Stay up to date with what’s happening this morning with the Bellator MMA vs. RIZIN FF New Year’s Eve card, which is happening from the storied Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan.
In a perfect world, the very best fighters from each promotion across the globe would meet up to see who is actually the best of the best. In our current world, the closest we can get is Bellator MMA vs. RIZIN FF.
The card’s main event will be a lightweight match between Bellator’s former featherweight champion, AJ McKee Jr, and Rizin’s 155-pound champion, Roberto de Souza. In the co-main event, Bellator’s current 145-pound title holder, Patricio Pitbull will battle it out with Rizin’s featherweight king, Kleber Koike Erbst.
Also on this card, Bellator’s former bantamweight champion, Kyoji Horiguchi, will tangle with RIZIN Grand Prix 2021 bantamweight tournament winner, Hiromasa Ougikubo, at 125-pounds. Before that, Bellator’s Juan Archuleta meets Rizin’s Soo Chul Kim, and then team Rizin representer Koji Takeda clashes with Bellator rep Gadzhi Rabadanov.
The RIZIN 40 event begins at an extra-early time on the east coast, with the Fite TV broadcast starting at 12 a.m. ET. As for the Bellator MMA vs. RIZIN FF portion card, that can be seen on Showtime via tape delay at 8:00pm ET.
AJ McKee Jr. def. Roberto de Souza by unanimous decision: Lightweight
Souza botched a takedown to get things going, allowing McKee to get on top. Souza kept throwing his legs up for a triangle, but McKee defended well and returned some ground strikes while he had some seperation. One of Souza’s attempts got somewhat close, but McKee’s posture and defense was too strong so Roberto had to let go. McKee landed some more ground and pound, and even tried a flying face stomp towards the end of the round.
The fighters got into some heated exchanges early in the second round. Souza was pressuring and scoring with his head kicks. McKee landed some clean counter punches of his own, but Souza seemed to get the better of them. From there they started to grapple, and Souza was able take the back. McKee eventually freed himself and started to rain down punishment to have a strong finish to the round.
The final round saw McKee jump a D’arce choke, but that just put him in a bad position. It was then Souza’s turn to jump a guillointe and give up the dominant position. From there McKee stood back to his feet, but it wasn’t long before Souza found himself on top. Souza took the back, prompting McKee to stand to his feet. McKee tried to roll out of it, but Souza stayed attached and worked for a rear-naked choke until the bell.
Patricio Pitbull Freire def. Kleber Koike Erbst by unanimous decision: Featherweight
Koike pulled guard early in the opening round, but Pitbull was savvy enough to find some quick seperation. Pitbull backed Koike into a corner behind his firepower, forcing desperation takedown/guard pull attempts. This match quickly devolved into a Figh-Q test for Pitbull. Koike didn’t seem to be much of a threat on the feet, so as long as Pitbull could avoid the grappling exchanges he was able to be in complete control.
Pitbull went back to pressuring in the second round. Koike was getting backed up, and was biting on just about every feint that Pitbull threw. Pitbull was being super-reserved out there. He wasn’t throwing many strikes, but when he did go, he made them count. It felt like if Pitbull would have stepped on the gas then he could have taken Koike out.
Koike shot in for a takedown in the third round, but then opted to pull guard. Pitbull quickly adjusted and stepped out of the guard, and began kicking at the legs. After a prolonged exchange of Pitbull standing over Koike, the referee stood up Kleber. That’s when Koike finally snagged a takedown with top position. Pitbull did a great job of creating space and jumping back to his feet.
Koike started to let his strikes go, being aggressive and showing some urgency. He then jumped guard and was able to score some hammerfists from his back. Pitbull stood up, and returned to kicking the legs until the referee stood Koike up. Pitbull just had answers for everything that Koike threw his way.
Kyoji Horiguchi def. Hiromasa Ougikubo by unanimous decision: Flyweight
The fighters clinched up early here, taking turns pressing one another into the corner. Horiguchi did land some quality knees to the leg throughout that sequence. In open space, Horiguchi landed a thudding leg kick, and followed it up with a right hand that dropped Ougikubo. With Ougikubo on his back and laying under the ropes, Horiguchi got on top and started to land a ton of ground and pound THROUGH THE ROPES! The referee was taking a close look, but the round expired before a finish manifested.
The left leg of Ougikubo was all bruised up as he entered the second stanza. It wasn’t long into this round that Horiguchi closed the distance and went back to chipping away with knees to the legs. Kyoji then exploded with a lifting takedown, and moved right to the back. After controlling for a bit, Ougikubo forced a scramble that resulted in him being on top. Hiromasa hung out in the closed guard of Kyoji, with not much really going on.
Horiguchi dropped Ougikubo at the very beginning of the final round with a gorgeous left hook. Kyoji quickly got on top and briefly hunted for an arm triangle. He went to the back, but Ougikubo spun out and got on top again. Unfortunately for Ougikubo, he blew his dominant position by jumping on a guillotine that wasn’t even close to being there, gifting Horiguchi top position. It was another strong round for Horiguchi.
Juan Archuleta def. Soo Chul Kim by split decision: Bantamweight
Archuleta started fast, per usual, but in an early scramble, Kim locked up a guillotine while Juan was standing. Archuleta dropped down to the ground, and once he escaped he was free to rain down a couple of punches. Kim worked his way back to his feet, and after a brief exchange in open space, Archuleta earned himself a takedown. Just before the bell, Kim stood back up and delivered a crippling leg kick that caused Archuleta to hobble.
Archuleta went right to the takedown in the second stanza. After being controlled for a bit, Kim kicked away and got back to his feet, but Archuleta exploded in with another takedown. Archuleta was getting the positions, but wasn’t doing much with them. He wasn’t throwing many damaging ground strikes, and when he did posture up, it gave Kim enough pace to get back up. Credit to Archuleta for neutralizing Kim for most of the round.
The final round kicked off with some nice body work from Kim. As Archuleta was shooting in, Kim threatened with another guillotine attempt, which forced Juan to roll to his back. Not much was going on in the grappling realm, so the referee stood up the fighters. Kim was feeling himself in the striking department. He was attacking the leg and sneaking in counter punches that were landing clean. Kim locked up a pretty tight ninja choke down the stretch, but Archuleta was able to roll out to escape.
Gadzhi Rabadanov def. Koji Takeda by unanimous decision: Lightweight
Takeda got off to a strong start, being active and launching some variety at Rabadanov. Then, Rabadanov blasted Takeda with a stiff right cross that floored him. A classic RIZIN knee to the head of a grounded opponent scored for Rabadanov, followed by a frenzied blitz, but somehow Takeda was able to weather the storm and escape the round.
Takeda ended up having a much better second round. He was able to keep up the tempo, making it difficult for Rabadanov to get into a rhythm. Rabadanov also suffered a cut around his eye from one of the boxing exchanges. Takeda appeared to have more gas in the proverbial tank.
The final round saw Rabadanov come out and go right to the takedown. He worked his way to the back, but Takeda managed to roll out and get on top. Rabadanov worked his way to his feet, but struggled to get the fight back own to the floor. Takeda was stuffing the shots, and even returned a few knees from the sprawl. Rabadanov would eventually find top position in the closing moments of the match after Takeda slipped on a kick. Rabadanov was a -460 betting favorite going into this one, and snuck by with the win, but Takeda did not fight like a +330 underdog.