Bellator 237: Fedor vs. Rampage Preview

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.

Main Card

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.

Additional Bouts Added To Bellator Japan

Along with the Bellator versus RIZIN fights that were added to Bellator Japan, a few other matchups were also announced on Thursday in Japan.

Set for Bellator Japan is a rematch between strawweight Haruo Ochi and Jarred Brooks. The two were set to face off at RIZIN 19, but a head collision ended the fight in under a minute. They will have a second chance to compete for the linear strawweight championship at Bellator Japan. Brooks picked up a win against Victor Altamirano in October at a Michigan local event.

Also set for Bellator Japan is Yusuke Yachi facing Hiroto Uesako. Yachi has been a big name is RIZIN despite not winning in his last three fights. Uesako is also trying to get back in the win column after losing to Luiz Gustavo at RIZIN 19.

While not billed as a RIZIN versus Bellator fight, former RIZIN fighter Ryuichiro Sumimura will face Jon Tuck on the show. Sumimura returned to MMA after a 14-month absence to get a win on a DEEP Impact show in October. Tuck was set to make his Bellator debut back in September, but his opponent, Brandon Girtz pulled out due to injury.

Bellator Japan will also see Krazy Bee Gym’s “Princess Bee” AI face RIZIN fighter Andy Nguyen. Nguyen is 1-2 in RIZIN, recently facing Miyuu Yamamoto at RIZIN 13.

Here’s how Bellator Japan looks so far:

  1. Fedor Emelianenko (38-6) vs. Rampage Jackson (38-13)
  2. Benson Henderson (28-8) vs. Michael Chandler (19-5)
  3. Lorenz Larkin (21-7) vs. Keita Nakamura (35-10-2)
  4. Ilara Joanne (9-4) vs. Kana Watanabe (8-0-1)
  5. Goiti Yamauchi (24-4) vs. Daron Cruickshank (22-12)
  6. Haruo Ochi (19-7-2) vs. Jarred Brooks (15-2)
  7. Ryuichiro Sumimura (14-7) vs. Jon Tuck (10-5)
  8. AI (5-1) vs. Andy Nguyen (6-8)
  9. Yusuke Yachi (20-9) vs. Hiroto Uesako (16-8)


RIZIN 17 Live Coverage

Just as UFC 240 ended, over at Saitama Super Arena RIZIN 17 was kicking off. The large card featured three fights at the top of the card that aim to have Japan’s biggest fighters going up against each other. In the main event was Mikuru Asakura versus Yusuke Yachi. Let’s go through the debut card from RIZIN’s 2019 debut at Saitama Super Arena.

Bout 1: Daiki Watabe (22-23-2) vs. Hideki (15-5-2) (Kickboxing Rules) (148 lbs)

After the promotion’s usual epic intro, we had our first bout. The first bout of the evening was a kickboxing contest Daiki Watabe and Hideki. It was both fighter’s debuts within the promotion. This time around there is no banners hung up of RIZIN’s partnered promotions. Watabe comes from Tenshin Nasukawa’s gym TEAM TEPPEN. As a matter of fact, Tenshin was in his corner for this fight. After a few minutes of close fighting, Hideki let his hands go and landed enough to give Watabe a standing 10 count. After that, Hideki continued to pepper on punches, but Watabe survived the round. The second round was closer, with Watabe landing lots of low kicks. Hideki did have a good opening, where he backed Watabe into a corner and teed off. It felt like Hideki glided through this round, just defending what Watabe threw. Hideki showboated throughout the bout. It went the distance with the fight going to Hideki via majority decision.

Bout 2: KING Reina (11-2) vs. Stephanie Egger (3-1) (MMA Rules) (139 lbs)

In the next bout we had KING Reina versus Stephanie Egger. Reina had a very epic entrance, keeping a real serious face. Early on it was Egger who threw Reina on the ground and took her back. Reina got up and avoided a rear naked choke. Egger landed a trip takedown in the second round. Egger tried for the rear naked choke again but couldn’t get it fully in. In stand-up, Egger had a significant height and reach advantage. In the third round, Egger tried for a rear anked choke for the third time. She escaped once again, with both fighters going to their feet for the final minute. Reina started coming forward aggressively with punches, but Egger stopped it by clinching up. The crowd started chanting Reina’s name. The fight went the distance, with Reina dropping to the ground as the fight ended. All three judges gave the fight to Stephanie Egger.

