The tradition of New Year’s Eve mixed-martial-arts will be continued on Tuesday, with RIZIN hosting RIZIN 20. The stacked card has the absence of the promotion’s biggest star, Kyoji Horiguchi, who is currently healing a torn ACL. He gave up his Bantamweight Championship, freeing it up to find a new champion on this card.
With a grand prix, three championship bouts and much more, there’s a lot of storylines to discuss heading into the evening at Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan. The show will air via internet pay-per-view on FITE TV, with the broadcast starting at 1AM EST.
Bout 1: Johnny Case (27-6-1) vs. Tofiq Musaev (16-3) (Lightweight Grand Prix Semi-Final)
The first two fights of the evening will be the semi-finals of the RIZIN Lightweight Grand Prix. The winners of those fights will fight again later on that card to find the winner. The first of two fights is between Johnny Case and Tofiq Musaev. Both fighters have a similar recent story, as they both debuted on RIZIN’s New Year’s Eve card last year. They have went undefeated since, wit a record of 3-0 in the past year. Case stopped Roberto de Souza with punches to pass the first round of the tournament. Musaev prevailed over Damien Brown via stoppage as well to move on.
Bout 2: Patricky Pitbull (22-8) vs. Luiz Gustavo (10-1) (Lightweight Grand Prix Semi-Final)
The other half of the lightweight grand prix sees an all-Brazilian matchup. Bellator’s Patricky Pitbull will face Luiz Gustavo. Pitbull is riding a six-fight win streak, with many of those being in Bellator. His most recent win however, was a quick victory over Tatsuya Kawajiri. On that same card, Gustavo beat Hiroto Uesako to move on to the semi-finals. Gustavo entered RIZIN in 2018, stopping Yusuke Yachi with a brutal knockout. He then took his first loss as a pro to Mikuru Asakura at RIZIN 15.
Bout 3: Miyuu Yamamoto (5-4) vs. AMP The Rocket (4-2) (108 lbs)
The first women’s fight of the evening is between “Queen Bee” Miyuu Yamamoto and AMP The Rocket. Yamamoto is now a veteran of the RIZIN promotion, fighting with them since 2016. She is notably from the Krazy Bee gym, and is the sister of the late Kid Yamamoto. She most recently lost to Seo Hee Ham, being stopped in the second round with strikes. AMP The Rocket is a prospect coming out of DEEP Jewels. In the biggest challenge yet of her career, Rocket fell to Ayaka Hamasaki in the first round at RIZIN 18. Still young in her career, she has all of her wins (and losses) via stoppage.
Bout 4: Taiju Shiratori vs. Taiga (137 lbs) (Kickboxing Rules)
In the first of many rematches on this card, Taiju Shiratori will go up against Taiga in a kickboxing bout. Their first meeting came at RIZIN 19. Shiratori found himself in trouble late, being dropped by a perfectly timed overhand right. After their close meeting at the last event, they will run it back on this card.
Bout 5: Yuki Motoya (23-7) vs. Patrick Mix (12-0) (135 lbs)
In one of the many Bellator versus RIZIN fights this week, undefeated Patrick Mix will go up against Yuki Motoya. Mix has fought twice in Bellator, both first round wins via submission. Motoya is an experienced fighter from DEEP Impact. He is currently on a two-fight winning streak, recently getting a split decision loss to Hiromasa Ogikubo.
Bout 6: Jake Heun (14-9) vs. Satoshi Ishii (22-10-1) (230 lbs)
RIZIN’s Jake Heun will welcome back Satoshi Ishii in the next fight. Heun has become a frequent fighter in RIZIN, debuting at RIZIN 13, and fighting twice more since then. He recently stopped Vitaly Shemetov due to a cut at RIZIN 17. Ishii is fresh out of competing in the second season of the PFL. He finished with a 1-2 record, losing to Denis Goltsov in the quarter-finals of the light heavyweight division.
Bout 7: Shintaro Ishiwatari (26-7-4) vs. Hiromasa Ogikubo (19-4-2) (135 lbs)
In the seventh fight of the evening, Shintaro Ishiwatari and Hiromasa Ogikubo compete in what will likely decide who’s next in line for a Bantamweight Championship shot. Ishiwatari lost to former champ Kyoji Horiguchi in 2017. He returned to action in mid 2019, taking out Ulka Sasaki with a second-round north-south choke. Ogikubo has also lost to Horiguchi in the past. This year he has won twice, more notably over Yuki Motoya at RIZIN 17.
Bout 8: Vitaly Shemetov (23-10) vs. Simon Biyong (6-1) (205 lbs)
After a cut made him lose in his RIZIN debut to Jake Heun, Vitaly Shemetov gets a second shot at Japanese stardom, this time against debuting Simon Biyong. Shemetov went viral ahead of his RIZIN 17 fight, clamouring for a fight in the promotion for months upon months. Biyong’s most notable win in his early career was a second round stoppage victory over Quinton Roussow at EFC Worldwide 82. EFC is recognized as the top MMA promotion in South Africa.
