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Preview: RIZIN Fighting World GP 2017 - 1st Round

The Japanese combat spectacle returns to action this weekend.

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Now on their eighth event, RIZIN Fighting Federation is setting up another ambitious event with some heavy star power and some very legitimate matchups. This event will kick off their men’s bantamweight tournament, with the second part of the tourney continuing in their scheduled October event.

Starting off the men’s 61kg (~134lbs) tournament, we have grappling-heavy veteran Hideo Tokoro (35-29-2) taking on former UFC flyweight title challenger Kyoji Horiguchi (19-2), Shooto veteran Keita Ishibashi facing hard-hitting German prospect Khalid Taha, and DEEP bantamweight champion Takafumi Otsuka (22-13-2) vs former UFC fighter and former MFC champion Anthony Birchak (12-4).

Horiguchi rattled off three consecutive victories after his last-second submission loss to flyweight king Demetrious Johnson in April of 2015. He was unceremoniously released from the UFC and racked up another win in his RIZIN debut against Yuki Motoya this past April. He faces the notoriously crafty grappler Hideo Tokoro, who bounced back from a tough submission loss against Kron Gracie last September by defeating Erson Yamamoto in December.

Keita Ishibashi won the vacant Shooto featherweight title back in November of 2016, and his only fight since was a draw against Shoko Sato. All but one of his wins have been by submission with a lone decision victory. His opponent Khalid Taha fights out of the Cologne Combat Club and is undefeated in his professional career. He employs spry movement, a fierce forward rushing striking approach and vicious ground strikes. His tenacity and athleticism make him a bit raw, but it was more than enough to get him the championship for German promotion Flag FC.

Takafumi Otsuka is coming off three straight wins to face BJJ ace and former MFC, Bellator and UFC fighter Anthony Birchak. Birchak was released from the UFC last year despite a win in July over Dileno Lopez that had him at 2-2 under the UFC banner. He lost in his RIZIN debut against veteran and fellow former UFC fighter Tetsuya Kawajiri.

The rest of the card features BJJ juggernaut Gabi Garcia (4-0) finally facing an opponent closer to her size in Russian boxer and arm-wrestler Oksana Gagloeva (pro debut). Garcia’s former opponent, the 5’11 American Top Team product Lei’D Tapa (a.k.a. Seini Draughn) takes on 5’3 fireplug Reina Miura (4-0). Miura’s last three wins were against Shayna Baszler in February, a dominant performance against 6’1 Jazzy Gabert in April and TKO win a month later against another German, Kristin Handel.

Iranian wrestler Amir Aliakbari (6-1) will be fighting New England native and former TUF contestant Tyler King (12-5), while the whirling kickboxing machine known as Kizaemon Saiga fights fellow striking sensation Tenshin Nasukawa in a mixed rules bout. Wrestler Miyuu Yamamoto will face former King of the Cage and Invicta fighter Cassie Robb, while Shinju Nozawa-Auclair makes her fighting debut against Michigan’s own Sheena Brandenburg.

Finally, this card features former former RIZIN light heavyweight GP contestants Teodoras Aukstuolis (10-4) vs Sweden’s Karl Albrektsson (5-1), and longtime veteran and JMMA staple Satoru Kitaoka (40-14-9!!) meets Krazy Bee gym product Yusuke Yachi (17-6). Yachi has notched three consecutive wins, including a brutal knockout of former UFC fighter Daron Cruickshank in his last outing, while Kitaoka is also on a three-fight streak and his last fight was a submission win against the aforementioned Cruickshank last December.

Full fight card lineup and order are as follows:

Kyoji Horiguchi vs Hideo Tokoro

Amir Aliakbari vs Tyler King

Gabi Garcia vs Oksana Gagloeva

Reina Miura vs Lei’D Tapa

Tenshin Nasukawa vs Kizaemon Saiga

Satoru Kitaoka Yusuke Yachi

Miyuu Yamamoto vs Cassie Robb

Takafumi Otsuka vs Anthony Birchak

Keita Ishibashi vs Khalid Taha

Shinju Nowaza-Auclair vs Sheena Brandenburg

Teodoras Aukstuolis vs Karl Albrektsson

The event will be available for online purchase and viewing in the United States via, starting at 1:00am EST/10:00pm PST. This will take place live from the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan.