The 2019 RIZIN Reflection Roundtable

The past year has been a big one for RIZIN. Nearly a whole year ago, they put on RIZIN 14, which was headlined by kickboxing star Tenshin Nasukawa taking on Floyd Mayweather. That was just the tip of the iceberg for that card, which was stacked with talent. The promotion went on to leave it’s home venue of Saitama Super Arena and travel out to Yokohama, Kobe, Nagoya and Osaka.

RIZIN has their biggest New Year’s Eve week ahead of them, with two events, including one co-promoted alongside Bellator. With that on the horizon, we thought it would be a good time to reflect on the past year in JMMA and RIZIN specifically.

We put together a panel of JMMA and RIZIN pundits to weigh in on 2019’s highs and lows for RIZIN.

Meet The Cast

Mike Skytte is a writer for MMA news site The Body Lock. He has covered the JMMA beat for years now.

BasedDongeezus has been closely following and covering the JMMA scene for many years. He produces video content through Twitter, going through old and new, and often obscure corners of the scene. He is also the editor for’s JMMA section.

Jack Wannan is an MMA contributor for and Fansided MMA. He has covered JMMA for roughly a year.

Question: Overall, how do you feel about the shows that RIZIN put on this year?

Mike Skytte: Very good. I think there’s a legitimate argument for it being the best 12-month stretch the promotion has had yet – especially taking into account RIZIN 14 and Yarennoka!. They’ve had a few large scale shows at Saitama, but have also put on some more high-end regional-level shows in smaller arenas at 16, 18, 19. They are starting to amass a deep enough roster to increase the number of events per year without having any of those events being watered down. It’s exciting times, and next year should continue to evolve on this front.

Jack Wannan: Personally I thought it was a great year for the promotion. While some shows had disappointing parts or odd matchmaking, the presentation of the product never lacked. With that being said, we were treated to some real great matchups this past year.

BasedDongeezus: Seemed like a bit of a step back for the promotion. Their events seemed heavier with name value and talent last year as well as being a better viewing experience. The increased intermission times this year really made it hard to enjoy the live events.

It wasn’t all bad though. They made some strides with their kickboxing matchmaking this year with progressively more competitive fights. They are closing the year out with one of the best kickboxing bouts they have put together in Tenshin vs Rui Ebata and bringing a high-level talent like Ren Hiramoto in.

Q: What show this year was RIZIN’s best?

MS: RIZIN 17, no question. It had everything. Big finishes, big debuts, memorable fights – including arguably the best in the promotion’s history. Yarennoka! Was special for me as well. It was just a JMMA regional card in a lot of ways, topped by two absolute legends. And it was a seriously cool watch to see a show like that on such a massive scale because RIZIN.

16 was somewhat similar. A few big-time names, but the first half of the card was very regional-esque, and it delivered. Some vicious KO’s on that one. RIZIN 19 was great as well. 13 fights, 11 finishes, you can’t go wrong with that. Not to mention that one of the fights that went the distance was the barnburner between Shiratori and TAIGA. But; not dodging any legit answer. RIZIN 17 was, in my opinion, the best event of 2019 thus far. Bold opinion or not, it was terrific.

BD: On paper, it’s the New Year’s Eve event, RIZIN 20, as one would expect. Since that event hasn’t played out yet, I will go with RIZIN 17.

Motoya vs Ogikubo was one of the best fights I watched this year and it happened between former DEEP and a Shooto World champions. TAIGA finally won, #ShemetovtoRIZIN was realized, Seo Hee Ham debuted and did her thing, and the Lightweight Grand Prix field began to take shape. Ishiwatari submitted Ulka following a 19-month layoff for a serious neck injury. Then to top it off Mikuru Asakura moved up to beat Yachi and solidify himself as one of RIZIN’s top talents.

JW: I would have to say RIZIN 17. For starters, the atmosphere was amazing. The crowd was red hot, which we didn’t really see elsewhere this year. With the absence of names like Kyoji Horiguchi, Tenshin Nasukawa, Ayaka Hamasaki or RENA on the card, it was a star-making night for Mikuru Asakura, being put under more of a spotlight than ever. The show had it’s fair balance of fun and absurd. The triple threat of fights to close the show were some serious matchups, but on the same card we saw Japan’s darling Vitaly Shemetov and the scariest man I’ve ever seen Ivan Shtyrkov compete in matches.

Q: What show was RIZIN’s worst?

BD: RIZIN 19 was the worst live viewing experience of the events this year. The numerous hour-long intermissions, which lasted as long as the event itself, killed all momentum and sucked the life out of the event. I ended up just going to sleep before the main event. It’s a shame because bout by bout the event was perfectly fine.

MS: RIZIN 15 for me. I don’t have a deep explanation unfortunately. For me, looking at the events, it stood out the least for me. For some reason, it just felt like a slog to watch compared to other RIZIN shows this year. Nothing particularly “bad” about it, just didn’t have as many standout moments as a few of the other shows.

JW: RIZIN 19 was easily the promotion’s worst show. There was maybe two close competitions on that show, with everything else being one-sided competitions for one fighter. And because of RIZIN’s pacing, the numerous quick finishes meant numerous hours of intermission.

Q: What names stuck out to you the most in RIZIN this year?

MS: Kai Asakura, obviously. Knocked out Kyoji Horiguchi ridiculously quick, made Ulka Sasaki look like an amateur and shattered his jaw. Manel Kape is one as well. He is just consistently looking better and better. His evolution is incredibly noticeable. The performance against Seiichiro Ito is one of the most all-around kickass performances of the year, regardless of promotion. And his knockout over Mizugaki speaks for itself.