Bout 9: Jiri Prochazka (25-3-1) vs. CB Dollaway (17-9) (RIZIN Light Heavyweight Championship)
In the first of three championship bouts of the evening, Jiri Prochazka will attempt to make his first defence of his RIZIN Light Heavyweight Championship against former-UFC veteran C.B. Dollaway. Dollaway fought 20 times in the UFC, with his first fight in the promotion dating back to 2008. In the summer of 2019, Dollaway was flagged by USADA for a banned substance, suspending him until December of 2020. Prochazka first captured the Light Heavyweight Championship by defeating Bellator’s King Mo at RIZIN 15. He has since defeated Fabio Maldonado in a non-championship bout.
Bout 10: RIZIN Lightweight Grand Prix Grand Final
Before the intermission, the grand final for the Lightweight Grand Prix will take place.
Bout 11: Lindsey VanZandt (7-2) vs. RENA (9-3) (112 lbs)
After the break, RIZIN will present their five final big matches. The first of the few is a rematch between Lindsey VanZandt and RENA. VanZandt first beat RENA in June, choking her out in the first round at Bellator 222. The fight was RENA’s debut outside of Japan. VanZandt has competed in Invicta FC and Bellator in the past. RENA bounced back from the loss at RIZIN 19, stopping Alexandra Alvare in 20 seconds. The fight is taking place at the catchweight of 112 pounds, a weight class that RENA has stayed at after falling ill trying to make the 105-pound weight limit at RIZIN 14.
Further reading: Lindsey VanZandt Interview: Unfamiliar Land, Familiar Foe
Bout 12: Mikuru Asakura (11-1) vs. John Macapa (23-4-2) (145 lbs)
The final Bellator versus RIZIN matchup of the night will be between Mikuru Asakura and John Macapa. Asakura has had a flawless past year, winning at RIZIN 15 and more notably RIZIN 17, where he main evented Saitama Super Arena. Asakura has had an eventful 2019 outside of the ring, becoming Youtube famous. Last month he garnered six-million views on his channel for a one-round grudge match against fellow MMA fighter and Youtuber Atsushi Saito. Macapa turned around a three-fight losing streak this year, beating Kevin Croom and more-recently Ashleigh Grimshaw
Bout 13: Ayaka Hamasaki (19-2) vs. Seo Hee Ham (22-8) (RIZIN Super Atomweight Championship)
The next fight sees arguably the top two atomweights in the world square off. RIZIN’s champion, Ayaka Hamasaki, puts her belt on the line against Korea’s Seo Hee Ham. Hamasaki is the only RIZIN Champion that has defended her belt. Since winning it against Kanna Asakura at RIZIN 14, she has went on to beat Jinh Yu Frey in a rematch and AMP The Rocket. Ham made her RIZIN debut late this year at RIZIN 17, stopping DEEP Jewels Champion Tomo Maesawa in under a round. She then beat Miyuu Yamamoto in under two rounds at RIZIN 19, quickly solidifying her as the next in line for a title shot.
Further Reading: The Last, And Lightest Superfight of 2019
Bout 14: Tenshin Nasukawa vs. Rui Ebata (Kickboxing Bout) (Special Rules)
The co-main event of the show will see RIZIN’s kickboxing ace Tenshin Nasukawa face Rui Ebata. Last New Year’s Eve, Nasukawa saw the biggest challenge of his career, facing Floyd Mayweather in a three-round exhibition boxing match. Three rounds weren’t needed however, as Mayweather scored three knockdowns in the first round before Nasukawa’s corner ended it. He has since returned to kickboxing, winning five fights this year, including a tournament in his home promotion RISE Kickboxing. Ebata is older and more experienced, with 41 wins as a pro. He has won 11 in a row, with the streak starting back in 2016. Many critics argue this is the first big challenge for Nasukawa in a while.
Bout 15: Kai Asakura (14-1) vs.Manel Kape (14-4) (RIZIN Bantamweight Championship)
The main event of RIZIN 20 is for the vacant RIZIN Bantamweight Championship. The fight will see Kai Asakura face Manel Kape in a rematch from 2018. Asakura was originally meant to face Kyoji Horiguchi on New Year’s Eve, although injury made Horiguchi withdraw. Asakura defeated Horiguchi in a huge upset at RIZIN 18, stopping him in just over a minute. He then went through Ulka Sasaki at RIZIN 19, breaking his jaw in the first minute of action.
In their first matchup, Asakura won, albeit by a split decision. Kape has won three and lost one since then. All three of his wins were via stoppage. Kape trains out of the recognized gym AKA Thailand.
Asakura’s backstory is interesting, coming up with Mikuru Asakura in a troubled childhood. Both of the brothers first gained relevance by fighting in the promotion “The Outsider,” which attempted to take troubled people off of the streets. Similar to his brother, Asakura has also found recent Youtube fame, famous for dressing up as a stereotypical nerd despite his exceptional athletic ability.
Further Reading: Are RIZIN’s brutal brothers its next native stars?
News broke earlier this week that RIZIN’s first 2020 event will be RIZIN 21, at Hamamatsu Arena in Hamamatsu, Japan. The event will be the promotion’s debut in the area. It also breaks their pattern of schedule in past years which saw the promotion take a break for a few months after it’s New Year’s Eve show.