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RIZIN 28: Bantamweight Grand Prix preview

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Bantamweights get ready to kick off the best tournament RIZIN can cobble together, with some great additions on top of it.

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RIZIN.20
Mikuru Asakura returns to the ring for what should be a banger of a card.
Photo by Masashi Hara/Getty Images

RIZIN’s previously announced bantamweight tournament was postponed due to COVID spikes in Japan, but the wait should absolutely be worth it.

But before we dive into that, we need to talk about the main event. Mikuru Asakura (14-2) takes on what is perhaps the best BJJ specalist not named Brian Ortega at featherweight. Former KSW champion Kleber Koike Erbst (27-5, 1 draw) is an absolute menace, using his crafty striking to create opportunities for his flypaper grappling to get work done.

But Asakura has won 9 of his last 10, and his last fight against Satoshi Yamasu had a finish that made him look like a million bucks. Asakura’s sprawls and athleticism are still there, and he’s not liable to make rash decisions that end up with him being overly engaged on the ground against an opponent that can catch him with a plethora of attacks.

Lightweight champion Tofiq Musayev (18-3) will finally return to fighting after some time away due to military service. His challenger? BJJ wunderkind and Erbst’s teammate Roberto “Satoshi” de Souza (11-1). de Souza has done extraordinarily well against far more experienced opponents in MMA, sharpening up his striking defense most of all to get to his bread and butter. And its a lot of butter.

And yet Musayev is very well-suited to handle threats standing and on the ground, with massive power in his strikes. With 14 straight wins, especially against more experienced fighters, there’s major pressure on de Souza here. This should be a good one regardless of the outcome.

Tenshin Nasukawa will be facing three opponents in the same night, with two of them being announced (Koki Osaki and Hiroya Kawabe), but a third and final mystery opponent that will be announced during his walkout. No, you’re reading that right. This is the most SNK thing we’ve seen a high-level Japanese organization do in quite some time.

Former bantamweight champ Kai Asakura (16-3) has still got the whopper right hand and much like his brother, has his wits about him with great instincts and defensive wrestling. He meets none other than Shooto Watanabe (22-5, 6 draws). Watanabe’s won six of his last seven, with only one of those going to a decision. The rest of those wins were all submissions.

Naoki Inoue (15-2) has won four straight, with three of those being rear naked chokes. Post-UFC life appears to be going great for him so far, as he’s 4-2 since being released and appears to finally found his stride again. He meets Shintaro Ishiwatari (26-8, 4 draws), attempting to bounce back from his latest loss to Hiromasa Ogikubo. Ishiwatari has faced a batch of very talented fighters and has remained more active than the average fighter in the last few years (except for 2018).

Since we mentioned Hiromasu Ogikubo (21-5, 2 draws), he’ll also in the tournament, as he well should be. He’s won four of his last five since his loss to Kyoji Horiguchi and remains one of the most efficient and active wrestlers in his division. He’ll be up against Pancrase vet and submission specialist Takeshi Kasugai (26-7).

Full card is as follows:

Mikuru Asakura vs. Kleber Koike Erbst - Featherweight

Tenshin Nasukawa vs. Koki Osaki, Hiroya and Mr. X

Tofiq Musayev vs. Roberto de Souza - RIZIN lightweight championship

Kai Asakura vs. Shooto Watanabe - BW Tournament Quarterfinal

Shintaro Ishiwatari vs. Naoki Inoue - BW Tournament Quarterfinal

Hiromasa Ougikubo vs. Takeshi Kasugai - BW Tournament Quarterfinal

Yuki Motoya vs. Ryo Okada - BW Tournament Quarterfinal

Yutaka Saito vs. Vugar Karamov - Featherweight

Shoma Shibisai vs. Tsuyoshi Sudario - Heavyweight

Catchweight (161 pounds): Satoshi Yamasu vs. Noah Bey

RIZIN 28 takes place this Saturday night into Sunday morning starting at 1:30am EST.

The event will be available for online streaming over at LiveNow. You can also purchase a bundle to watch both RIZIN 28 and 29, which takes place in two weeks.