Jake Heun is up there as well. The best entrances in the game perhaps. He belongs in RIZIN. He belongs in Japan. He will never get the respect and appreciation he deserves in North America, unfortunately. That’s a sad reality, but the Japanese fans will more than make up for it. He just belongs on the stage RIZIN provides. Personality, entrances, etc aside, the man is a great action fighter. Always exciting, beat DEEP champ and very legit heavyweight Roque Martinez, and then spoiled arguably the most anticipated RIZIN debut by slicing up Vitaly Shemetov. Great stuff.

JW: I thought this past year showcased many great names in women’s MMA. While I knew and follow Seo Hee Ham career before, her two performances in RIZIN this year were dominant. Ayaka Hamasaki also had a great year. AI is a clear prospect heading into 2020. Kana Watanabe had great fights this year too. I hope to see her in RIZIN more in 2020.

The Asakura brothers are also names that stuck out to me. They took every opportunity and ran with it. While Jiri Prochazka is clearly talented, he didn’t have any real challenging matchups this year.

BD: Kai Asakura of course is the big name this year following his quick finish of Horiguchi and shattering Ulka’s jaw. If he wins the title fight on New Year’s Eve then he’s a shoe in for JMMA fighter of the year.

Other than him, the Super Atomweight division stuck out, Ayaka Hamasaki and Seo Hee Ham in particular. They are undeniably the #1 and #2 in the world, their rematch on New Year’s Eve is one of the biggest fights in RIZIN this year.

Q: What is your RIZIN Fight of the Year?

MS: Hiromasa Ogikubo vs. Yuki Motoya. On paper, this fight was one of the best RIZIN has ever booked and it absolutely delivered. Ridiculous fight. Can;t recommend it enough.

BD: Hiromasa Ogikubo vs Yuki Motoya. Highly competitive fight between two elite fighters with exciting shifts in momentum.

JW: Personally, I have AI vs. Tabatha Watkins as my fight of the year. Still a prospect, AI was pushed to the absolute limit against Watkins. Nearly getting her arm ripped off by an armbar, AI rallied in the third round with damaging strikes to get the fight back. I had enjoyed AI’s DEEP JEWELS fights before and her New Year’s Eve slaughter against Nanaka Kawamura, but this was the next level from her. TAIGA’s last-minute rally against Taiju Shiratori was quite fun as well.

Q: Which fight didn’t live up to its hype?

BD: Mikuru Asakura vs Yusuke Yachi, just expected a bit more and it was at the end of a long event.

MS: Haruo Ochi vs. Jarred Brooks, obviously. The early accidental clash of heads and No Contest was incredibly disappointing. This fight is genuinely one of the best, most compelling lower-weight fights that can be booked worldwide, and I don’t think people realize that. Was very much looking forward to it, and hopefully when they meet at Bellator Japan the fight actually happens the way it was meant to.

JW: When Topnoi Tiger Muay Thai and Yusaku Nakamura battled at RIZIN 16, many expected an explosive striking battle. Nakamura was a fun kickboxer, and Topnoi was the much more flamboyant and unpredictable fighter. What did we get though? Fouls! Fouls of every kind! Rope grab, eye poke, groin shot, you name it. It did not live up to it’s hype at all.

Q: What do you want RIZIN to change in 2020?

JW: I want more consistency with the championships. If you’re a champion, you should never be doing non-championship fights. Makes zero sense to me. Sure I dislike the intermissions, but realistically I don’t see that changing. I’d also like to have a little more transparency with English fans. It feels like we are often left in the dark about some details. It’s clear that RIZIN values it’s English fanbase (subtitles Youtube videos, has on-site English commentary, etc), but it feels like it could be improved.

MS: Intermissions. Not to be a complainer, but any intermission over like 40 minutes is absolutely absurd. When they make you wait two hours to see the final three fights while watching the same 4 highlights over, and over, and over again, though? No thank you. And that’s not even taking into account the fact that I am a greedy Canadian and don’t want a long intermission at 6am when all I want to do is finish the fights and go to bed. Even if I was a Japan local and in the arena wide awake, I imagine I wouldn’t like such ridiculously lengthy intermissions. I get it, TV timing obligations and whatnot, but you as the organization should organize things better so the intermission lasts as short as possible. If that means more filler in between fights, more promos, longer entrances, more post-fight interviews, I’ll take it.

Also; no more non-title fights. It is ridiculous and completely unnecessary. The fact Kai Asakura is fighting for a vacant bantamweight title next week is so, so dumb. He knocked out the champion in under a minute. In vicious fashion. He should be champion. These non-title rulings are ridiculous. Even Horiguchi thinks so, which is why he straight-up tried to give his title to Asakura the very next month. Stop. Thank you.

BD: Figure out their event pacing. You can have an all time great event on paper where every fight delivers but if you have 2+ hours of intermission it won’t feel like it.

Continuing to develop their kickboxing roster. They are finally putting on some meaningful fights, including getting Tenshin a legitimate opponent in Ebata, now keep that up and do it more often.

Q: What’s your bold prediction for 2020?

BD: RIZIN will fall heavily on new regional talent. They didn’t sign as many upcoming Japanese fighters this year it seemed but next year should see that be upped. The Olympics are going on in Tokyo so RIZIN will likely have to run smaller shows until the back end of the year.

MS: Shintaro Ishiwatari will become RIZIN Bantamweight Champion in 2020. He has long been one of the most underrated fighters in the world. But Horiguchi has always stood in his way. With him out, Ishiwatari will take the title from Asakura or Kape next year.

JW: We’ll see a new belt introduced. Maybe finally rolling out one for lightweight after this GP finishes. Also, I predict (but realistically, am just hoping) that Nanaka Kawamura will have a monster run in DEEP Jewels that gets her another RIZIN fight.

Q: Do you think the Bellator collaboration is emphasized enough?

