Valentino hopping around, light on her feet. Rena flicks out a low kick. Slow start to the fight as Valentino maintains distance. Counter left by Valentino. Low kick lands. Rena tries to pres-sure, can’t. Kicks from Rena and a right up top. She catches a body kick and takes Valentino down, landing in a hold and with side control.
Valentino kicks her off, takes some punches on the way back up. Straight left and body kick from Valentino. High kick by Rena, then a nice counter combination. They trade left hands. Low kicks by Rena, Valentino catches one.
Rena looking for long kicks, takes a left straight and comes back with a 1-2 combination into a clinch momentarily. Valentino lands a hook as they separate.
Rena locks up and hits a head-and-arm throw in response. Valentino again kicks her off before she can get much done. Straight lefts connect for Valentino. She’s on top in the striking de-partment so far.
Kick exchange to start. Rena tries to go high. Low kick exchange. Glancing head kick from Re-na. Counter hook lands for her after taking a straight. Valentino still finding success at range, connects with more left hands. Rena looking to counter but getting beaten to the punch. Body kick and left hand again for Valentino. Good combination by the Italian. Rena rushes and pulls guard, but can’t sweep into top position before they stand. Rena takes a right hook, then hits another head-and-arm throw into scarf hold. Valentino makes space and stands once more. They tie up and Rena goes for a flying armbar and is able submit Valentino.
Rena in ring comment:
“I’m Rena, the shoot boxer. Thank you for taking time out of your busy end of year schedule to come and watch. Tonight was my MMA debut. I said I wanted to win with a flying arm bar and I did. Rumina Sato taught it to me two years ago and I love the move. Mr. Abe from AACC as well as Ayaka Hamasaki also taught me a lot. Before I started MMA, I shut myself in at home and stayed there. I was a girl who couldn’t do anything but thankfully I was able to come across shoot boxing and then meet Mr. Caesar, and this is like being in a dream. I am so happy that MMA is back where it belongs as one of the hottest sports. Because I was able to get the victory tonight, I want every to count with me and say “1-2-3, shoot!”. Thank you!”
An Interview with RENA.
You were able to submit her with a lovely flying armbar. How do you feel now?
I really, really wanted to do that armbar but I didn’t think I could. Mr. Abe in my corner screamed “jump!” and the fight went as I envisioned it would.
We heard that you learnt MMA under Rumina Sato. After that, what else did you practice?
I first met him 2.5 years ago when we were involved in the same magazine project. Once I got the offer to fight this time, he came onboard and helped coach me. I also trained at AACC with Ayaka Hamasaki and Amiba.
We saw a lot of punches from you today?
You are allowed to punch in shoot boxing, so it felt really natural for me to punch in this fight.
You injured your finger before the fight. How is it?
Before the fight, I didn’t care about the pain and wanted to go out and fight. When I hit a left hook though I felt a lot of pain and let my corner know. I stopped using my left hand after that.
Would you like to continue in MMA?
I have mixed feelings. On one hand, it would be ok to quit right now but on the other, I want to keep going. I’m still a nobody with a long way to go, and I can only improve. I can’t really answer that question right now.
Your opponent was a kick boxer and hit you with a lot of good strikes. Would you like to fight her under shoot boxing rules?
She’s very a good, strong fighter, so if the chance comes up, I’d like her to compete in the summer Girls S-Cup tournament. She really is a good fighter.
Do you have anything to say to females who want to do martial arts?
At first, treat it like a fitness class. It’s a very fun sport and I’d like to tell them to not be scared, take one step at a time and lets sweat a lot together.
What are your thoughts and impressions on the Rizin production?
At first I was at a loss for words. I am so thankful to Mr. Caesar and Mr. Sakakibara for putting on such an amazing event. I had a lot of fun with the fight itself and I am also very thankful for that.
Did the fans enthusiasm transmit back to you in the ring?
I fought in the first match and I wondered if we’d get more of a reaction but there were so many fans in attendance and I think MMA is back. I am also very thankful to the fans.
In the prefight interview, you talked about “being a woman”. Did you think you were able to show this in your fight?
I don’t know, I’m not really sure. When I made my ring entrance, I think I was brimming with that youthful enthusiasm and showed what “being Rena” means.
What did Mr. Caesar say to you?
He just said “good luck”. It was me who decided to compete but he was concerned that that I might say “I don’t want to fight, sorry”.
And what about after the fight?
I haven’t seen him yet. From what I hear, he was really rubbing his eyes so that makes me happy (laughs). I am going to see him now.
What was the biggest difference from a shoot boxing fight?
The gloves are different, which means the punches are. I couldn’t judge the distance either, so I got hit quite a few times. I want to remember this for next time.
How will you spend your new years?
On the 3rd I will go back to Osaka and spend time with my family but tonight my friends are here and we are going out to have a good time.
It was such a superb finish. Do you think you have “it”?
When I went back to the locker room, everyone was saying “you have “it”!”.
An interview with Jleana Valentino
Where did you learn newaza? And what are your thoughts on fighting in MMA?
I had so much fun. I had never done any newaza up until now, but did train with a UFC fighter. I also trained with Giorgio Petrosyan’s team.
What are your thoughts on MMA?
For someone like me who is a stand up fighter, it was a little strange to have to do newaza. It was quite difficult actually. You need to have full concentration. It’s like someone who is walking normally and then suddenly has to walk through water. The same kind of feeling. I would have liked to have been able to walk through the water a little better.
You are known for having a strong left middle kick. Rena however, was able to nullify that and take you down. Did this affect your fight at all?
You have to change your fight plan when your opponent is able to catch your kicks. I was able to get in some punches, and had planned to keep repeating the tactic of landing punches and then creating space between us. However, I wasn’t able to knock her down. Also, in Italy we prepared for elbows but we weren’t allowed to use elbows in this fight.
What are your thoughts on being involved in such a big Japanese event?
I am happy that you asked me that. I am just so happy and thankful. It’s such an honor to be in the opening match of a new generation of MMA, and I am happy that women were able to fight. I think it was the right decision to have female fighters on the card, because once we are in the ring, there should be no difference. I fought the number one fighter in Japan tonight and that makes me very happy. For me, it’s much more important to lose to a number 1 ranked fighter than to beat a number 10 ranked fighter. I will go home better and stronger for this. This event was just so amazing, and very appropriate leading into the new year.