On New Year’s Eve, the best Super Atomweight will be found…
On New Year’s Eve, the world will get the biggest fight that one of MMA’s most niche weight classes has ever seen. In a trilogy bout, Seo Hee Ham will attempt to take Ayaka Hamasaki’s championship. The division’s biggest matchup in recent history is one of near parallels. Soon, however, after they meet on New Year’s Eve, they will no longer be parallels, as one will go up and the other will go down.
While the New Year’s Eve fight will be a rematch, a lot has changed since their first two meetings. Hamasaki first prevailed over Ham back in 2010, earning her fourth professional MMA win, also winning the DEEP Jewels Lightweight Championship (115 lbs). She held on to the belt for many years, making three defences of it before leaving the promotion, one of those over Ham, ending through corner stoppage after one round.
Ham continued to fight in DEEP Jewels and the newly opened Korean MMA promotion Road FC until 2014, where she was signed to the UFC. She made history as the first female Korean fighter to sign with the promotion. Traditionally being a super atomweight fighter, Ham had to move up to strawweight to fight in the UFC, as they didn’t support the lighter class.
She struggled in her four-fight run, notably losing to Joanne Calderwood and Bec Rawlings. Her sole win in the UFC came against Cortney Casey, which earned both of them a fight of the night bonus.
In late 2016, Ham lost to Danielle Taylor via split decision, ending her UFC career.
In 2015, Hamasaki fought at Invicta FC 13, defeating Herica Tiburcio via split decision to win the promotion’s Atomweight Championship. She would go on to defend it two times. Her win over Jinh Yu Frey wasn’t a decisive victory, as a cut made the doctor call it off in the second round.
After a loss in early 2017 to Livia Renata Souza, Hamasaki vacated her Invicta Championship.
While Hamasaki and Ham were building themselves up in different parts of the world, the RIZIN fanbase had their eyes on different fighters. They were focused on the person who was made to be #1, that being RENA, and the fighter who forced themself to be #1, that, of course, being Kanna Asakura.
Asakura unavoidably became the #1 woman in RIZIN after putting RENA to sleep at RIZIN Fighting World Grand Prix 2017, concluding her three-fight run in the Super Atomweight GP. In 2018, RENA fought Asakura again. While she didn’t finish her, Asakura won yet again. The losses were the first that RENA had ever received in her career.
Returning Back Home
In 2017, Seo Hee Ham returned to Road FC in Korea, being given a title shot against Mina Kurobe. She stopped the Japanese fighter in under three rounds, earning herself the belt. Before the year ended, Ham made her first defence of the belt, dropping Jinh Yu Frey with punches in the fifth minute of their fight. She made one more defence before going to RIZIN.
Hamasaki made her RIZIN debut at RIZIN 10, going three rounds against Alyssa Garcia. Later that year, she went up against Mina Kurobe in a fight that was made to determine who’s next in line to face Kanna Asakura.
Set for 2018’s New Year’s Eve show RIZIN 14, Hamasaki challenged Asakura for the vacant RIZIN Super Atomweight Championship.
Falling Into Place
At RIZIN 14, Hamasaki put on a dominant performance, stopping Asakura in the second round with an armbar. It took Asakura out of the title picture, as nothing about her performance called for a rematch.
Asakura made her sole defence of the RIZIN Super Atomweight Championship at RIZIN 16, going to the scorecards in a rematch against Jinh Yu Frey, the only past opponent who had a good reason for a rematch.
Ham made her RIZIN debut in July. She was pitted against Tomo Maesawa, the DEEP Jewels Atomweight Champion, in a champ-versus-champ matchup. She stopped Maesawa in a round, utilizing RIZIN’s legal grounded knees to the head to end the bout.
Both Ham and Hamasaki have picked up one more win en route to RIZIN 20.
So Here We Are…
For most weight classes, the best in the world is seen in a different promotion. Most look to UFC to find who is the best in every class. However, in a world that sweeps super atomweight under the mat, the absolute best will be found out at RIZIN. And for many, that makes it better.
A real “best in the world” fight will have the theatrics, ring, and of course the ruleset of RIZIN. That’s not something people get often or arguably have ever gotten before.