MS: No. Yes. The way they’re doing it with Bellator Japan and RIZIN 20 is great. A straight-up mini RIZIN card as the Bellator postlims, multiple RIZIN vs. Bellator fights across both shows. It’s awesome. Patricky Pitbull fighting in the RIZIN Grand-Prix is great. But more next year. More Bellator guys fighting for RIZIN titles, more RIZIN guys fighting for Bellator titles, more Bellator champions fighting RIZIN champions, let’s get crazy. Let’s have some superfights.

BD: I like sharing fighters here and there but I don’t care so much for things going beyond that. The upcoming Bellator event can hardly be considered a Bellator show when RIZIN provided about half of the fighters. When that happens then what’s even the point? I’d rather just watch a 2nd RIZIN event under their rulesets and in a ring.

JW: I think their collaboration has went well. It’s been giving RIZIN fighters challenging bouts like the two fights between Darrion Caldwell and Kyoji Horiguchi. I’d like to possibly see more fights where RIZIN fighters come to America for a fight like what happened at Bellator 222. With Shooto and Pancrase possibly out of the picture because of their ONE Championship relationship, this should be the partnership that is most emphasized.

Q: Which regional (or promotion besides RIZIN) was your favourite to watch this year?

JW: My favourite regional promotion has to be Pancrase. I love their style of broadcast which presents so many fights within a small pocket of time. DEEP Jewels shows have been a fun viewing because their re-occurring cast makes it easy to follow (plus they’re on Youtube!).

BD: DEEP had a fun year but I think Shooto was my favourite. This year was their 30th anniversary and they showed up for it with fun events full lovable vets and interesting prospects.

MS: Kickboxing, K-1 always. MMA wise, though, it’s Shooto. I love their shows, the pacing, the action. It’s tremendous. DEEP is up there as well. Nothing but love for Pancrase as well.

Q: What fighter outside of RIZIN impressed you the most?

MS: Shoko Sato. Shooto champion, two ONE wins including a stoppage of King of Pancrase champ Rafael Silva.

BD: Kazuma Kuramoto. He’s a legitimate world class Greco-Roman wrestler who has been ragdolling everyone in Shooto. Go watch his suplex fest against Yuta Nezu.

Q: What do you hope to see from a specific JMMA promotion in 2020?

BD: HEAT doing something to make their events viewable outside of the few fancams that pop up. They produce some solid talents and lately have been putting together some bizarrely interesting events but nobody gets to see them unless they were there live or a phone recording from a cornerman gets uploaded. Their next event in January has Jerome Le Banner vs the guy dubbed as Korean Goblin Pumpkin, Peter Aerts, Parky fighting for a title, and TK vs a Cro Cop protege.

Additionally, I want to see ZST realize the vision of new producer Shuichiro Katsumura (former Shooto champ, current pro wrestler, and representative of Reversal Gym Yokohama Groundslam). He wants to once again make ZST a one of kind place that develops high-level talents through a variety of match styles and rule sets. He has also expressed his desire to revive HERO’S (aka the best JMMA promotion of all time).

JW: I’d like to see more accessibility from smaller promotions. Currently, some promotions like Pancrase, DEEP, K-1 and a few more are easy to watch. Others are viewable, but not without going very out of your way. Even a major promotion like Shooto is hard to track down.

MS: More championships in RIZIN.


Pancrase 311 Full Report

Quick Results (Click to Skip to Bout):


  1. Satoshi Date def. Kenji Yamanaka via Split Decision
  2. Daiki Nishimura def. Kento Mizutani via Unanimous Decision
  3. Kazuki Itaya def. Nobuhisa Kudo via Unanimous Decision
  4. Yuki Takahashi def. Kaneaki Watanabe via Triangle Choke (RD 1, 1:40)
  5. Sho Sekihara def. Shigeki Iijima via TKO, Punches (RD 1, 2:17)
  6. Karen DATE def. Diana via Unanimous Decision

Main Card:

  1. Naoki Arikawa def. Ryosuke Kano via Split Decision
  2. Taiyo Hayashi def. Shinmare Komori via Unanimous Decision
  3. Teppei Maeyama def. Takafuma Ato via TKO, Punches (RD 1, 2:29)
  4. Ryuichi Miki def. Masatatsu Ueda via Split Decision
  5. Mariya Suzuki def. Nori DATE via Split Decision
  6. Victor Hugo def. Shinsuke Kamei via Unanimous Decision
  7. Luthando Biko def. Taiki Akiba via Unanimous Decision
  8. Saimon Oliveira def. Wataru Mimura via Submission, Guillotine Choke (RD 1, 1:14)
  9. Emi Fujino def. Hyun Ji Jang via Submission, Rear Naked Choke (RD 3, 3:20) (Interim Pancrase Strawweight Championship)

Bout 1: Tiger DATE (7-11-7) vs. Kenji Yamanaka (7-7-1) (Flyweight) (3×3)

The first bout of the evening was Tiger DATE facing Kenji Yamanaka. The DATE team was represented quite well on this card. Yamanaka landed a trip takedown off of a body lock in the first minute of the fight. DATE got back up, putting Yamanaka against the fence still in the body lock. He landed knees to the back of Yamanaka’s legs while in the clinch. Yamanaka landed some punches as he started to push DATE against the cage. They returned to stand-up striking for a moment before the round ended.

Yamanaka put on another body lock at the start of the second round. DATE took the back of Yamanaka halfway through the round. He tried for a rear naked choke until the round concluded.

The final round started with a good striking battle. Yamanaka landed a jab halfway through the round that dropped DATE. They went to the ground after that. Yamanaka threw DATE to the ground in the final seconds of the fight as they got back up. The fight went the distance with the win going to Tiger DATE via split decision. He was wearing a tiger mask and cape after the fight.

