France's Rizlen Zouak lost to Amanda Lino in the innnaugural EFC women's bantamweight title bout on Saturday. Photo: Leticia Cox/EFC Worldwide
France's Rizlen Zouak lost to Amanda Lino in the innnaugural EFC women's bantamweight title bout on Saturday. Photo: Leticia Cox/EFC Worldwide
Lino and her coaches, Dallas Jakobi (left) and Rodney van der Vlugt (right), celebrate with her titles. Photo: Roarke Bouffe / EFC Worldwide
Lino and her coaches, Dallas Jakobi (left) and Rodney van der Vlugt (right), celebrate with her titles. Photo: Roarke Bouffe / EFC Worldwide

CAPE TOWN - “Win or Learn”: This is the title of world-renowned MMA coach John Kavanagh’s best seller.

In the book the SBG coach, who moulded MMA superstar Conor McGregor into a world champion, speaks about the ability to win or learning how to win. And so, when Rizlen Zouak fell short of the inaugural women’s Bantamweight Championship this past weekend at Sibaya in Durban, she embraced the disappointment. She inhaled the air of sadness and allowed her opponent, Amanda Lino to bask in the glory.

It was a huge night for Women’s MMA and Amanda, who confirmed her status as a two-time champion – already owning the flyweight belt.

For Rizlen, it was seen as a learning curve.

“I am starving for knowledge, I want to continue learning. This fight with Amanda, she is a great fighter, and it taught me a lot, especially in the tactical department,” says Rizlen.

Big-ups to her, despite being fairly new to the game of MMA with just more than a year of experience, one cannot forget that the Frenchwoman is a two-time Olympian with a number of World Judo Championship accolades.

Since making her debut in the EFC, she has been nothing short of a hurricane, with a 2-0 record, she has been clinical in her last two fights.

For an athlete of her pedigree at the age of 32, one could easily adopt the attitude of “I’ve seen it all and done it all”, but to her credit she has been open-minded to the concept of always improving and becoming the best athlete she can be.

Heading into the fight, Amanda was well aware of the judo threat Rizlen posed. A strong well-built athlete who can subdue an opponent with an on-hip throw before inducing the armbar, Amanda came prepared.

Zouak and Lino trade punches during the bout. Photo: Roarke Bouffe / EFC Worldwide

“My coach Rodney van der Vlugt comes from a long line of judo, I also have a few guys in my gym with a judo background. So that is not something new to me," Lino said.

“We have focused slightly more on the judo throws. In terms of weight, we have guys in my gym who are up to 115 kilograms, so I have trained with heavier opponents,” said Amanda before the fight.

Rizlen made a devastating statement with a couple of powerful hip throws in the first round, getting Amanda to the ground. The manner in which she tossed the flyweight champion was incredible.

It made one think that the shift up in weight might not have been the best idea for Amanda with each and every hip toss. At one point, everyone from the Durban faithful to the commentators thought it was over when Rizlen locked in a deep armbar.

“I thought at one point it was over when she had me locked in, but the only way it was happening was if she took my arm off. We trained hard for this and in our gym we never give up,” said Amanda after the fight.

Rizlen must have succeeded with in excess of three hip throws on average per round. So much so that it became frustrating for the fans to see.

The display of Rizlen’s technique and strength was immense. With every hip throw she went for the armbar, however, the dogged fighter that Amanda is repelled and refused to tap before evading any sort of top control from Rizlen, too.

In-between every judo drop, Amanda did what she does best and landed a couple of big punches on Rizlen.

This, along with the realisation that she was failing to submit Amanda with her judo, which has been the demise of so many of her opponents, took its toll on Rizlen and her drop in energy levels was evident at the end of round two.

Cue the third round, Rizlen was once again the aggressor and induced another hip toss which Amanda weathered before taking back control and then to rear mount.

Amanda then pounded Zouak out, and as referee Wiekus Swart called the fight, Amanda collapsed in exhaustion overcome with emotion. Rizlen agreed that valuable lessons were learnt on the night.

“That is life, you learn and you come back stronger. I kept looking for the KO or submission, I should have stayed on mount and stick to the ground and pound instead of chasing the armbar. But that is life, we learn, and I will continue to grow my game,” she said.

“Well done to Amanda, again, she showed she has a big heart.”

This picture captures so many emotions that ran through my head when the fight was called. I still cant find the write words to explain how I feel but I can say that I am truly grateful and blessed. My team- KO Fighting Fitness for the hours they invested in me. It's a team sport even if I stand alone with my opponent... My loving Family , friends , sponsors and support from all over... with out you this would not be worth it. It's not about the title I hold but the journey that took place leading up to this moment... and each and everyone of you, big or small had a part to play in it. So to you all I say thank you... @efcworldwide Thank you for the opportunities you have given myself and many other female athletes to display their talents and live their passion. To my opponent thank you for bringing the war... best fight I've been in. Travel safe and all the best. #EFC70 #LinoVSZouak #EFCWorldWide #MadDog #Champ #FlyweightChampion #Bantam #BantamChampion #2xDivision #KOFightingFitness #KO #CarlsonGracie #MMA #WMMA #Fightlife #Athlete #Fighter #Gracie # #Durban #Sibayacasino#WMMA #MMA #MMAGirls #JiuJitsu #031 #Fighter #ChampChampion

A post shared by Amanda Lino (@mandz_maddog_lino) on

Aside from wanting to return even stronger to the Hexagon, Rizlen has just one other dream she would like to make a reality.

“I am dreaming of fighting in Cape Town, I love the city, my manager Fernand Lopez is working hard on making that happen, please let all my Cape Town fans know that I am grateful for their support and I can’t wait to meet them,” Rizlen said.

Who knows, we might just see Rizlen and Amanda part two at the Grand Arena soon.

Meanwhile, in what has been a much-talked about event, Andrew van Zyl puts his heavyweight belt on the line against light heavyweight king, Champion Dalcha at EFC71 on June 23.

IOL Sport

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