Manel Kape Stuns Kai Asakura, Claims Vacant Bantamweight Title in Rizin 20 Headliner

Manel Kape spoiled the expected coronation of Kai Asakura.

The 26-year-old Angolan claimed the vacant bantamweight crown with a second-round technical knockout victory over Asakura in the Rizin 20 main event at Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan on Tuesday. The end came 38 seconds into Round 2, as Kape swarmed a dazed Asakura with punches on the canvas until referee Jason Herzog intervened on the Japanese fighter’s behalf.

As soon as the fight was stopped, Kape exited the ring to address Kyoji Horiguchi, who vacated the bantamweight belt after suffering a serious knee injury and was seated nearby. Asakura had defeated Horiguchi in a non-title bout in August to enter Rizin 20 as the prohibitive favorite to claim the 135-pound crown. Asakura had also previously defeated Kape via split decision at Rizin 10 in May 2018.

This night, however, belonged to Kape. The AKA Thailand product pressured his opponent from the outset and appeared to stun Asakura with a couple left hands early. Kape concluded the opening frame by landing a spinning back fist followed by several solid right hands.

Kape continued the onslaught in the second round when he dropped Asakura with a short right hand within the first 30 seconds. Kape quickly followed his man to the canvas and relentlessly attacked with punches. Asakura did his best to move and defend himself, but ultimately he absorbed to much damage in the finishing sequence.

Kape (15-4) has won three straight bouts since a decision loss to Yuta Sasaki at Rizin 14. Asakura (14-2), meanwhile, had a six-fight winning streak snapped.

A new super atomweight champion was crowned in the co-main event, as Seo Hee Ham edged Ayaka Hamasaki in a narrow split decision. It was the first victory for Ham in three meetings with her Japanese rival. The South Korean had previously lost a pair of fights to Hamasaki under the Jewels banner from 2010 to 2011.

There was virtually no feeling-out process between the two familiar foes. Hamasaki (19-3) began the contest by tagging Ham with precise left jabs in the opening frame. Ham (23-8) nonetheless continued to stalk her opponent and did have some success landing her straight left, but the round seemed to be slightly in favor of Hamasaki in terms of strikes landed.

Ham turned the tide in Round 2 when she trapped Hamasaki in a triangle choke after being taken down early in the frame. Hamasaki spent the majority of the period defending the submission and while she never tapped, the Japanese fighter absorbed numerous elbows to the head for her troubles.

The final stanza saw Ham land a few hard lefts that badly bloodied her adversary’s nose during some early standup exchanges. Hamasaki rallied to land a takedown from the clinch with about 2:00 remaining, and she spent the rest of the round landing punches from a top side control position. Ham wasn’t able to return to her feet until the final horn, but she had already done enough to earn the nod on the scorecards from two ringside judges.

Elsewhere, Tofiq Musayev (18-3) captured the Rizin lightweight grand prix with a hard-fought unanimous decision triumph over former Bellator title challenger Patricky Freire (23-9). The Azerbaijan native extended his winning streak to 14 in victory, while Freire saw a seven-bout run come to an end.

The elder Brazilian “Pitbull” brother started well, as he appeared to have the faster hands of the combatants and he landed more effectively during initial exchanges. Freire and Musayev brawled furiously toward the end of the opening stanza, with both men landing significant shots.

Musayev began to assert himself in Round 2 through his wrestling and grappling. On multiple occasions, the Ruslan Fight Club member caught Freire kicks and took his foe to the mat, where he controlled the action while landing periodic punches to the head. However, Musayev also received a yellow card after a takedown attempt sent Freire tumbling out of the ring. Musayev maintained his momentum in the final frame, dropping a reeling Freire with a violent flurry of punches before landing more ground-and-pound from above to punctuate his victory.

Earlier, Jiri Prochazka (26-3-1) obliterated longtime UFC veteran C.B. Dollaway with a two-punch combination for a knockout victory, successfully defending his light heavyweight championship in a featured contest. The Czech fighter connected with a glancing right uppercut before sending Dollaway (17-10) face first to the canvas with a short left hook at the 1:55 mark of the opening stanza for his 10th consecutive victory.

Dollaway had some success in the early going, as he attacked his opponent with multiple low kicks to the lead leg and landed punches that opened a cut near Prochazka’s right eyebrow . However, the 27-year-old champion was able to eventually close the distance to put “The Doberman” away with the decisive combination. Prochazka has won eight consecutive fights via knockout or technical knockout.

In the lightweight grand prix semifinals, Freire dropped Luiz Gustavo Felix dos Santos to the canvas with a flurry of punches, where “Pitbull” landed a soccer kick on his fallen opponent to bring a quick halt to the contest just 28 seconds into the opening stanza.

In the other semifinal, Musayev sent Johnny Case stumbling into the corner of the ring with an overhand right, and he sealed his victory with a volley of hammerfists to force the stoppage at the 2:47 mark of Round 1.

In other action: Mikuru Asakura (12-1-1) took a unanimous verdict over John Teixeira (23-5-2) at featherweight; Rena Kubota (10-3) earned a TKO against Lindsey VanZandt (7-3) due to corner stoppage at the 4:42 mark of the third frame; Simon Biyong (7-1) dispatched Vitaly Shemetov (14-9) with brutal ground-and-pound, forcing his bloodied opponent to tap 58 seconds into the second frame at light heavyweight; Hiromasa Ogikubo (20-4-2) took a split decision over Shintaro Ishiwatari (26-8-4) in a wild slugfest to secure a future bantamweight title shot; Jake Heun (15-9) earned a technical knockout win over Satoshi Ishii (22-11-1) 1:12 into Round 1 at heavyweight; Bellator’s Patrick Mix (13-0) submitted Yuki Motoya (23-8) with a guillotine at bantamweight; Miyuu Yamamoto (6-4 Rizin) defeated Suwanan Boonsorn (4-3) via unanimous decision at atomweight.
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