Bout 2: Daiki Nishimura (1-1) vs. Kento Mizutani (2-3) (Flyweight) (3×3)

In another flyweight fight, Daiki Nishimura fought Kento Mizutani. Nishimura’s last fight was a win at Pancrase 307 over Yuma Nakajima. Mizutani attempted a takedown in the first minute of the fight. He eventually secured the takedown, although Nishimura was able to flip over into top position. He landed strikes from above. This continued until the round concluded.

The second round had more striking at the start than the first one. Nishimura got a takedown with a minute left in the round. Mizutani got up and tried for a takedown of his own, but Nishimura fought it off until time ran out.

Mizutani got a double leg takedown after a minute of inactive stand-up from both fighters in the third round. They got back up with 30 seconds left in the round. Nishimura had the better striking in the final moments. Mizutani shot for another takedown as the fight ended, but didn’t finish the takedown. Consulting the scorecards, it was Daiki Nishimura that walked away with the unanimous decision win.

Bout 3: Kazuki Itaya (6-10) vs. Nobuhisa Kudo (9-8) (Bantamweight) (3×3)

In the next preliminary bout, two bantamweights in their 40’s in Kazuki Itaya and Nobuhisa Kudo fought. Kudo kept on the outside of the cage for most of the first round. Itaya didn’t throw many punches though. Kudo got a takedown, then landed another in the last minute after Itaya got back up. They went to the ground again in the closing moments of the round. Kudo tried for an armbar, but ran out of time while trying to finish it.

Kudo got a single leg takedown as the second round started. Kudo landed on his back, with Itaya getting up and throwing kicks to the legs. The referee stood them back up, where Itaya went back to being the better striker. Kudo fell on his back, and Itaya went into top position on the ground. When they returned to stand-up, Itaya stuffed a takedown from Kudo.

Kudo tried for a single leg takedown at the start of the third round but had no luck. He failed again moments later. Itaya was aware that all Kudo wanted to do was bring the fight to the ground, and did everything possible to avoid that. Kudo chased a takedown until the round ended. Kazuki Itaya walked away with the win via unanimous decision.

Bout 4: Yuki Takahashi (7-2) vs. Kaneaki Watanabe (6-8)(Featherweight) (3×3)

In the next preliminary fight, featherweight with an impressive record Yuki Takahashi faced Kaneaki Watanabe. Takahashi landed a triangle choke to Watanabe who was on his knees in the first minute of the fight. He kept with the choke until Watanabe went out cold in what was a disturbing way. Nonetheless, an impressive return for Yuki Takahashi, who hadn’t fought for three years prior.

Bout 5: Shigeki Iijima (3-5) vs. Sho Sekihara (2-0) (Bantamweight) (3×3)

In the next fight, undefeated bantamweight Sho Sekihara faced Shigeki Iijima. Both guys were landing hard fists early on. Sekihara was landing the better combinations. Iijima engaged in a clinch, and was put against the cage by Sekihara. With a minute left in the fight, Iijima got clipped with a right hook. Sekihara kept coming forward with punches to a retreating opponent. He kept going with punches until the referee stepped in. Sho Sekihara finished his first year as a professional MMA fighter with three straight wins.

Bout 6: Karen DATE (0-0) vs. DIANA (0-0) (Strawweight) (3×3)

The final preliminary bout saw two debuting pros in Karen DATE and Diana face-off. Diana was throwing lots of leg kicks early on. As people from Team DATE tend to do, DATE was throwing side kicks. When Diana would catch a kick, DATE would throw and connect with many punches. They were in a clinch against the cage in the final minute of the first round, where DATE continued to go to work.

DATE showed some good counter-punching at the start of the second round. They were in a clinch against the cage for a while which was eventually broken up by the referee. DATE got some more good shots in then got a trip takedown in the final minute.

DATE had Diana up against the cage in a clinch for most of the final round. It could be imagined that both fighters were very fatigued at this point. The fight went all three rounds, with Karen DATE getting the win via decision.

Bout 7: Ryosuke Kano (7-6) vs. Naoki Arikawa (4-1-1) (Flyweight) (3×3)

Before the main card, a promo was played for Pancrase 312. The commercial included mention of Yoshinori Horie, who will be on the next card, returning from the UFC.

In the first main card fight of the evening, Ryosuke Kano and Naoki Arikawa fought in a flyweight bout. This was Arikawa’s third appearance in Pancrase this year, both previous outings were wins. Arikawa was on the outside of the decagon at the start of the fight. The first round had a good striking battle. Kano got a takedown in the final minute, although Arikawa got up immediately. Kano secured another one in the final 10 seconds of the fight.

Kano went for a single leg takedown in the second round. Arikawa tried to defend the takedown by trying for a guillotine. They stood back up and returned to striking. Kano started to bleed from the nose. Arikawa got a trip takedown, but like all of the other previous takedowns, they got back up. At the end of the round Kano was walking very flat-footed while Arikawa was still bouncing on the balls of his feet.

Kano shot for a takedown in the first minute of the third round, but this time Arikawa fully stopped it. They went into a body lock against the cage. They returned to normal striking halfway through the round. Kano was landing the better punches in this round. Arikawa shot for a takedown this time, getting it but getting his back taken right after. They finished the fight on the feet. After nine minutes of competition, we had a split decision. Winning on two of the three scorecards was Naoki Arikawa.

Bout 8: Mayo Komori (9-2) vs. Taiyo Hayashi (7-7) (Featherweight) (3×3)

The next featherweight fight was between Mayo Komori and Taiyo Hayashi. With an even record, Hayashi came into this fight after losing his last two appearances in Pancrase. Komori wore a Christmas hat and party sunglasses during his walkout. Shintaro Ishiwatari, who will fight on RIZIN 20, was in Hayashi’s corner for this fight. Hayashi scored a takedown early on from a body lock. Komori worked his way up to his feet, still being pinned up against the fence. They stayed against the fence until the referee separated them. Komori landed a great head kick in the final minute of the first round. Komori put Hayashi up against the cage then hopped on his back. He landed hammerfists from the position until the round ended.

