Meet RIZIN’s Tenshin Nasukawa, Floyd Mayweather’s next opponent

Its been announced that boxing superstar Floyd Mayweather Jr.  is coming out of retirement (again) to put his flawless 50-0 record on the line.  Similar to his boxing bout last year against UFC superstar Conor McGregor, Mayweather has again elected to challenge a fighter without a traditional boxing background. This time, Floyd’s opponent, Japan’s Tenshin Nasukawa isn’t as widely known in the boxing or mixed martial arts community in the Untied States outside of hardcore fans. Let’s take a look at Nasukawa’s strengths, weaknesses, and tendencies as well as the significant fighters hes faced so far.

Tenshin Nasukawa is a rising MMA and kickboxing star in the Rizin Fighting Federation promotion. Rizin is a Japanese fighting organization stemming from the original Pride Fighting Championships. Nasukawa is incredibly young at just 20 years old but is skilled far beyond his years in striking. Tenshin has been practicing Kyokushin Kaikan (full contact karate) and  kickboxing  from a very young age, earning an amateur kickboxing record of 105-5-1 with 62 KOs. Tenshin has a perfect undefeated kickboxing record of 27-0 with his first win dating back to 2014 when he was at the tender age of just 15 years old. Nasukawa started his professional MMA career in late 2016 and has a perfect 4-0 record with 2 KOs, 1 submission and 1 decision all within the Rizin promotion.

 

Tenshin is physically smaller than Floyd Mayweather, standing at just 5’4 and has a lot smaller frame that is still developing. From fight to fight you can see noticeable differences in Tenshin’s physique as he grows and continues to put on muscle. Nasukawa has fought at as low as 121.2lbs. and as high as 127.9lbs. in his two most recent fights. Over 20 year old’s last 12 fights, his average weigh in weight was at 125lbs. Sure, Tenshin cuts some weight but he is still much smaller than his future opponent who fought at 149.5lbs. just last year.  Floyd’s lightest weight class was super featherweight (130lbs.) where he won the WBC title, but he hasn’t fought at that weight since 2001.

Nasukawa is a southpaw and a very talented counter striker. The Japanese superstar has a seemingly heightened sense of anticipation, always one step ahead of his opponent, making him very elusive. The young phenom knows how to adapt on the fly and spot the patterns of his opponents. Nasukawa also posses incredible body control and timing, with very creative combinations. Though most of Tenshin’s combinations include/are set up by kicks, combinations executed  exclusively with boxing techniques are not uncommon and are often very effective.  Tenshin has lethal knock out power in his left hand along with an arsenal of flashy kicks both of which contribute to him always putting on exciting fights along with spectacular highlight reel finishes and making him a fan favorite.  Out of Tenshin’s 27 wins 21 of them are by KO/TKO, including both a spinning back kick KO and a flying knee KO.

Nasukawa has had difficulty with lengthy opponents in the past. The 20 year old can be hit, especially in later round against elite competition, and so far seems to have a good chin. Tenshin does not like to be crowded and when he gets flustered has a tendency to swing his way out utilizing his left hand and trying to pivot or slide out. Most of the young superstars shining moments come when his opponents don’t press the pace of the fight, move slower, or are predictable.  Whenever Tenshin has time to really set his feet and pick his shots he has stellar shot selection, mixing strikes to the head and body, often overwhelming his opponent. There is a question mark next to Tenshin Nasukawa’s conditioning/pacing, as he can be seen slowing in later rounds of bouts especially in the Rodtang fight. Ask Conor McGregor how an insufficient gas tank fares in a boxing match against a boxer at the caliber of Floyd Mayweather.

Nasukawa really loves his left hand and the straight left is probably his best punch. Nasukawa was constantly recruited to be a boxer since he was a preteen as his talent has always been evident. But his love for kickboxing kept him from the sport because in Japan professional boxers are not allowed to fight in other pro combat sports. Tenshin’s speed is unreal and he keeps up an incredible pace once he sees his opening or smells blood, an absolute output machine and finisher. Tenshin Nasukawa combines the sequence and chaining of strikes organic to Muay Thai paired together with the high intensity pacing of kickboxing. But how will he fare against the greatest defensive boxer of our era?

