Concluding their 2019 season, Bellator heads to Japan for the first time on Saturday. The card is a co-promoted event with Japanese MMA organization RIZIN Fighting Federation. Many of the fights on the card see representatives from both promotions face off. The two promotions have collaborated in the past, most notably with Kyoji Horiguchi facing former Bellator Bantamweight Champion Darrion Caldwell twice.
Headlining this card is two well-known heavyweights in Fedor Emelianenko and Rampage Jackson. Deep into his career, Emelianenko is recognized as one of the most accomplished mixed-martial artists to never compete in the UFC. A good part of his career took place in Japan, as he competed in now-defunct promotion Pride FC many times. Prior to his UFC and Bellator run, Jackson also had a stint in Pride. While both fighting under the same banner, the two heavyweights never clashed before. Along with the main event is a quite stacked Bellator card, with many fights on it.
Bout 1: Goiti Yamauchi (24-4) vs. Daron Cruickshank (22-12) (Lightweight)
In one of the truest Bellator versus RIZIN matches, Goiti Yamauchi faces Daron Cruickshank. What makes it a true promotional clash is the amount of experience each fighter has in their territory. Yamauchi is now 10-3 in Bellator, with Cruickshank being 5-4 in RIZIN. Cruickshank will try to break a two-fight losing streak, as he recently lost to Damien Brown and Tofiq Musaev. Yamauchi fought in October, defeating Saad Awad with a first-round armbar. Yamauchi came in at 157.8 lbs, missing the lightweight limit.
Bout 2: Ilara Joanne (9-4) vs. Kana Watanabe (8-0-1) (Flyweight)
The second women’s bout of the evening will see undefeated Kana Watanabe battle Bellator’s Ilara Joanne. Watanabe has fought primarily in RIZIN and DEEP JEWELS. In RIZIN, she defeated Shizuka Sugiyama twice, once in very brief fashion. She has won three times in 2019, most recently beating Hee Eun Kang on a DEEP JEWELS card. Joanne debuted in Bellator back in October, prevailing over Bec Rawlings with a second-round kneebar. While that was her only win in Bellator, it was over a notable name.
Bout 3: Lorenz Larkin (21-7) vs. K-Taro Nakamura (35-10-2) (Welterweight)
In the next bout of the evening, two former-UFC fighters who now represent different promotions will collide. Lorenz Larkin, who is on a three-fight winning streak in Bellator, will face K-Taro Nakamura, who just won his RIZIN debut back in October. Larkin is coming off of a split decision over Andrey Koreshkov at Bellator 229. Nakamura’s win was a brief and dominant one over Marcos Yoshiop de Souza at RIZIN 19. This marked the end of his UFC run, going 4-4 while with the promotion. Larkin missed weight by two-and-a-half pounds, although his fight will go on. It was reported by MMAJunkie that the comission will force Larkin to fight at middleweight in his next bout “unless doctor provides not that drop to 170 is safe.”
Bout 4: Michael Page (16-1) vs. Shinsho Anzai (11-3) (Welterweight)
Bellator’s walking highlight reel Michael “Venom” Page will return on this card, facing former UFC fighter Shinsho Anzai. Page has gotten two dominant wins on recent Bellator shows, making a turnaround from his first pro loss, a brutal knockout at the hands of Douglas Lima. This fight is a quick turnaround for Page, who’s last fight was under a month ago. Anzai finished his UFC career with a 2-2 record, returning to DEEP Impact in September with a win against Yoichiro Sato.
Bout 5: Michael Chandler (19-5) vs. Sidney Outlaw (14-3) (Lightweight)
The co-main event of the evening is a strictly Bellator collision, as Michael Chandler will face Sidney Outlaw. Originally, Chandler was meant to fight Benson Henderson in what would be a rematch from 2016. Henderson was pulled from the fight due to injury, with Outlaw being named the new opponent. The fight is Chandler’s return after losing his Bellator Lightweight Championship to Patricio Pitbull. Outlaw made his Bellator debut just last month, defeating Roger Huerta at Bellator 234.
Bout 6: Fedor Emelianenko (38-6) vs. Quinton Jackson (38-13) (Heavyweight) 44
In the main event, two MMA legends will collide. Fedor Emelianenko and Rampage Jackson will add another fight to their extensive MMA records on Saturday, which currently sits at 95 fights combined. Both fighters have deep ties in Japan. Some of Emelianenko’s best known work comes from his days in Pride FC, being undefeated during his run. Jackson also fought in Pride, although his record was not flawless. Despite both fighting in Pride, they never faced each other. Jackson’s last win was over fellow JMMA superstar Wanderlei Silva, stopping him in the second round at Bellator 206. That was just over a year ago. Since then, Emelianenko has fought twice. He stopped Chael Sonnen in one round at Bellator 208, and recently saw an abrupt loss to Ryan Bader at Bellator 214. While in the main event slot, the fight is only set for three rounds.