Komori took Hayashi’s back again at the start of the second round. Hayashi worked on the ground until he was in top position. They stood back up and traded wild punches. Hayashi put Komori against the cage and threw more punches. He threw knees and punches to a cornered Komori. This moment in the round was the most dominant part for either fighter.

Komori opened the final round with a takedown. They got back up a minute later. Hayashi clinched up with Komori up against the cage. They had a good back and forth battle up against the cage, ending with Hayashi landing a hip toss in the final 10 seconds of the fight. When going to decision, Taiyo Hayashi got a unanimous decision victory.

Bout 9: Takafumi Ato (9-9) vs. Teppei Maeyama (4-7) (#10) (Strawweight) (3×3)

The next fight was a strawweight clash between two fighters who have both fought many times in Pancrase before. Maeyama was the first ranked fighter on the card, coming in at #10. Ato was the faster worker early on. Maeyama avoided a spinning backfist and shot for a double leg takedown. When they got back up, Ato had good strikes. Ato hurt Maeyama with a left hook, dropping him with a right straight. Maeyama attempted to recover with wrestling, throwing Ato around the decagon. Maeyama took Ato’s back on the ground. They got back up and returned to stand-up with a minute left in the round. Maeyama caught a leg kick, throwing a counter right hook which floored Ato and ended the fight. Showing exactly how to recover and make a comeback, Teppei Maeyama snapped a two-fight winning streak with a first round stoppage. He showed lots of remorse after the stoppage, staying on the ground with Ato for a minute or so.

Bout 10: Ryuichi Miki (20-12-4) (#9) vs. Masatatsu Ueda (16-4-2) (#3) (Flyweight (3×5)

Before the next fight, 2019 IMMAF bantamweight silver medalist Reo Yamaguchi announced that he will try for a gold medal next year at the IMMAFs. Moving to five-minute rounds for the rest of the night (apart from one more fight), the next bout was between experienced flyweights Ryuichi Miki and Masatatsu Ueda. Ueda had a clear height advantage over Miki. Both fighters traded leg kicks early on. Miki put Ueda up against the cage. Ueda tried for a trip takedown but Miki got up immediately. They went back to striking for the final minute. The first round was a real feeling out process between the two.

Miki shot for a takedown early in the second round but couldn’t get it. Ueda was throwing a head kick which didn’t connect but looked powerful. Miki caught a low kick for a takedown in the third minute, but Uedaz was able to flip it over into his own takedown. Miki took top position despite being taken down. They traded short distance strikes on the ground. Miki landed some more substantial strikes as the round ended.

Miki landed a good knee to the body during an exchange in the first minute of the third round. With a minute left in the round, Miki chased a takedown, but Ueda stopped it and put him against the cage in a clinch. They went back to striking in the final moments. Miki scored a spinning backfist before the fight ended. Quite a slow-paced fight from the start to the end. When going to a decision, it was a split decision that went in favour of Ryuchi Miki.

Bout 11: Nori DATE (3-3) vs. Mariya Suzuki (1-3) (Flyweight) (3×3)

In the next fight, new-ish MMA fighter Mariya Suzuki fought Nori DATE. DATE has been on a layoff since 2017, having last fought before Suzuki debuted in MMA. This fight was the Pancrase debut for DATE. She was supposed to fight on Pancrase 308 against Hyun Ji Jang, but that plan went out the window when she missed weight. DATE assumed the outside of the cage as where she would fight from right as the fight started. Suzuki clinched up against the cage. When they approached the blue corner, the tape for the blue corner came off of a wall and became attached to DATE’s left foot. As the round was closing, DATE scored a takedown and took the back of Suzuki.

Just like in the first round, DATE started the round up against the cage. DATE charged at Suzuki a minute into the round, putting her up against the cage. When they returned to striking, Suzuki struck DATE with a good counter right hook. DATE landed a good spinning backfist. Suzuki put DATE against the cage again with a minute left in the round. She secured a takedown with 30 seconds left.

They went into a clinch in the opening seconds of the final round. Suzuki eventually got a trip takedown. From the bottom position, DATE tried for some sort of leg move, but it did not hurt Suzuki. In yet another split decision on this card, Mariya Suzuki got the victory.

Bout 12: Victor Hugo (19-4) vs. Shinsuke Kamei (3-1) (#13) (Featherweight) (3×5)

In the next fight, the much more experienced Victor Hugo faced Shinsuke Kamei. Hugo was aggressive from the start, charging at Kamei and trying for a clinch. Hugo got a takedown after a minute of battling against the fence. Hugo was dominant throughout, eventually starting to pour strikes on.

At the start of the second round, Hugo landed a counter right hook which floored Kamei hard. Kamei recovered but was taken to the ground because of the shot. Kamei got up halfway through the round, but Hugo stayed on his back. They returned to striking with two-minutes left in the round. Kamei came forward with a lot of punches in the final minute of the round, but Hugo’s use of space and movement allowed him to avoid most of the strikes. Hugo got another takedown as the second round ended.

Both fighters had good punches at the start of the third round. Hugo stopped the back-and-forth momentum by scoring a takedown. Not much happened on the ground until Hugo got up and took the back of Kamei in the final minute. He tried for a rear-naked choke but let go once Kamei flipped onto his back. The fight went all three rounds, with all three judges giving Victor Hugo the nod. In a dominant performance, Hugo earned the 20th professional win of his career.

Bout 13: Luthando Biko (6-2) vs. Taiki Akiba (10-8-1) (#4) (Flyweight) (3×5)

Successful EFC fighter Luthando Biko made his Pancrase debut in his next fight, facing longtime Pancrase fighter Taiki Akiba. Akiba shot for a double leg takedown in the first minute, but Biko out-muscled him, keeping it on the feet. Biko tried for a takedown for numerous minutes as well, and Akiba was able to fend it off. While Biko fought for a takedown and never got it, he was on the offence for most of the round.

