having a celebrity wife who you can hear yelling from the front row. He struggled in his Rizin debut against Tokoro last winter.

Asen Yamamoto is back after falling to Gracie in his MMA debut on New Year’s Eve. He is the son of Miyu Yamamoto who is also fighting on this card and the nephew of Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto. In 2013, he won a cadet world championship in Greco-Roman wrestling. His performance in the final was quite dramatic.

Minoru Kimura is a 23-year-old kickboxer from Brazil. He has yet to fight MMA, but he should easily pick up a victory here. He is 21-6-1 in kickboxing including a victory over K-1 posterboy Hiroya.

These days "Krazy Horse" is basically a jobber, but he did knockout K.J. Noons that one time, so he has that going for him, which is nice. It is pretty crazy to think he was a top-20 lightweight in 2002.

“Cro Cop” certainly seems to be nearing the end of his career, but he is riding a three-fight winning streak and has won nine-straight fights in Japan.

In his last fight, Hyun Man Myung was submitted by “Mighty Mo” with a schoolyard headlock. That is about all that needs to be said about him.

StrikeScore named Amir Aliakbari the tournament darkhorse.

Joao Almeida has won back-to-back fights for Jungle Fight and is 4-1 overall.

Karl Albrektsson will look to make it 2-0 against Russian opponents in Rizin. In his last bout, he scored a split-decision upset over Vadim Nemkov. The victory improved his professional record to 5-0.

Valentin Moldavsky is a combat sambo veteran with a 3-0 record. In his last bout, he scored a first-round submission victory over Daniel Doerrer on the undercard of Emelianenko vs. Maldonado.

After defeating veterans Satoshi Ishii and Vadim Nemkov, Jiri Prochazka found himself in the finals of the first Rizin tournament. In the final, he fell to Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal. However, the Czech fighter got back on track with a first-round knockout over Kazuyuki Fujita.

Mark Tanios is a 5-1 fighter who trains with Tristar Gym Lebanon. In his last fight, he was physically overwhelmed in the first round against Luc Ngeleka. However, Tanios was able to outlast his opponent and eventually take the decision.

Teodoras Aukstuolis has reached his highest ranking ever after defeating Jaideep Singh on the last Rizin show.

Since signing with KSW in 2014, Szymon Bajor has gone 2-1 in the promotion.

Kazuyuki Fujita is over 15 years removed from his peak ranking in 2001.

During his nine-year professional sumo career,  Baruto built a 431-213 record.

Fight Matrix groups all fighters above bantamweight into one category, which is how Gabi Garcia is listed at the #14 women’s featherweight. She weighed in for this bout at 245 pounds. 

Destanie Yarbrough is a former collegiate field athlete who specialized in shotput and discus. Since finishing her career, she has been playing football. Last April, she made her MMA debut with a knockout victory over Crystal Parson.

StrikeScore looked at Rena Kubota’s prospect in MMA prior to her debut last year.

Miyu Yamamoto recently competed at the 2016 Senior Canadian Championships, StrikeScore broke down the film.

Kanako Murata is a two-time junior world champion and has represented Japan at the women’s wrestling world cup. She is 3-0 in MMA after beginning her career last year.

Kanako Murata defeated Helen Marioulis in 2011 Junior World Final

The card’s highest ranked fighter is in the opening bout. Kyra Batara is the #7 atomweight. She has gone 3-0 for Combate Americas since joining the promotion last year.

Film Study: Miyu Yamamoto at the 2016 Senior Canadian Championships

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.

Bonus Match
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).

Another 4:00 one-round amateur wrestling match saw Miyu Yamamoto of Japan defeat Ana Gomez of France 4-1. Yamamoto, who wrestles at 110 and won the world championships this year and has won the Japanese nationals the past three years, is considered the best female amateur in Japan and has something of a name because when she came out everyone in the crowd reacted pretty big to her. Gomez took second in the world meet at the same weight. It was easy to see why Yamamoto is considered the best amateur, regardless of weight because she had the quickness and skill of a lighter weight class NCAA champion male wrestler.
— Dave Meltzer

What can the MMA world expect from Rena Kubota?

