The RIZIN Grand Prix Tournament was set up in a way that, whoever won 4 fights in a row, would be crowned 2016 RIZIN GP Champion. We saw some familiar names and some names we didn’t know even competed any more in the open weight tournament. A few social media sparring matches, late replacements, and a man sized Cup O’ Noodles in Speedos later, we had a champion and a future star. Mirko Cro Cop was the RIZIN GP winner and AKA Thailand’s Amir Aliakbari showed he will be a major force in heavyweight MMA.
Round 1 of the tournament began on September 25. Both Aliakbari and Cro Cop had fights that lasted almost the exact amount of time. Cro Cop met up with Hyun Man Myung and finished him at 2:20 of the first round by arm triangle choke. Amir Aliakbari took on Joao Almeida and finished his night with strikes at 2:25 of the first round. Aliakbari and Cro Cop went home to Croatia and Thailand, respectively. Each fighter would have the chance to rest until December 29, when the quarterfinal rounds would begin.
Time came and went. Cro Cop’s opponent Wanderlei Silva dropped out of their quarterfinal showdown and a Facebook fight broke out instead. Last year’s heavyweight champion King Mo, stepped up and took Silva’s place. Aliakbari was supposed to fight former UFC Interim Heavyweight Champion Shane Carwin, but Carwin also pulled out of their match at the last minute. Heath Herring came out of semi retirement to face Amir in the quarterfinals. After a lot of nail biting, the quarterfinals were set.
Cro Cop faced off with King Mo in a burner of a fight. King Mo took on the 2006 Pride Open Weight Grand Prix Champion, Cro Cop. Cro Cop hasn’t lost a fight in 3 years and he was fighting like he was in his 20’s again. Cro Cop and King Mo displayed a beautiful knowledge of MIXED martial art is their fight. Mo’s wrestling and boxing looked on point in their match, but Cro Cop was too much for Mo. Ultimately, King Mo lost by tko in the 2nd round and Cro Cop continued his RIZIN finishing streak.
Amir fought Heath Herring and it was a rough one for Heath. Amir is a world champion Greco Roman wrestler and absolutely dominated Herring with it. The highlight of the tournament was probably Amir’s suplex of Herring. Just getting the big Texas crazy horse up like that was an amazing show of strength and technique. Amir cruised to the unanimous decision.
2 days later on the 31st, the semifinals and finals took place. The remaining 2 Grand Prix fights were Cro Cop vs Baruto and Amir Aliakbari vs Valentin Moldavsky. Cro Cop had himself a short fight which ended in just :49 and he took no damage. Meanwhile, Amir fought Moldavsky to an exhausting split decision. The 42 year old resurgent Mirko Cro Cop would be taking on the 29 year old prospect Amir Aliakbari in the finals.
The legend Cro Cop was just too much for Aliakbari. Aliakbari couldn’t compete with the years of experience and fresh legs that Cro Cop possessed. Cro Cop ended the fight via strikes at 2:03 of the first round.
All in all it was a great tournament and beneficial for both competitors. The 42 year old icon with the left high kick of death showed that he can still compete with the current and future stars of the sport. Cro Cop is the guy who, your favorite fighter has, as his favorite fighter. In only his 6th fight Aliakbari fought one of the biggest legends in the sport. While the sun begins to set on the career of the great Cro Cop, a new stud in the heavyweight division is smashing his way to the top. The torch, however, didn’t get passed just yet.
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RIZIN Fighting Federation (RIZIN FF) is a Japanese regional mixed martial arts organization. It was created in 2015 by the former Pride FC president Nobuyuki Sakakibara.
RIZIN FF will broadcast on Spike TV in. The same network that houses Bellator MMA. Other official partnering broadcasters will be SKY Perfect JSAT Corporation, Fuji Television, Fox Sports Brazil, Kix and Match TV.