Biko finally got a takedown at the start of the second round, catching Akiba off guard after he threw punches. When Akiba got up, Biko kept a body lock on him. Akiba landed a good trip takedown, although Biko got right up because of momentum. Biko threw Akiba down with two minutes left in the round. He eventually got on his back and tried for a rear-naked choke. Akiba rotated around and took top position.

Biko was throwing Akiba around in the third round. Akiba would get up, get thrown back down, then the cycle would repeat. From start to finish in the third round, Biko was the better fighter. Winning via unanimous decision, Luthando Biko put on a strong performance for his Pancrase debut.

Bout 14: Saimon Oliveira (16-3) vs. Wataru Mimura (10-2-2) (Catchweight 148 lbs) (3×5)

In the co-main event of the card, Wataru Mimura stepped in on short notice to face Saimon Oliveira in a catchweight bout of 148 lbs. Mimura was charging at Oliveria early, shooting for a double leg takedown. Oliveira tried for a guillotine choke from the clinch. While holding Mimura’s head, Oliveria threw knees to the body. He tried again for the guillotine, dropping to the ground with the choke on deep. Mimura went out cold, ending the fight. With a scary choke victory, one-time ACB fighter Saimon Oliveira made a good Pancrase debut.

Bout 15: Hyun Ji Jang (3-2) vs. Emi Fujino (24-11) (#1) (Interim Pancrase Strawweight Championship) (5×5)


In the main event of the show, JMMA veteran Emi Fujino fought Hyun Ji Jang for the Interim Pancrase Strawweight Championship. When Fujino did her walkout, she had fellow women’s fighters cheering her on. Among them was Mei Yamaguchi, Mina Kurobe and RIZIN Super Atomweight Champion Ayaka Hamasaki. Also, included in her corner for this fight was Shizuka Sugiyama. The first round purely a close stand-up battle.

Fujino had her first good combination of punches in the second minute of the second round. Fujino then clinched up with Jang against the cage. In the clinch, Fujino landed good knees to the head. She tried for a guillotine choke to Jang, who was stuck up against the cage. She ran out of time in the round while trying the choke still.

Jang went into a clinch after Fujino threw strikes in the first minute of the final round. Fujino went back to throwing knees from the clinch. While Jang was reaching for a knee, Fujino took the back of Jang. She put in a rear-naked choke that got under the chin of Jang. After being in the position for quite a while, Jang tapped out. In an emotional moment, Emi Fujino won the Interim Pancrase Strawweight Championship. After her interview, all of her supporters got in the decagon to pose with her and congratulate her. As mentioned by the commentary, lots of DEEP Jewels alumni were in the cage.

Pancrase will have it’s first 2020 show on February 16th, with former UFC fighter Yoshinori Horie facing Yojiro Uchimura.

Lindsey VanZandt Interview: Unfamiliar Land, Familiar Foe

Lindsey VanZandt has never fought or even travelled overseas, but she won’t let that faze her heading into her RIZIN 20 bout against RENA.

“I’m just looking at it as another fight. I try to look at all fights as just another fight,” said VanZandt in an interview on Tuesday.

The fight on New Year’s Eve will be a rematch, as VanZandt previously got a first-round rear-naked choke win over RENA at Bellator 222. VanZandt used a similar approach heading into that fight.

“I fought at Madison Square Garden, and everybody was making a really really big deal about it, and it is a big deal ‘cause it’s Madison Square Garden and I’ve lived in New York my whole life so it was really cool to fight there, but I kept telling myself ‘just another fight Lindsey’ because it puts so much pressure on you… after, it’s like I took it all in and was like ‘oh my god, I can’t believe that this just happened.’ So, it’s cool and I’ll do the same thing when I’m over there (in Japan).”

The fight will mark the fifth bout that the New York fighter has entered in 2019, the most that she has done in a single year. Going 3-1 in the year so far, VanZandt has picked up wins in Bellator and Invicta FC. All three wins were via stoppage within the first two rounds.

“I like to stay as active as possible. My manager knows that and always tries to get me fights. Especially if I’m not injured and healthy so we get as many in as possible. It just makes more comfortable now having more experience.”

“In this year I’ve gained a lot more experience stand-up wise and I’ve gained more confidence in stand-up and I guess I’m finally becoming more of myself,” said VanZandt when reflecting on her past year of growth.

Her opponent, RENA, had an eight-year career in Shoot Boxing prior to making her MMA debut in 2015. Through kickboxing and MMA, RENA has finished opponents 16 out of her 41 wins. RENA has primarily fought in RIZIN lately, with a record of 8-2 in the promotion.

Just like their first meeting, RENA and VanZandt will compete at a catchweight of 112 lbs. “I’ve been at 110 (pounds) for the last couple of months or so. I mean, I should probably start bulking right?” said VanZandt. “Sometimes I forget to eat. Just cause I’m training so much, sometimes I have to tell myself ‘yeah eat a snack right now.’” In the past, VanZandt usually fought at atomweight (105 lbs).

VanZandt will leave for Japan before Christmas but noted that she’ll celebrate the holidays a couple days before the trip. And while heading into her fight focused, she’ll make sure to do indulge in the countries tourist attractions as well.

“We’ll definitely have time to do sightseeing and stuff like that because you can only train so much in a day … Both of my coaches have been there and they know some cool stuff to do so I’m excited.”

While VanZandt has yet to make a formal New Year’s resolution list, one goal is clear already:

“I want gold around my waist. I want the champ of something, I’m thinking Invicta, they might be having a tournament soon or something … I finally feel like I’m ready. It’s funny because all of the title shots I have gotten as an amateur I lost, so I’m excited to finally get some kind of belt.”