Bout 3: Seo Hee Ham (20-8) vs. Tomo Maesawa (12-9) (MMA Rules) (108 lbs)

In the next bout, we had a champion versus champion bout, with DEEP Jewels champion Tomo Maesawa facing Road FC Champion Seo Hee Ham. It was made clear at RIZIN 16 that Seo Hee Ham wants to face Ayake Hamasaki later on. They had close striking for a few minutes. Maesawa was dropped by knees to the body then Hamderlei capitalized by landing knees while Maesawa was down in the corner. Referee Jason Herzog stepped in and ended the bout. She called out Miyuu Yamamoto after the bout, saying she wants that fight before a title shot. Yamamoto entered the ring and accepted the challenge and did a face off.

Bout 4: Jake Heun (13-9) vs. Vitaly Shemetov (23-9) (MMA Rules) (205 lbs)

In the next bout, viral sensation Vitaly Shemetov faced Jake Heun. Sadly I can’t tell you why, but the song that Shemetov walked out to got a big pop. Also, Shemetov himself got a pretty loud reaction for when he walked out. Coming out in all white, Heun did a creative walkout dancing to “Stayin Alive” by Bee Gees. Someone delivered flowers to each fighter before the bout and got a huge crowd pop. As the referee was giving instructions, Shemetov gave a heart to the camera. So, safe to say he looked comfortable. Early on it was obvious that both of these guys were throwing some real power. Heun went for a takedown halfway through the first round. Shemetov got up after getting hit with some elbows on the ground. Shemetov got a takedown with a minute left, but Heun quickly took control. In the second round there was a pause when Shemetov was hit in the groin. Heun had a great string of strikes in the corner but it was interrupted by yet another hit to the groin. Shemetov was on the ground for quite some time this time. He eventually was able to continue. Heun was given a yellow card. Heun landed a slam, taking the fight to the ground. Heun attempted a hammerlock but couldn’t get it. He landed punches as the second round concluded. Early in the third round Shemetov had a good combination of punches. Going back to where he was finding success, Heun landed yet another takedown. Shemetov was cut open badly with a cut on the ground from an elbow, ending the fight abruptly.

Bout 5: Roberto Satoshi Souza (8-0) vs. Mizuto Hirota (18-10-2) (MMA Rules) (157 lbs)

The next contest had undefeated BJJ fighter Roberto Satoshi Souza face JMMA veteran Mizuto Hirota. Souza got a vicious takedown in the first minute of the bout. From top position, Souza landed strikes to the side of the head. They stood up after a few minutes on the ground. Souza tried another takedown but it was blocked. Souza landed an overhead right which rocked Hirota. He did another which dropped him, and then landed a few more strikes to close out the fight.

Bout 6: Tatsuya Kawajiri (36-13-2) vs. Ali Abdulkhalikov (7-0) (157 lbs)

Undefeated fighter Ali Abdulkhalikov challenged experienced fighter Tatsuya Kawajiri. Seconds into the bout Kawajiri missed a takedown and was hit with a hook to the head because of it. Abdulkhalikov’s strikes were looking fast. Kawajiri ducked a spinning backfist and tried for a takedown but couldn’t get it. Abdulkhalikov reversed a takedown then went back to the feet. Kawajiri caught a leg and brought Abdulkhalikov to his knees, but never fully secured the takedown. Upon another attempt, Kawajiri finally got a takedown. Kawajiri tried for a kimura but couldn’t as the round concluded. In the second round, Kawajiri tried for the kimura once again. He tried for a guillotine as well, but Abdulkhalikov’s head popped out. Kawajiri tried for the kimura a third time in the final round. He couldn’t get it, but transitioned into top position and tried for a choke. Kawajiri did elbows and punches until the fight ran out of time. All three judges gave the bout to Tatsuya Kawajiri.

