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RIZIN 40 & Bellator vs. RIZIN preview

Crossovers this big can’t disappoint.

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Bellator fighter AJ McKee during an open workout at Cris Cyborg’s Huntington Beach gym Photo by Hans Gutknecht/MediaNews Group/Los Angeles Daily News via Getty Images

RIZIN had to do it big to end the year, seems like just the kick Japan’s most prestigious MMA organization needed. This crossover event with a company vs company theme brings in some of the brightest talent for some of the most entertaining matchups possible, and there’s so much to love here.

RIZIN vs. Bellator is only one segment of a doubleheader event. This card will be preceded by RIZIN 40, which has a score of familiar faces from their roster.


AJ MCKEE JR. vs. ROBERTO DE SOUZA

Roberto “Satoshi“ de Souza (14-1) has done marvelously in his RIZIN run, putting on some true virtuoso performances with his grappling acumen. As luck would have it, Bellator will be represented in this one by none other than AJ McKee. McKee not only has devastating submissions of his own that he can set up quickly, he has major power and lightning speed.

Satoshi almost certainly knows all that, and has a knack for neutralizing opponents and getting them to move with the ebb and flow he prefers. His ground control and sweeps make him particularly dangerous to McKee, as Roberto’s not usually content to stay inactive in grappling exchanges. Prioritizing top position will benefit him greatly, and it’s going to be very, very difficult for him to get it there with AJ’s wrestling.


PATRICIO PITBULL vs. KLEBER KOIKE ERBST

Kleber Koike Erbst (31-5-1) ran things in KSW, but he’s truly reached his final form in RIZIN. Currently on a seven-fight win streak (all finishes, all submissions), he’s got the challenge of a lifetime ahead of him, when he meets Bellator icon Patricio Pitbull (34-5). Patricio’s got back to back wins since his loss to AJ McKee.

Long story short, both these men are excellent athletes with dynamite power and extraordinary submission games against some of the best grapplers active in the sport. Kleber could shock the world with a win here, Pitbull needs to mind his Ps and Qs.


KYOJI HORIGUCHI vs. HIROMASA OGIKUBO

Kyoji Horiguchi (30-5) will be Team Bellator for this one, facing Hiromasa Ogikubo (25-6-2) for a third time. Horiguchi won both their first two meetings, once via submission in 2013 for Shooto, then five years later in RIZIN in 2018. Hiromasa is one of the most dogged wrestlers Horiguchi can face here, and Ogikubo is great at cutting opponents off with lateral movement. But Kyoji is Kyoji, and his striking remains tremendous with his combination of speed and movement.


SOO CHUL KIM vs. JUAN ARCHULETA & GADZHI RABADANOV vs. KOJI TAKEDA

ROAD FC champ Soo Chul Kim (18-6-1), has had some gutsy performances and is hard to look good against. And he faces Juan Archuleta (26-4), one of the most well-rounded fighters at bantamweight, if not the most well-rounded.

Gadzhi Rabadanov (18-4-2) can finish a fight from anywhere at any time. He looks to extend his current win streak to five against Karelin lift specialist Koji Takeda (15-3).


RIZIN 40

Now that we’ve gone through RIZIN vs. Bellator, what about the RIZIN 40 portion? It’s got some hot fire of its own. Johnny Case (27-9-1) is a tough wrestleboxer that drowns opponents with top control and packs a punch. He takes on Wanderlei Silva alum Luiz Gustavo, a venomous striker with excellent knees and elbows.

Rogerio Bontorin (17-4) might not be with the UFC anymore, but there’s tons of interesting pairings for him. Right off the bat, we have one, as Bontorin meets DEEP and RIZIN vet Yuki Motoya.

Another former UFC fighter graces this card as John Dodson (22-13) brings his signature speed, athleticism and sometimes unorthodox movement to the ring against strong grappler and longtime scrapper Hideo Tokoro (35-31, 2).

Former Sumo wrestler Tsuyoshi Sudario (6-1) has the unenviable task of fighting Junior Tafa (3-0), brother of one Justin Tafa. That thing about being able to hit hard? Turns out it runs in the family.

Kenta Takizawa (13-8) faces Naoki Inoue (15-3). Inoue last faced Ogikubo in a loss that napped a six-fight win streak, and Takizawa has punishing striking with some crushing finishes.

And the main event is sure to be exciting. Seika Izawa (8-0) has hit this division like a wrecking ball, out-grappling and outworking everyone in her path. Si Woo Park (9-4) lost to Izawa in October of last year, but won four straight after that to end up here at the finals for the Super Atomweight Grand Prix. A fitting ending to a very good tournament featuring two massively talented competitors.

Full card is as follows:

Bellator vs RIZIN:

A.J. McKee (154.7) vs. Roberto de Souza (156.0) - Lightweight
Kleber Koike Erbst (145.2) vs. Patricio Freire (145.0) - Featherweight
Kyoji Horiguchi (124.8) vs. Hiromasa Ougikubo (125.4) - Flyweight
Juan Archuleta (134) vs. Soo Chul Kim (133.8) - Bantamweight
Gadzhi Rabadanov (155.9) vs. Koji Takeda (156.0) - Lightweight

RIZIN 40:

Seika Izawa vs. Si Woo Park – RIZIN women’s Super Atomweight Grand Prix final
Naoki Inoue vs. Kenta Takizawa - Bantamweight
Tsuyoshi Sudario vs. Junior Tafa - Heavyweight
John Dodson vs. Hideo Tokoro - Flyweight

Intermission

Ren Hiramoto vs. Mystery Fighter – Special Standing Rules - Catchweight
Yuki Motoya vs. Rogério Bontorin - Bantamweight
Johnny Case vs. Nobumitsu Osawa - Lightweight
Chihiro Suzuki vs. Yoshiki Nakahara - Featherweight
BeyNoah vs. Patrick Sho Usami - Lightweigt
Yushi vs. Tatsuya Nakazawa – Bantamweight Special Rules contest

Bellator 40/Bellator vs RIZIN takes place this Friday at midnight into Saturday morning for those of us stateside. RIZIN 40 & RIZIN vs. Bellator can be purchased via Fite.TV for international buyers. For US-based fans, RIZIN 40 can be purchased via Fite.TV. Bellator vs. RIZIN will air on tape delay via Showtime on Saturday night at 8:00pm. More on how to watch available here.