Miyuu Yamamoto Versus AMP The Rocket Announced For RIZIN 20

A 108 lbs bout between Miyuu Yamamoto and AMP The Rocket was confirmed for RIZIN 20 on December 31st, 2019 via Twitter.

The bout was originally reported by Mike Skytte on December 4th, who said the fight was “close to being finalized.”

Yamamoto’s last fight was a loss to Seo Hee Ham via punches in the second round at RIZIN 19. The fight before then was a decision victory over Kanna Asakura at RIZIN 16.

AMP, also known as Suwanan Boonsorn is an up-and-coming fighter from Thailand who has mostly fought in the regional promotion DEEP Jewels. Her RIZIN debut was at RIZIN 18, losing via armbar to Ayaka Hamasaki in a non-championship bout.

A notable win for AMP came in 2018 when she beat now-UFC fighter Loma Lookboonmee via armbar.

RIZIN 20 will take place on New Year’s Eve, with the broadcast starting at 1AM EST on

Here’s the full card for RIZIN 20 so far:

  1. Ayaka Hamasaki (19-2) vs. Seo Hee Ham (22-8) (RIZIN Super Atomweight Championship)
  2. Kai Asakura (14-1) vs. Manel Kape (14-4) (RIZIN Vacant Bantamweight Championship)
  3. Jiri Prochazka (25-3-1) vs. C.B. Dollaway (17-9) (RIZIN Light Heavyweight Championship)
  4. RIZIN Lightweight GP Grand Final
  5. Johnny Case (27-6-1) vs. Tofiq Musaev (16-3) (RIZIN Lightweight GP Semi-Final)
  6. Patricky Pitbull (22-8) vs. Luiz Gustavo (10-1) (RIZIN Lightweight GP Semi-Final)
  7. Tenshin Nasukawa (35-0) vs. Rui Ebata (41-2-3) (123 lbs Kickboxing Special Rules)
  8. Taiju Shiratori (18-5-1) vs. Taiga (21-10-1) (136 lbs Kickboxing)
  9. Yuki Motoya (23-7) vs. Patrick Mix (12-0) (135 lbs)
  10. Mikuru Asakura (11-1) vs. John Teixeira (146 lbs)
  11. Lindsey VanZandt (7-2) vs. RENA (9-3) (112 lbs)
  12. Vitaly Shemetov (23-10) vs. Simon Biyong (6-1) (205 lbs)
  13. Jake Heun (14-9) vs. Satoshi Ishii (22-10-1) (231 lbs)
  14. Shintaro Ishiwatari (26-7-4) vs. Hiromasa Ogikubo (19-4-2) (134 lbs)
  15. Miyuu Yamamoto (5-4) vs. AMP The Rocket (4-2) (108 lbs)

Emi Fujino Stops Hyun Ji Jang In Three Rounds, Becomes Pancrase Interim Strawweight Champion at Pancrase 311

Emi Fujino became the interim Queen of Pancrase Strawweight Champion on Sunday, defeating Hyun Ji Jang at Pancrase 311 at Shinkiba Studio Coast in Tokyo, Japan.

Halfway through the third round, Fujino put a rear naked choke on Jang, who was on her knees. Jang did not fight the position much before tapping out.

The win makes it the third in a row for Fujino. Her previous four-fight winning streak was lost to Viviane Araujo in 2018. Araujo was promoted to the UFC in her next fight.

In the co-main event of the evening, Brazilian pro Saimon Oliveira put Wataru Mimura to sleep with a guillotine choke in the second minute of the first round.

Pancrase 311 was the promotion’s last event of the year. They plan to return for 10 events at Studio Coast in 2020, with the first event in mid-February.

A full report of Pancrase 311 will be uploaded to the website later this week.

Benson Henderson Out of Rematch Against Michael Chandler At Bellator Japan, Replaced By Sidney Outlaw

News broke on Twitter late Wednesday night that Benson Henderson was pulled from his Bellator Japan fight against Michael Chandler due to injury. Replacing him will be Sidney Outlaw.

“I got an injury, and I will not be able to participate in the December 29th festivities in Japan,” said Henderson in a video announcement on Twitter. “I’m hoping that Bellator reschedules it for later on – Chandler and I.”

The new matchup between Chandler and Outlaw will be at a catchweight of 160 lbs.

Outlaw returned to Bellator last month, defeating Roger Huerta via unanimous decision. His previous fight in Bellator was in 2014, when he got a win over Mike Bannon.

He has fought in larger American regional promotions like CFFC, Island Fights and Ring of Combat.

Chandler’s fight against Henderson was meant to be a rematch, as they previously matched up in the UFC, where Chandler won via decision.

Chandler’s last fight was a loss to Patricio Pitbull in just over a minute via punches.

Bellator Japan will happen on December 29th at 10 PM EST on the Paramount Network and DAZN, live from Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan.

Here’s how Bellator Japan, also known as Bellator 237 looks as of right now:

  1. Fedor Emelianenko (38-6) vs. Rampage Jackson (38-13) (Heavyweight)
  2. Sidney Outlaw (14-3) vs. Michael Chandler (19-5) (160 lbs Catchweight)
  3. Lorenz Larkin (21-7) vs. K-Taro Nakamura (35-10-2) (Welterweight)
  4. Ilara Joanne (9-4) vs. Kana Watanabe (8-0-1) (Flyweight)
  5. Goiti Yamauchi (24-4) vs. Daron Cruickshank (22-12) (Lightweight)
  6. Andy Nguyen (6-8) vs. AI (5-1) (Strawweight)
  7. Ren Hiramoto vs. Takahiro Ashida (68 kg Kickboxing)
  8. Ryuichiro Sumimura (14-7) vs. Jon Tuck (10-5) (Lightweight)
  9. Jarred Brooks (15-2) vs. Haruo Ochio (19-7-2) (Strawweight)
  10. Hiroto Uesako (16-8) vs. Yusuke Yachi (20-9) (Lightweight)

Kai Asakura Finds New Opponent In Manel Kape, And Other Additions To RIZIN 20

Another pack of fights were announced for RIZIN 20, including a new bantamweight championship matchup.