Bout 7: Satoru Kitaoka (42-19-9) vs. Johnny Case (25-6-1) (MMA Rules) (157 lbs)

It wasn’t shown on the English broadcast, but the mayor of Saitama spoke in the ring before the next bout. The final bout before intermission was Satoru Kitaoka versus Johnny Case. Like many 157 pound bouts tonight, winners will have a chance at being in RIZIN’s Lightweight GP. Kitaoka tried for a takedown in the first minute and was given elbows to the head for his troubles. He refused to let go of Case’s leg, but kept getting hit. Case got a trip takedown. Kitaoka tried to a leg lock. Case escaped and started to rain down strikes. Kawajiri survived the first round. Kawajiri had to be carried by his team to the corner, and was laying on the ground before they got there. In-between rounds, Kitaoka’s corner surrendered the bout. Kitaoka was carried away on a gurney. Case told the crowd to say a prayer for Kitaoka.

Bout 8: Hikaru Machida (35-17-3) vs. Taiga (19-9-1) (Kickboxing Rules) (137 lbs)

Coming back from intermission, RIZIN had their second and final kickboxing bout of the evening. Shoot Boxing fighter Hikaru Machida fought Taiga. Machida is known for making the motion of pulling out a sword before throwing his sunday punches. He made the motion once in the first round but didn’t land a punch. Both fighters had their moments in the first round. Throughout the fight it was Machida that was advancing. Taiga had a good flurry at the end of the second round.  Taiga landed a takedown in the final seconds of the bout, securing his victory. All three judges gave the fight to Taiga.

Bout 9: Ivan Shtyrkov (16-0-1) vs. Hoon Kim (10-15-2) (MMA Rules) (205 lbs)

In the second light heavyweight bout of the evening, Ivan Shtyrkov battled Hoon Kim. The difference in records between the two is quite drastic. They clinched early in the bout, but the referee separated them eventually. The fight went to the ground with Shtyrkov in top position. A standing clinch was broken yet again in the second round. Shtyrkov landed a takedown and landed very short strikes. He landed enough punches that the referee eventually stepped in and ended the bout. The crowd didn’t seem to interested in the bout by that point.

Bout 10: Yuki Motoya (23-6) vs. Hiromasa Ogikubo (18-4-2) (MMA Rules) (134 lbs)

Before the next bout a promo aired for RIZIN 18, which will take place on August 18th. Kyoji Horiguchi was introduced. He had his RIZIN and Bellator belts with him. He talked about his bout with Kai Asakura which will happen at the next event. The next match was the first of three Japan versus Japan matchups. Also, it was a Shooto versus DEEP matchup, with Motoya representing Shooto and Ogikubo representing DEEP. Ogikubo landed a takedown in the first minute of the contest. Motoya tried to counter with a guillotine, although he let go of it eventually. They got back up after Ogikubo tried for a rear naked choke. He landed another takedown. Ogikubo landed more takedowns in the second. There was more stand-up in the second round compared to the first. The final round had a crazy fist fight from both fighters. It was ended when Ogikubo scored a takedown. They stood back up shortly after and continued their chaotic exchange. Motoya was connecting with the better punches. Ogikubo landed another takedown after looking like he was in trouble on the feet. Ogikubo tried for a headlock as the fight ended. While Ogikubo was good on the ground throughout, Motoya’s campaign in the third round was very effective. The judges had it as a split decision, with Hiromasa Ogikubo winning it.

