Saitama Super Arena is once again to host a historic event, featuring some of the most compelling matchups, sensational crossovers and an intriguing exhibition at the top.
We’ve made it to the end of the year, and RIZIN has really managed to fire on all cylinders and ensure that everything fall into place for the grand finale they’ve wanted for some time. Even with GP events in previous years, I have to agree with our own Zane Simon in his assessment that this could very well be the monster home run event that they’ve been attempting to build in previous efforts.
Now, there are some caveats for North American viewers. For starters, the event is broken up into two segments, and the preliminary portion will not be available for purchase. It’s a shame, because it’s all substance with no circus fluff, featuring some of the best Japanese talents in exciting matchups, as well as a headliner between two sturdy veterans in Satoru Kitaoka and Tatsuya Kawajiri. Furthermore, you may have already heard by now that the main exhibition portion featuring Floyd Mayweather and Tenshin Nasukawa will not be available for viewing. This is more than disappointing, as you’re paying for what is essentially a truncated version of an event.
The bright side to this is that the larger portion is left over, chock full of international talents and some exceptional matchups in theory that are virtually impossible to flub in practice. The biggest name on the card is undoubtedly boxing champ Floyd Mayweather, in a strange exhibition against rising (rizing?) sensation Tenshin Nasukawa, a kickboxing prodigy. After a tumultuous will they/won’t they and some shenanigans and negotiations disguised as possible misunderstandings, they’ve agreed to have a boxing-only bout with no judges. Tenshin has claimed he’s having a tough time restraining his urge to use all of his tools, but should be on his best possible behavior unless you want to break out the tinfoil hattery.
Kyoji Horiguchi (25-2) will face his toughest test since Demetrious Johnson when he takes on current Bellator bantamweight champion and standout wrestler Darrion Caldwell (12-1). Horiguchi has been unstoppable in his RIZIN MMA run, with seven straight wins and a loss in his lone kickboxing bout against the aforementioned Nasukawa. His move to American Top Team has revitalized his career greatly, allowing his free flow movement to shine and giving him a greater confidence on his feet, combined with great wrestling and defensive grappling.
He’s gonna need every ounce of that. Caldwell is a demolisher, ruining Joe Warren and making short work of Leandro Higo. His use of range and chain wrestling are lovely to watch, and his cardio is up to snuff. It’s a marvel that this fight is even happening, and two fighters with very impressive skillsets facing each other in their prime is more than praiseworthy.
Former Invicta title challenger Ayaka Hamasaki (16-2) takes on Kanna Asakura (13-2), in a bout where the heavy-hitting Asakura will have to contend with the dogged grappling approach of the younger surging talent. Asakura won the women’s GP defeating Rena Kubota and Maria Oliveira last year, and won a hard-earned decision in a rematch against Kubota this summer. Hamasaki suffered a loss to Livia Souza in her last Invicta bout last year with a decision win against Josh Barnett’s protégé Alyssa Garcia and a picture perfect submission win over Mina Kurobe in September.
Jiri Prochazka (22-3) brings violence any day of the week and twice on Sunday. While he was originally scheduled to face former Bellator champion Emanuel Newton, Newton had to bow out due to injury. His replacement? Former Bellator middleweight champion Brandon Halsey (12-4)
Gabi Garcia (5-0) returns to action after a very strange set of events last year, ended up winning against Russian Veronika Futina this year. In her second 2018 fight, she’ll be up against brutal kickboxer Barbara Nepomuceno, a sturdy striker with a vicious right hook and a love for forward bicycle kicks that is making her professional debut.
Former UFC fighters Daron Cruickshank (22-10) and Damien Brown (17-12) are set to tangle, with Brown’s kill or be killed attitude and Cruickshank’s.... well... let’s say he’s got a propensity to put a stamp on things. Definitively. (3-3) Miyuu Yamamoto’s had a brutal 2018 after the loss of her brother, the legendary Kid Yamamoto. She’s still making the most of things and finding greater motivation to improve and drive forward. She’s got a tough uphill battle against submission specialist Mika Nagano (16-10, 1 draw), who has a handful of armbar wins on her record. Her son Erson (2-3) will also be on this card, in the same event as his mother for the fourth time. His opponent will be the very experienced Kazuyuki Miyata (15-9), who was on the wrong end of one of the most breathtaking MMA highlight reel moments close to a decade ago against Erson’s uncle, Norifumi. Miyata’s been much improved since, and the experience gap should be a major problem.