Set for New Year’s Eve at Saitama Super Arena, Kai Asakura will now face Manel Kape for the promotion’s vacant Bantamweight Championship. The fight is a rematch, as Asakura previously defeated Kape via decision in 2018.

Kyoji Horiguchi was originally meant to defend his bantamweight belt against Asakura, although injury forced him to pull out and vacate his belt.

Former UFC fighter C.B. Dollaway will make his RIZIN debut in a light heavyweight championship bout against promotional veteran Jiri Prochazka. The fight will end Dollaway’s decade long tenure in the UFC.

Fresh out of participating in the 2019 PFL season, Satoshi Ishii will face Jake Heun. Although previously being under the PFL/WSOF banner as well, Heun never collided with Ishii. Heun is on a two-fight winning streak, recently defeating Vitaly Shemetov due to a cut at RIZIN 17.

Also added to the card was a clash of two highly ranked JMMA fighters in Hiromasa Ogikubo and Shintaro Ishiwatari. Both coming off of wins from RIZIN 17, the matchup is one that could determine who is next for a bantamweight title shot.

Vitaly Shemetov will make his second appearance in RIZIN on New Year’s Eve, welcoming Cameroon fighter Simon Biyong to the promotion. As previously mentioned, Shemetov lost to Heun in his promotional debut.

The day before, a rematch between RENA and Lindsey VanZandt was announced at a Shoot Boxing event.

Here’s the full card for RIZIN 20 as of right now:

  1. Ayaka Hamasaki (19-2) vs. Seo Hee Ham (22-8) (RIZIN Super Atomweight Championship)
  2. Kai Asakura (14-1) vs. Manel Kape (14-4) (RIZIN Vacant Bantamweight Championship)
  3. Jiri Prochazka (25-3-1) vs. C.B. Dollaway (17-9) (RIZIN Light Heavyweight Championship)
  4. RIZIN Lightweight GP Grand Final
  5. Johnny Case (27-6-1) vs. Tofiq Musaev (16-3) (RIZIN Lightweight GP Semi-Final)
  6. Patricky Pitbull (22-8) vs. Luiz Gustavo (10-1) (RIZIN Lightweight GP Semi-Final)
  7. Yuki Motoya (23-7) vs. Patrick Mix (12-0) (135 lbs)
  8. Mikuru Asakura (11-1) vs. John Teixeira (146 lbs)
  9. Lindsey VanZandt (7-2) vs. RENA (9-3) (112 lbs)
  10. Vitaly Shemetov (23-10) vs. Simon Biyong (6-1) (205 lbs)
  11. Jake Heun (14-9) vs. Satoshi Ishii (22-10-1) (231 lbs)
  12. Shintaro Ishiwatari (26-7-4) vs. Hiromasa Ogikubo (19-4-2) (134 lbs)

C.B. Dollaway To Challenge For Jiri Prochazka’s Light Heavyweight Title In RIZIN Debut

Former UFC fighter C.B. Dollaway will move to Japanese MMA promotion RIZIN for his next fight, challenging Jiri Prochazka for the promotion’s Light Heavyweight Championship at RIZIN 20.

The fight will take place on New Year’s Eve at Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan. It will be one of the three championship bouts on the card.

Dollaway won season seven of the UFC’s TV series The Ultimate Fighter. He fought in the promotion for a decade, getting a record of 11-9 before his departure.

Jiri Prochazka has attained a record of 9-1 since joining RIZIN in 2015, avenging his singular loss earlier this year against King Mo, winning his championship in the process.

Prochazka has yet to defend his belt since winning it in April.

RENA To Meet Lindsey VanZandt In Rematch At RIZIN 20

A rematch from Bellator 222 will take place on New Year’s Eve, as RENA will face Lindsey VanZandt at RIZIN 20. The fight was announced on Tuesday at Shoot Boxing’s “Ground Zero Tokyo 2019” event and later confirmed on Twitter.

The first meeting between the two was on the Bellator 222 preliminary card, with VanZandt getting a first round rear naked choke win. The fight was the first for RENA outside of Japan.

RENA bounced back from her Bellator loss by defeating Alexandra Alvare in 20 seconds at RIZIN 19.

VanZandt has fought twice since her Bellator win, winning one and losing one both in Invicta FC. Back in August she went to a three round decision loss against Jessica Delboni. More recently she stopped Shino VanHoose in under a minute with a leg kick win.

RIZIN 20 is currently headlined by Ayaka Hamasaki attempting to defend her RIZIN Super Atomweight Championship against Seo Hee Ham. The fight is also a rematch, as Hamasaki defeated Ham in their first two meetings back in 2011 and 2010.


Yoshinori Horie To Return To Pancrase In February Against Yojiro Uchimura

After a short one-fight stint in the UFC, Yoshinori Horie will return to his home promotion of Pancrase to face Yojiro Uchimura on February 16th.

GONG Kakutogi broke the news on Wednesday that the featherweight will be featured on Pancrase 312, the first show of the year from the promotion.

Horie’s UFC debut was unsuccessful, losing in the third round via head kick from Hakeem Dawodu at UFC 240.

Making his pro MMA debut in Pancrase, Horie had a powerful 8-1 run before getting called up to the UFC.

Uchimura’s upcoming fight is a return to the promotion is his own sense, as he lost a kickboxing bout on the ONE Japan Series back in September. Uchimura’s record within Pancrase is 6-5-1.

Pancrase’s final event of 2019 takes place on December 8th, with Emi Fujino and Jang Hyun Ji headlining the card in a five round fight.