Bout 11: Shintaro Ishiwatari (25-7-4) vs. Ulka Sasaki (22-6-2) (MMA Rules) (134 lbs)

The co-main event was Shintaro Ishiwatari versus Ulka Sasaki. Sasaki had quite a grand entrance, conducting numerous people before walking down to the ring in a cape. Aljamain Sterling cornered Sasaki for this bout. Sasaki tried for a flying knee the second the fight started. He did not land it. They clinched up against the ropes in the second minute, with the referee eventually growing impatient and breaking them up. When they went to the ground later in the round there was a collision of heads. Ishiwatari had top position on the ground. Sasaki did a good job at getting top position before the round concluded. In the first minute of the second round, Sasaki tried for a takedown. Both fighters early got out of the ring during the attempt. Ishiwatari landed a takedown after trying to stop one from Sasaki for a minute or so. Near the end of the second round, Sasaki was dropped by Ishiwatari. He landed knees to the head and then put in a north south choke which made Sasaki tap out.

Bout 12: Yusuke Yachi (20-8) vs. Mikuru Asakura (10-1) (MMA Rules) (154 lbs)

Finally, the main event of the evening was Yusuke Yachi facing Mikuru Asakura in a complete grudge match. In the first minute Yachi was dropped with a kick, although it could have been also considered a slip as he threw a kick at the same time. Asakura was throwing strong punches in the first round. At the start of the second round Yachi tried for a takedown but was blocked. Later on, Yachi had a better look at a takedown but Asakura avoided it with help from the ropes. Throughout the second, Asakura was warned for holding onto the ropes to resist takedowns. Even in the third round Yachi continued to struggle with his takedown attempts. Crowd got louder when the two minute announcement was said. Asakura scored a takedown with two minutes left. They stood back up with a minute left and started to swing. Asakura egged on Yachi to continue as the fight entered final 10 seconds. Asakura dropped Yachi and didn’t go to finish but instead showed off as the bell rang. All three judges gave Mikuru Asakura the nod.

RIZIN 14 Preview

With their traditional New Year’s Eve event this year, RIZIN is putting a focus on the North American market. There are three main ways that they are doing this: by having lots of recent UFC fighters in action, by having a collaboration fight with Bellator Champion Darrion Caldwell, and by giving young kickboxer Tenshin Nasukawa fight in an exhibition boxing match against Floyd Mayweather. The initial promotion of this event had a bump in the road, as after an initial press conference, Mayweather took to Instagram to say that he was mislead and that he has backed out of the bout. Since then things have seemingly been worked out between the boxer and the promoter Nobuyuki Sakakibara, since the fight is back on.

The official ruleset will be pure boxing, with no scorecards after the scheduled three rounds. The fight will also not affect anyone’s professional records. Nasukawa, the undefeated kickboxer, showed up in Nevada for on open workout at Mayweather’s gym earlier this month. This will be the second fight in a row for Tenshin where he is fighting a crossover bout. In September he battle RIZIN’s MMA star Kyoji Horiguchi in a kickboxing match. Nasukawa trained in Nevada leading up to this fight with boxer Jorge Linares.

There are two championship bouts on this card, with the biggest one being between Darrion Caldwell and Kyoji Horiguchi. Caldwell is a champion in Bellator, but won’t be defending his belt. Instead, he will face Horiguchi for the inaugural RIZIN Bantamweight Championship. The fight is expected to be only the start of a collaboration between the two promotions. Horiguchi has been undefeated in MMA since joining RIZIN. Putting that together with his final UFC fights, he is currently on a 10 fight win streak.

The biggest women’s fight on the card is Kanna Asakura defending her RIZIN Atomweight Championship against Ayaka Hamasaki. Hamasaki is 2-0 after making the move from Invicta to RIZIN. Asakura’s first title fight was against RENA, who she also defeated once before. Hamasaki’s last win was against Mina Kurobe, who was at the time the DEEP Jewels Atomweight Champion. The story going into that RIZIN 13 fight was it was two champions (Kurobe had her DEEP JEWELS belt and Hamasaki was a former Invicta champion) fighting, with the winner challenging Asakura.

After Norifumi “KID” Yamamoto unfortunately passed away in September, three Krazy Bee fighters were booked on this show. One of the fighters was Yusuke Yachi, who was highlighted on RIZIN’s web-docuseries “RIZIN Confessions.” On the show it was shown that Yachi is on a road to redemption. Before fighting in RIZIN he spent time in Shooto and Pancrase. From 2016 to 2018 Yachi was on a tear, getting five wins with three of them being first round stoppages. His momentum was halted at RIZIN 12 when he lost to Luis Gustavo. Part of his loss came because of his long hair getting in his eyes during the fight. On the web series he teased that he might go bald for NYE. He is set to face Johnny Case, who had a short stint in PFL after being released from the UFC.