 

Tenshin Nasukawa’s coming out party came at just age 18 while he was still in high school, back in early December of 2016. This was because the then high school student beat a prime Lumpinee stadium champion, Wanchalong PK.Saenchai, in spectacular fashion. The Muay Thai Champion of Lumpinee is one of the most prestigious belts in all of muay thai and the stadium itself in Bangkok, Thailand is a huge symbol of modern muay thai. Nasukawa picked apart Wanchalong masterfully trapping and countering him with a spinning back kick that promptly rendered the muay thai champ unconscious. The knockout went viral and Tenshin’s popularity sky rocketed in Asia.

 

Nasukawa ran  through the MMA tournament; Rizin World Grand Prix in late December of 2016. Nasukawa then returned to kickboxing in February of 2017 knocking out Amnat Ruenroeng a former professional thai boxer with a pro boxing record of 18-3.  Ruenroeng held the IBF flyweight (108-114lbs.) title from 2014 to 2016 and won a bronze medal in the 2007 World Championships. Amnat is a formidable opponent but in truth the fighter was already semi retired and no longer in the prime of his career. But, this is still a masterful KO from a body shot beautifully displaying Nasukawa’s fast hands and good shot selection.

Suakim Sit Sor Thor Taew was one of Tenshin’s biggest tests. Suakim was moving down in weight and was the naturally larger man with a full 4 inch height advantage on the 20 year old phenom. This fight took place in February earlier this year. Tenshin struggled responding to feints and was often backed into the ropes especially towards the middle of the fight. Tenshin definitely scored the victory but was able to be touched and controlled by the longer fighter throughout the duration of the fight.

Nasukawa actually won a questionable unanimous decision that went to an extra round against Rodtang Jitmuangnon (a top tier veteran with a 253-40-10 record) back in June of this year going the full time of 5×3 minute rounds plus another 3 minute extra round.  Nasukawa was tested, to say the least, by Rodtang an incredibly seasoned professional muay thai that has litterally seen it all. Nasukawa held his own in many of the exchanges especially at the very beginning of the fight until he began being backed up by Jitmuangnon around the ring and into the ropes. This was a very telling fight in terms of the Japanese superstar’s cardio, seeing him stalling for time to catch his breath as early as the third round. Tenshin accomplished this by “accidentally” double legging his opponent to the ground and throwing rolling thunders (cartwheel kicks) constantly, after each stalling tactic, milking the amount of time that it took for him to get off the canvas and return back to his feet. Rodtang smothered Tenshin as much as he could and it definitely gave the young fighter trouble. But, Nasukawa was ultimately able to edge out his opponent and keep his perfect record thanks to what most people attribute to “home cooked judging” as the fight took place in his birth place of  Chiba, Japan.

Here is Nassukawa nice and fresh against the beast that is Rodtang Jitmuangnon:

Compare to rounds 3 and 4 and watch for the stalling tactics the the referee so graciously allows Nasukawa to pull off!

Nasukawa weighed in at 127.9lbs. for his most recent fight, a kickboxing match, against Kyoji Horiguchi, the Rizin bantamweight champion. This fight took place September 30th 2018 and was another huge test for  Nasukawa as Horiguchi has an impressive mixed martial arts background. Kyoji has fought under the promotional banners of Shooto, UFC and Rizin amassing a stellar 27-2 record including a KO of fellow veteran Ian McCall earlier this year. Horiguchi has only been stopped 1 time in the 5th round of a title fight to arguably the best fighter ever, Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson. A true veteran fighter that has fought and hung with some of the best fighters on the planet. Nasukawa expertly fought and defeated Kyoji via a sound unanimous decision, outclassing the veteran without ever even getting in real trouble.

 

Although the rule set has yet to be confirmed, one thing is for sure, if kicks are involved in any  way, shape or form then Floyd Mayweather Jr. is in some deep trouble. Tenshin’s grappling may be a little underdeveloped but that is only compared to career mixed martial artists not to career boxers. The 20 year old would be far superior in clinch situations as well as Mayweather just doesn’t have experience with that particular aspect of fighting. Even though Tenshin has shown that he has had difficulty with conditioning in the later rounds of a 5 round fight, the 20 year old has also shown composure in the face of  wily veteran martial artists on the largest of stages. This is interesting match up that has the potential to really be something great with an appropriately thought out and competitive rule set.

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North Carolina native and attend the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Former wrestler, football and rugby player. I love all things combat sports and when I'm not studying I enjoy trainig Muay Thai. I am also a W.I.T.S certified personal trainer.

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