Eighteen-year-old Japanese kickboxing sensation Tenshin Nasukawa made his MMA debut tonight at RIZIN MMA in Japan, proving himself not only to be a force to be reckoned with in muay thai and kickboxing, but in MMA as well. HEading into the fight there were the usual fears that the kickboxing community has when a star kickboxer decides to try their hand at MMA. You'd need to look no further than the bout that preceded Tenshin's, where Andy Souwer was submitted via armbar in the first round to Kazuyuki Miyata. To say that Japanese matchmakers are ruthless in looking for entertainment is an understatement; they thrive on pairing grapplers against strikers in hopes of a highlight reel knockout or submission.
And Tenshin was almost submitted by Nakita Sapun.
All of that happened because Tenshin was unafraid to go to the ground with an actual MMA fighter. Sapun is not much of a grappler, but does have more experience in the MMA ring than Tenshin does, obviously.
Yet, still, Tenshin felt comfortable taking the fight to the ground while everyone expected it to be a stand-up battle. After surviving that sick armbar, most kickboxers would back off, wait for their opponent to get up and fight their own fight. Tenshin didn't do that. Oh no. Instead, he waited and pounced when he saw his opening, winning via TKO.
Then, in something that is very much uniquely Japanese (and why is it?), he grabbed the microphone and appealed for another fight in two nights at RIZIN's next event, claiming that he'd want to fill in for the injured Krazy Horse against Minoru Kimura. Imagine that, a KNOCK OUT and K-1 showdown in MMA rules. My god. The kid who almost had his arm busted wanted more. There wasn't some sap in a suit jamming a mic in his face asking him what he wanted, or to walk him through the finish, he just expressed himself and was aloud to make himself a bigger star. Nobuhiko Takada claimed if the doctors would clear him he could fight.
His debut knockout victory already made him a viral star, but now at one of the biggest Japanese fighting events of the year he proved himself gutsy, talented and fearless with an incredibly bright future ahead of him. We've been searching high-and-low for the next big Japanese kickboxing star to help spark a resurgence of the sport in Japan and it feels like Tenshin could be that fighter.
Dave Walsh has been covering MMA and Kickboxing since 2007 before changing his focus solely to Kickboxing in 2009, launching what was the only English-language site dedicated to giving Kickboxing similar coverage to what MMA receives. He was the co-founder of HeadKickLegend and now LiverKick. He resides in Albuquerque, New Mexico where he works as a writer of all trades.
His second novel, Terminus Cycle, is available now via Kindle and Paperback.
Dave (a) LiverKick dot com | @dvewlshWebsite: www.dvewlsh.com