Former UFC and PFL fighter Johnny Case (24-6, 1 draw) brings his wrestleboxer game against Yamamoto’s prized pupil Yusuke Yachi, and former UFC fighter Justin Scoggins brings his reckless karate-wrestling against the very talented Yuki Motoya, who has been doing work in DEEP. Portugal’s Manel Kape (12-3) has been a blessing for RIZIN, with his wild antics and bombastic finishes. He’ll be dealing with lethal grappler Ulka Sasaki, who’s been overhauling his training situation since his UFC depature.
Hard-hitting Nobumitsu Osawa (12-4) fights against Akhmat product Tofik Musaev (13-3), and shootboxing star Rena Kubota (7-2) faces French kickboxer Samantha Jean-Francois (3-5).
As for the openers, Tetsuya Kawajiri (36-12, 2 draws) and Satoru Kitaoka (41-18, 9 draws) engage in a bout that’s a bit baffling, as it feels like they should have crossed paths before. Both are well-traveled tanks with good wrestling and hard-hitting boxing approaches, along with wild scrambles. The Asakura brothers are at it again, with Mikuru Asakura (8-1) taking on VTJ and Shooto vet (and ceritified finisher™) Takeshi Inoue (24-11). Kai Asakura (11-1) goes up against ROAD FC vet Je Hoon Moon (11-11), the toughest .500 fighter in the world now that Artem Lobov is out of that category. Japanese talent Kana Watanabe (4-0, 1 draw) takes on talented striker Shizuka Sugiyama (16-5, 1).
You can also check out the promo trailer for the main exhibition bout here:
New Year’s Heisei Yarennoka!
Tatsuya Kawajiri vs Satoru Kitaoka - 154lbs, 3 rounds, 5min each
Takeshi Inoue vs Mikuru Asakura - 150lbs, 3 rounds, 5min each
Kana Watanabe vs Shizuka Sugiyama - 127lbs, 3 rounds, 5min each
Je Hoon Moon vs Kai Asakura - 134lbs, 3 rounds, 5min each
Taiju Shiratori vs Yoshiya Uzatsuyo - 141lbs, kickboxing bout
Yuta Uchida vs Takuma Konishi - 203lbs, kickboxing bout
Nanaka Kawamura vs Ai Shimizu 105lbs, kickboxing bout
Main card is as follows:
Floyd Mayweather Jr vs Tenshin Nasukawa - Boxing exhibition
Kyoji Horiguchi vs Darrion Caldwell - 134lbs, 3 rounds, 5min each
Kanna Asakura vs Ayaka Hamasaki - 108lbs, 3 rounds, 5min each
Jiri Prochazka vs Brandon Halsey - 205lbs, 10min first round, 5min second and third rounds
Gabi Garcia vs Barbara Nepomuceno - 226lbs, 3 rounds, 5min each
Daron Cruickshank vs Damien Brown - 154lbs, 3 rounds, 5min each
Mika Nagano vs Miyuu Yamamoto - 112lbs, 3 rounds, 5min each
Kazuyuki Miyata vs Erson Yamamoto - 143lbs, 3 rounds, 5min each
Yusuke Yachi vs Johnny Case - 154lbs, 3 rounds, 5min each
Yuki Motoya vs Justin Scoggins - 132lbs, 3 rounds, 5min each
Ulka Sasaki vs Manel Kape - 130lbs, 3 rounds, 5min each
Shinju Nozawa-Auclair vs Justyna Zofia Haba - 126lbs, 3 rounds, 5min each
Nobumitsu Osawa vs Tofik Musaev - 154lbs, 3 rounds, 5min each
Rena Kubota vs Samantha Jean-Francois - 108lbs, 3 rounds, 5min each
RIZIN’s year-end bash will be broken up into two segments. Sadly, the Last Yarennoka! portion will not be available internationally for streaming purchase. That will serve as the preliminary portion of the event, and begins at Sunday night at 10:00pm EST.
The main card begins at 1:00am Sunday night into Monday morning, and will be streaming live on FITE.tv for $19.99. This stream WILL NOT include the exhibition between Floyd Mayweather and Tenshin Nasukawa for North American audiences.