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Rinya Nakamura: A UFC bantamweight prospect with title potential 

Rinya Nakamura UFC
(Photo Credit: DuxCarvajal)

Rinya Nakamura: A UFC bantamweight prospect with title potential 

The UFC bantamweight division is one of the sport’s best divisions and it got a little better with the injection of elite prospect Rinya Nakamura. The 28-year-old from Japan was the bantamweight winner of Road to the UFC Season 1 and has clear championship potential. 

Who is Rinya Nakamura? 

Nakamura is about as exciting as a prospect can be. The 28-year-old is 7-0 in professional MMA with several impressive wins.

In his seven contents, he has fought a respectable level of competition. This begins with his victories on Road to the UFC. Nakamura picked up three wins in the tournament against prospects that were all being considered for a UFC contract. Prior to the show, in his fourth professional bout, he picked up a win over a regional scene veteran with 23-6-1.

Now, he is not exactly beating world champions, but he is far from a can crusher. 

In those seven bouts, Nakamura has shown an insane ability to finish fights. He has six finishes, with five coming by knockout and one by submission. Of those finishes, five came in the first round while one came in the second. 

At this point, if you do not know who Nakamura is, you would probably assume he is a striker. That would be incorrect. Nakamura started his MMA journey in wrestling. The pinnacle of his freestyle wrestling career came in 2017 when he won World U23 Championships.

Although, he placed highly in several other international and national competitions. In 2019, he took second at the Japanese National Championships. In the finals, he lost to Takuto Otoguro who went on to win gold at the 2020 Tokoyo Olympics. Ultimately, Nakamura opted to transition from wrestling to MMA during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Rinya Nakamura’s Strengths 

Nakamura has a ton of elements of his game that are worthy of drooling over as he begins his UFC run. On the surface, he is an elite wrestler that is more than capable of violently knocking out his opponent on the feet. That is simply a dangerous skill set to have. 

On the feet, Nakamura is a blitzing powerhouse. The Japanese prospect has shown that he is more than willing to bite down on his mouthpiece and hunt knockouts. This is mostly done with his hands. If he lands one hook, he will, at minimum, wobble his opponent. I like his kicking game as well, but he does not throw them as frequently.

Obviously, despite all his powerful striking, his wrestling is his most impressive skill. In Nakamura’s fights, when he elects to wrestle he is successful. This begins with his takedown offense.

Personally, I love that he is willing to attack his legs in wrestling exchanges. In modern MMA, we typically see more emphasis on clinch body locks, trips and throws. While those are solid techniques, I like seeing wrestlers that are willing and able to attack takedowns below the hips and knees. It simply gives them more avenues to get their opponent to the ground. Furthermore, if a scramble takes place, Nakamura will usually find himself in the top position.

Lastly, Nakamura has begun adjusting his grappling for MMA. For a wrestler transitioning to BJJ, the keys are to learn cage wrestling and BJJ. Thankfully, Nakamura has shown that he is looking to accomplish that. On the cage, Nakamura does not show much drop-off in wrestling ability.

As far as BJJ goes, he has shown that he is adding submissions to his skill set. This was most evident in his key lock submission win on Road to the UFC, but he came close to landing submissions on the regional scene too. As he continues to get more experience, his submission upside should only increase.

Rinya Nakamura’s Weaknesses 

I am not going to sit here and pretend that Nakamura is a perfect fighter. After all, he has less than 10 fights on his resume.

The most noticeable weakness in Nakamura’s game is that he can be countered when getting over-aggressive. As previously mentioned, he is more than willing to trade, but he does not have great defensive instincts and fundamentals when he is throwing. It is positive that he is good defensively when he is not throwing. That shows that he could improve defensively down the line. Still, at the moment, hold your breath when he throws.

Additionally, he needs to iron out his offensive skills. It looks like Nakamura relies on power, pressure and some well-timed counters. I would prefer that he gets better at setting up shots. This will help him stay safe throughout a fight.

It is also important to note that Nakamura cannot fall in love with his hands. Nakamura has a lot of promising striking skills. That does not mean his wrestling should be put to the wayside, however. It is not worth striking with fighters that he can easily take down.

The potential for superstardom

Outside of skills, Nakamura has the potential to become a MMA superstar. That is obviously a tough call to make at this stage in his career, but the UFC simply lacks an Asian superstar.

The UFC has found a ton of success in many corners of the world. The promotion has stars from the United States, Oceania, Russia, Europe, Africa and more. Although, they do not have a massive Asian superstar and more specifically a Japanese star. At the moment, the only massive Asian champion is Weili Zhang.

With ONE Championship having a large influence on the Asian MMA market, Nakamura has a chance to fill the hole for an Asian UFC superstar.

Keep an eye on Rinya Nakamura

All things considered, Rinya Nakamura is a UFC prospect you have to keep an eye on. Nothing is a guarantee in the sport of MMA, but Nakamura has the potential to fight for UFC gold in the future. The baseline skills and athleticism are present. Now, he just needs to continue honing his MMA skillset.


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