For many old school fans, predicting the MMA success of converts from other sports is one of the most uniquely interesting aspects of the sport. There are endless forum pages discussing how the likes of Dan Gable or Bruce Le do if they stepped into the MMA cages or rings. In some instances, these conversions actually take place and fans can actually see an Olympic gold medal winner wrestler like Henry Cejudo or a judo medalist like Ronda Rousey compete in the UFC.

StrikeScoreMMA has devoted, probably unwisely, an inordinate amount of time and resources to statistical models that predict the success or failure of these conversions from other sports. It is probably unwise, because ultimately different sports are just that, different. You could be a slightly above average wrestler like T.J. Dillashaw and go on to be a dominant UFC champion. However, that will not stop StrikeScoreMMA from trying.

On New Year's Eve, Rena Kubota will make her MMA debut. Kubota is a long-time veteran of sport of Shoot Boxing and a four-time winner of the Girls S-Cup, an annual tournament to determine the best in the sport. What is Shoot Boxing? For those that do not know, Shoot Boxing, which is often described as "standing vale tudo," is basically an MMA fight that is immediately restarted when it ends up on the ground. Fighters can go for standing submissions, takedowns and even point scoring high-amplitude throws. 

MMA fighters often compete in the promotion with varying degrees of success. At the 2010 S-Cup, Bellator veteran Toby Imada defeated Takaaki Umeno and Andy Souwer to unexpectedly reach the finals before losing to Buakaw Por. Pramuk

In 2011, Kubota welcomed Jessica Penne to Shoot Boxing. The American fighter pulled off the upset in her only fight for the promotion to date. Three years later, Penne went on the compete on the 20th season of "The Ultimate Fighter" and eventually challenge for the promotion's flyweight strap. Robert Sargent, the guru of women's MMA, described the bout at MMARising.

Bellator veteran Jessica Penne scored a significant upset this evening in her shoot boxing debut in Tokyo, Japan. Penne earned a Majority Decision win over promotional postergirl Rena Kubota after a pair of extension rounds in a razor-thin bout at Shoot Boxing: “Act.4” at the famed Korakuen Hall.

After three back-and-forth rounds where both fighters landed solid strikes, Kubota looked to take control in the first extension round, but the bout was again ruled a Draw. In the fifth and final round, Penne earned a Shoot Point for a high-arc throw and that was just enough to win on two scorecards.
— Robert Sargent

Penne, despite being one of the best women's flyweights in the world, is not much of a striker. In fact, her ability to close the distance and score takedowns against Kubota should be rather concerning for the Japanese fighter. However, even though Kubota lost the close decision, she thoroughly dominated the striking portion of the fight through the first four rounds. Shoot Boxing judges have a bit of a reputation of leaning towards promotional favorites. However, it does not appear that they did Kubota any favors here.

StrikeScore for Rena Kubota vs. Jessica Penne Shoot Boxing Act. 4 2011

Since Shoot Boxing takes place entirely on the feet. We can compare the numbers that Kubota put up against Penne with her standing performance in other fights. The Fight Metric database contains stats from all of Penne's UFC and Invicta FC bouts.

Standing StrikeScore for Jessica Penne in Invicta FC, UFC and Shoot Boxing

Kubota actually performed better, striking wise, than all but two of Penne's opponents in Invicta FC and UFC. Those also happen to be the only two opponents to defeat her. Kubota's striking numbers are actually very similar to the numbers that Randa Markos put up against Penne. That contest, which took place at the TUF 20 Finale, was a back and forth fight that Penne ultimately won via split decision.

In order to be successful in MMA, Kubota will need to work on her takedown defense. Despite her striking success in the 2011 fight, she was taken down 16 times over the course of the 15 minute fight. If she can get that in order, which is always a big if for fighters coming from a primarily striking background, Kubota should be able flex her striking game the way she did against Penne who is currently ranked third in the UFC rankings.