Kikuno (11-1-1) immediately set the tone for the fight, as he took the center of the ring in the first round and adopted his rigid, karate-based stance. Matsumoto (7-2), almost mesmerized by his opponent’s robotic movements, could not get his evasive, fluid game going and started taking low kick after low kick, as he found himself slowly edged into a corner time and time again.
The equally hyped Matsumoto resorted to Superman punches and lunging flurries in an attempt to get past Kikuno’s unusual defense, but this proved fruitless as Kikuno evaded and hammered back at the body and head with punches and kicks. Some brief grappling exchanges provided no help for Matsumoto, either, as the two strikers effectively neutralized each other.
The telling moment came in the closing minute of round one when Kikuno landed his highly vaunted front kick to the solar plexus. The blow dropped his opponent’s hands, and Kikuno followed with a right hand to the jaw that knocked out Matsumoto against the corner post at 4:32.
“I wanted to become a mixed martial artist from when I was 17 years old,” said Kikuno, a winner in eight consecutive bouts. “It’s been 10 years, and I think I’ve grown strong. I would like to thank everybody who has been involved with my development and supported me.”
A match with newly rebuilt, former divisional champion Nobuhiro Obiya appears to be a logical next step, but Kikuno might draw the attention of more prominent promotions sooner rather than later.
In the co-feature bout, divisional queen Miku Matsumoto showed off some of the skills she picked up from the Shootboxing ring, as she destroyed Hook-N-Shoot veteran Nicdali Calanic in 21 seconds.
After brushing off an initial combination from Calanic, Matsumoto launched a front kick to the body and quickly followed it up stream of knees from the Thai plum that sent Calanic to the canvas grimacing in pain and forced referee Samio Kimura to intervene.
Meanwhile, K-1 Hero’s mainstay Kazuyuki Miyata took the first step in rebuilding his career with an easy win over Korean import Jae Hyun So.
Miyata (6-7) slipped an initial hook with no issues and quickly secured the takedown into guard. From there, a patient Miyata -- cornered by K-1 Hero’s and Rings mastermind Akira Maeda -- worked his way through the guard, cinched an arm-in guillotine choke and coaxed the tapout from So (2-6) 2:31 into the first round.
Elsewhere, former Deep middleweight champion Ryuki Ueyama grinded out a unanimous decision over a gunshy Kousei Kubota.
Kubota seemed unwilling to exchange, and a late charge with punches from the guard earned Ueyama (10-11-4) favor from the judges. The 31-year-old Kubota (24-30-10) has lost three in a row and nine of his last 11.
Two other matches ended in far more decisive fashion.
A trim looking Hiromitsu Kanehara exploited a distracted Kenji Nagai and earned a second-round technical knockout via punches from a topside crucifix.
After Nagai (5-8-2) absorbed an early accidental head butt, his attention seemed to be focused on making sure the referee paid attention. Kanehara (17-22-1) had little trouble finishing him once it hit the mat, and the 38-year-old made no mention of retirement after the fight.
Finally, staunch Japanese nationalist Yuji Sakuragi notched a much-needed win against the rangy Minoru Kato.
A first-round knockdown had Kato (2-7-1, 1 NC) moving in slow motion, and it was only a matter of time until Sakuragi (10-14-1, 1 NC) landed with one of his overhands. Eventually, he found the mark, and the end came 59 seconds into round two.
Toshiaki Kitada def. Joe Taimanglo -- Submission (Guillotine) 1:29 R1
Seigo Mizuguchi def. Waka Arashi -- Submission (Neck Crank) 0:19 R1
Tomoya Miyashita def. Crazy Hiru -- Submission (Anaconda Choke) 2:39 R1
Baek Won Sik Def. Naoki Matsushita -- TKO (Doctor Stoppage) 3:59 R1
Yasuhiro Kawasaki def. Shun Yagi -- TKO (Punches) 3:02 R1
Tony Loiseleur contributed to this report.
This article was updated at 4:00 p.m. ET to correct an error. Sherdog.com originally reported Naoki Matsuhita as a victor, when in fact, Baek Won Sik defeated Matsushita.