Norifumi’s sister, Miyuu Yamamoto is also in action. The wrestler only delved into MMA in 2016, currently holding an even record of 3-3. She is set to face Mika Nagano, who is a veteran of the DEEP JEWELS promotion, making her RIZIN debut. Her son, Erson Yamamoto is scheduled to make his return to MMA after a round one loss to Manel Kape back in 2017. He looks to break even with his pro MMA record when he challenges Kazuyuki Miyata. Miyata is also coming off a long layoff, with his last fight being in 2016, defeating Andy Souwer in the first round of a Bushido Rules fight.

On the card there are three fights where RIZIN is feeding fighters to the promotions talent. These three bouts are an attempt to put RENA, Gabi Garcia and Shinju Nozawa-Auclair into the spotlight. In RENA’s case, her fight is a way to bounce back from the two losses she received from Kanna Asakura in her last two RIZIN fights. She is matched up against Samantha Jean-Francois, who has a professional record of 3-5-0. Nozawa-Auclair is clearly being built up as a star in the promotion since her mother, Naoko Nozawa is a well known Japanese comedian. In her first two RIZIN bouts she got first round Armbar victories, with one of the wins avenging her only amateur MMA loss. She fights Justyna Zofia Haba. Haba hasn’t had a professional MMA fight, and had her one amateur win back in 2014. Now longtime RIZIN fighter Gabi Garcia returns after a Road FC win back in the Spring. She fights Barbara Nepomuceno, a kickboxer making her MMA debut.

Former UFC fighter Damien Brown will be welcomed into the promotion by Daron Cruickshank. Also a former UFC competitor, Cruickshank has made himself known in RIZIN as a fighter who doesn’t rely on scorecards to win the bout. Currently on a four fight winning streak, Cruickshank has a 6-2 record in the promotion, all via stoppage. Brown’s run in UFC ended after he lost three fights in a row, exiting the promotion with a 2-4 record.

In a similar situation, former UFC Flyweight Ulka Sasaki will make his RIZIN debut against young fighter Manel Kape. Kape is currently bouncing back from two losses in a row, as he put on a dominant performance against Yusaku Nakamura at RIZIN 13. At age 25 he seems like a young prospect for the promotion. Sasaki had a 50/50 sort of run in the UFC, with his last fight being just last month against Alexandre Pantoja at Fight Night 140.

The fight between Nobumitsu Osawa and Tofik Masaev will be a battle of the newcomers. Osawa has been a fighter for the Shooto promotion for all of his career, and comes into RIZIN on a three fight win streak. Masaev is a fighter with an impressive 13-3 record, which has been collected from fights in China, Turkey and Azerbaijan, among other places.

For a couple of years now, Yuki Motoya has went back and forth between RIZIN and his main promotion DEEP. Currently on a four fight win streak, including one of them being at RIZIN 12, he will face Justin Scoggins. Scoggins is, like many people on this card, a former UFC fighter coming into the promotion. He had a three fight losing streak in the UFC, with one of those losses coming from the previously mentioned Ulka Sasaki.

Back in 2015 Jiri Prochazka joined RIZIN. Since then he has been a regular for the promotion, only losing one of his nine fights. He is currently on a six fight winning streak and is set to battle Brandon Halsey, who competed in PFL Season 1.

The prequel to the evening’s events, “RIZIN Heisei’s Last Yarennoka!,” kicks off in the late evening on the west. The headliner for that show is veteran fighters Tatsuya Kawajiri and Satoru Kitaoka. In Japan the show will be televised on Fuji TV, and in the rest of the world it can be seen via purchase on FITE TV. The 14 fight show is one that will be the main focus of the MMA world before we all say goodbye to 2018, and welcome the new year.