Bout 7: Sergey Shemetov (9-6) vs. Shoma Shibisai (5-2) (Heavyweight)
After the main event, Saitama Super Arena will see post-lims which feature a mixture of RIZIN and Bellator fighters. It is still up in the air whether the international broadcast will be able to see these fights. One of the first preliminary bouts of the evening is Sergey Shemetov facing Shoma Shibisai. Shemetov is a relative to viral king Vitaly Shemetov, who made his RIZIN debut back at RIZIN 17. Shibisai has competed in Ganryujima pit fighting in the past, winning many times in that promotion. His last RIZIN fight was an openweight victory over Chang Hee Kim, landing in armbar to win in just over a minute.
Bout 8: Ryuichiro Sumimura (14-7) vs. Jon Tuck (10-5) (Lightweight)
Former UFC fighter Jon Tuck was meant to make his Bellator debut in September against Brandon Girtz. Unfortunately, that plan fell through for him. Instead, his debut will come against Ryuichiro Sumimura on this card. Tuck finished his UFC run with a 4-5 record, most recently losing to Drew Dober in 2018. Sumimura has fought mostly in regional promotion DEEP Impact, although has appeared once in RIZIN. In that fight, Sumimura tapped out to now-Bellator fighter Kiichi Kunimoto.
Bout 9: Andy Nguyen (6-8) vs. AI (5-1) (Strawweight)
2019 has been a breakout year for Krazy Bee’s AI. She got noticed by most eyes when she beat underground J-pop idol Nanaka Kawamura on New Year’s Eve with a dominant performance. She then went on to win twice more in promotion DEEP Jewels, then returned at RIZIN 18 to have a very close fight with Tabatha Watkins. Now being dubbed the “Princess Bee,” which follows the lineage of Miyuu Yamamoto being the “Queen Bee,” AI is seen as one of the prospects in JMMA. AI doesn’t have a blood-relation to the Yamamoto family, but like Yusuke Yachi is very representative of the Krazy Bee brand. She will face Andy Nguyen on this Bellator card. Nguyen has a 1-2 record in RIZIN, fighting twice against the previously mentioned Yamamoto.
Bout 10: Yusaku Nakamura (16-6-1) vs. Makoto Shinryu (9-1-1) (Flyweight)
Two experienced JMMA fighters in Yusaku Nakamura and Makoto Shinryu will fight in the next bout. Nakamura’s last fight was a decision win over Topnoi Tiger Muay Thai at RIZIN 16. Before then, he was winless in Bellator, losing to Manel Kape and Tenshin Nasukawa. Shinryu has never fought in RIZIN or Bellator, but has attained an impressive record in DEEP Impact.
Bout 11: Ren Hiramoto vs. Takahiro Ashida (Catchweight 150 lbs) (Kickboxing Rules)
The next fight on the post-lims is the card’s sole kickboxing bout. After being vacant from the kickboxing scene for nearly two years, Ren Hiramoto returns to face MMA fighter Takahiro Ashida. Hiramoto fought in Japanese kickboxing promotion K-1 World, getting 10 wins in his time there. Ashida has been an MMA fighter for his career, fighting all around Japan’s regional scene. He has two wins in 2019, prevailing over Isao Sakiyama and Tatsunao Nagakura.
Bout 12: Jarred Brooks (15-2) vs. Haruo Ochi (19-7-2) (Flyweight)
Back at RIZIN 18, Jarred Brooks and Haruo Ochi were set to face off in a strawweight matchup. The competition ended abruptly however, as a head collision early cut Ochi on the head, making the fight a no contest. They’ll run it back on this Bellator card, this time under the flyweight class. Brooks got a regional American win before this event, defeating Victor Altamirano at WXC 83. Ochi is currently on an impressive seven-fight win streak. Most wins came from the promotion DEEP Impact, with one win being against former-Pancrase Champion Mistuhisa Sunabe at RIZIN 13.
Bout 13: Kanna Asakura (15-4) vs. Jayme Hinshaw (4-3) (Atomweight)
A year ago, Kanna Asakura found herself high on the card of RIZIN 14, attempting to beat Ayaka Hamasaki with the RIZIN Super Atomweight belt on the line. That didn’t go her way, as she lost with a second round armbar ending Hamasaki’s dominant performance. She has went 2-1 in 2019 so far, recently winning over Alesha Zappitella at RIZIN 18. She now faces Jayme Hinshaw, who will be making her debut in Bellator. She had previously fought in King of the Cage for all of her pro-career. While having just slightly more wins than losses, Hinshaw is currently riding a three-fight winning streak.
Bout 14: Hiroto Uesako (16-8) vs. Yusuke Yachi (20-9) (Lightweight)
In an all-RIZIN affair, Hiroto Uesako and Yusuke Yachi face-off in the next preliminary bout. Uesako and Yachi are one of the more well-known lightweights in the promotion. While Yachi has name recognition, he is currently on a three-fight losing streak that dates back to RIZIN 12. Uesako debuted in RIZIN earlier this year, defeating Yves Landu to secure his spot in the Lightweight Grand Prix. He lost in the first round of that tournament to Luiz Gustavo in October.
After this event, Bellator will return in late January with Bellator 238. Headlining the card will be Cris Cyborg, making her Bellator debut against Featherweight Champion Julia Budd. However, before the year concludes, some Bellator talent will be seen on RIZIN’s New Year’s Eve card at Saitama Super Arena.