On Sunday RIZIN will return with their first event of 2019. Their last event was the classic New Year’s Eve MMA event being held in Saitama Super Arena. The show saw kickboxing star Tenshin Nasukawa lose within a round of boxing to the 50-0 Floyd Mayweather. The loss went viral, as did Mayweather’s reported nine million dollar paycheck did. The show also saw the crowing of Kyoji Horiguchi and Ayaka Hamasaki as champions. Horiguchi defeated Bellator star Darrion Caldwell via submission to become a Bantamweight Champion, and Hamasaki beat Kanna Asakura with a second-round armbar to become a Super Atomweight Champion.
This weekend’s show will be headlined by Jiri Prochazka and Bellator’s King Mo, as they compete for the inagural RIZIN Heavyweight Championship. Below them on the card will also be RIZIN regulars Kyoji Horiguchi and Tenshin Nasukawa.
RIZIN 15 will see inaugural promotion’s return to Yokohama, with their last appearance being in April of 2017. With the order of this weekend’s card being unveiled this week, let’s preview the card in order.
Taiga vs. Thalisson Gomes Ferreira (Kickboxing Bout)
The first fight of the evening is contested under kickboxing rules, as Taiga returns to face RIZIN newcomer Thailisson Gomes Ferreria. Taiga competed at RIZIN 13, where he fought to a draw against Kento Haraguchi. Both fighters are coming off of losses from the RISE kickboxing promotion.
Kanako Murata vs. Saray Orozco
The matchup of Kanako Murata and Saray Orozco only became official this week when Orozco’s original opponent, Shinju Nozawa-Auclair backed out of the bout due to injury. Nozawa-Auclair noted on Instagram that she fought through an injury before, and it forced her to be sidelined for a year after the fight because of the severity of the injury afterwards. Kanako Murata is no newcomer to RIZIN as she has an established 4-1 record within the fighting federation. Saray Orozco has a 4-2 professional MMA record and is on a three-fight win streak heading into her battle in Yokohama.
Seiichiro Ito vs. Manel Kape
Manel Kape is an example of someone who RIZIN has really built up. Prior to his career within RIZIN, he didn’t compete in any major promotions. Although RIZIN has made him into a huge star, he hasn’t had an easy run. Out of his last four career losses, he has been given three of them in his last four fights. He lost to Ulka Sasaki on New Year’s Eve back when he was coming off a win against Yusaku Nakamura. He’ll be facing Seiichiro Ito in his next fight. Ito will be making his second RIZIN appearance, getting a win at the last Yokohama show. He’s a veteran within the ZST promotion in Japan and is coming off his first MMA loss in over five years.
Koji Takeda vs. Damien Brown
Damien Brown had a strong debut with RIZIN at New Year’s Eve after wrapping up his 2-4 UFC career. He defeated RIZIN veteran Daron Cruickshank via guillotine in just one round. He faces Koji Takeda, a DEEP promotion fighter who, despite only debuting in 2017, has racked up eight victories. His last win came against Satoru Kitaoka, who also fights on this card.
Kana Watanabe vs. Justyna Zofia Haba
Justyna Zofia Haba and Kana Watanabe are two success stories that came from the New Year’s Eve shows. Watanabe defeated Shizuka Sugiyama in 11 seconds after a knockdown (which Sugiyama protested about after the match) in their sequel fight, and Haba handed Shinju Nozawa-Auclair her first pro loss via submission. Watanabe’s fight came from RIZIN’s afternoon show “RIZIN Heisei’s Last Yarennoka!” Since then she has also gotten her either pro victory at DEEP JEWELS 23, defeating Soo Min Kang. While Watanabe isn’t a veteran by any means, her 8-0-1 record is many more minutes in the sport than what Haba has experienced in her 1-0 pro MMA career.
Mikuru Asakura vs. Luis Gustavo
This weekend’s show was set to be a showcase of both of the Asakura brothers, but couldn’t happen after Kai Asakura’s fight fell through. After Ulka Sasaki and Justin Scoggins both pulled out due to injury, RIZIN decided to bench Kai for the event. Mikuru’s bout is still set to happen, as he faces Luis Gustavo. The undefeated Brazilian left an impact in his debut in RIZIN when he dropped Yusuke Yachi in the main event of RIZIN 12. Mikuru defeated Shooto veteran Takeshi Inoue at the “Heisei’s Last Yarennoka” show on NYE.
RENA vs. Samantha Jean-Francois
A bout that was set to go down at RIZIN 14 will be tried for again at this event. Samantha Jean-Francois didn’t have an opponent last minute in December due to RENA suffering from anemia and dehydration during her weight cut. The last fight took place at 49 kg, and this fight will be held at 51 kg.
Karl Albrektsson vs. Christiano Frolich
Karl Albrektsson will make his return to RIZIN, facing Christiano Frolich, who will make his debut in the promotion. Albrektsson’s last fight in RIZIN was against Jiri Prochazka, losing in the first round via punches. Since then he has gotten two more wins in the Swedish promotion “Superior Challenge,” making his record 8-2. Frolich comes into RIZIN with a 10-4 record, with his last fight being a win in July against Eduardo Rufino.
Roberto de Souza vs. Satoru Kitaoka
Nearly two decades into his MMA career, Satoru Kitaoka is still fighting frequently. After defeating Tatsuya Kawajiri on New Year’s Eve, Kitaoka will face Roberto de Souza in his next battle. Souza is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu based MMA fighter, having presence in Japan through his participation in QUINTET events.
Kyoji Horiguchi vs. Ben Nguyen
RIZIN’s top MMA dog Kyoji Horiguchi will face former UFC fighter Ben Nguyen in his next fight. Horiguchi is coming off a championship victory in December. Nguyen will be making his first appearance outside the UFC after he first fought for them in 2015. At the end of his stint with the promotion, he lost two fights, finishing with a UFC record of 4-3. This fight won’t be for a title, and will only be three rounds.
Tenshin Nasukawa vs. Fritz Aldin Biagtan
Tenshin Nasukawa’s recent fights seemingly follow a theme of being involved with people who don’t have much to do with kickboxing. At RIZIN 13, he fought Kyoji Horiguchi in a kickboxing match. At RIZIN 14, he lost to Floyd Mayweather in boxing after being knocked down three times. And now at RIZIN 15, Nasukawa will face a kickboxer that has been brought in through famous boxer Manny Pacquiao. Fritz Aldin Biagtan was the fighter that “Pac-Man” assigned for the event. The Filipino fighter is a current WBC Muay Thai Featherweight Champion and will be facing Nasukawa in Kickboxing rules. Nasukawa’s last fight was last month at RISE, competing in the first round of the promotion’s 58kg tournament.
King Mo vs. Jiri Prochazka (RIZIN Heavyweight Championship Match)
RIZIN will have their first Heavyweight Championship match in the main event of the show. Muhammed Lawal, also known as King Mo will come into the promotion from Bellator to face Jiri Prochazka. Prochazka is currently on a seven-fight win streak, defeating Brandon Halsey in December. He has fought for RIZIN since their inaugural event. This won’t be the first time he’s squared off against Mo, as he took his third and most recent loss to him back in 2015 via punches. King Mo has lost his last two fights, both being via strikes. In RIZIN he has a record of 3-1.
After RIZIN makes it’s long-awaited return to Yokohama, the promotion will make their debut in Kobe afterwards. On the 2nd of June, RIZIN will go to the World Memorial Hall for RIZIN 16. But until then, there are 12 bouts that have the potential to be very entertaining.