It’s really a treat for combat sports fans to get important co-promotions like this. While other promoters like to talk and endlessly posture about how they’re supposedly better than others, RIZIN and Bellator were both actually willing to risk their biggest stars losing in order to bring us an excellent major event to end the year. Regardless of result, both promotions deserve props for that alone.
At the end of it all though, it was a clean sweep of 5-0, with Bellator every single one of their clashes against RIZIN. (I thought it should’ve been 4-1, but more on that later)
In the main event, former Bellator featherweight champ AJ McKee continued his stint at 155 lbs, taking on RIZIN lightweight champion Roberto Satoshi Souza. McKee looked to be the more well-rounded fighter, but willingly played with fire and engaged with the strong grappler in Satoshi on the mat. That made for a far more entertaining fight though.
McKee got in some bad positions against the BJJ expert, but acquitted himself well enough to land good ground and pound. He also mixed in some stomps and soccer kick attempts as he adjusted to the RIZIN ruleset well.
In the end, McKee won with a hard fought and well earned decision in the main event, saying that it’s good redemption for his father Antonio McKee’s loss against Shinya Aoki in the same venue all those years ago.
In a champion vs champion super-fight, Bellator champ Patricio Pitbull calmly picked apart RIZIN champ Kleber Koike en route to a decision victory in the co-main event. Walking out in a gladiator outfit — that awkwardly needed some pliers to take off — the longtime face of Bellator represented the promotion well by completely shutting down Koike’s game.
Koike looked to have improved some of his striking, but he didn’t land enough with power to get Pitbull’s respect. It wasn’t his flashiest contest, but the Bellator champ showed superior striking and better power, along with good defense on the ground to the relatively easy win.
- Also on the card, Kyoji Horiguchi put on a dominant performance, notching his third win over Hiromasa Ougikubo. He technically scored a win for Bellator, but let’s be honest, this seemed more like RIZIN vs RIZIN. Either way, perhaps another quality win like this convinces Bellator to finally open up a flyweight division.
- Juan Archuleta won a split decision over Soo Chul Kim, but I thought it was a pretty bad decision. Archuleta had some wrestling control early in the contest, but the damage and striking was pretty wide for Kim, with the South Korean having deep submission attempts as well.
- While Bellator vs Rizin fights all ended in decisions, the RIZIN.40 side of things had a lot of nice entrances along with a bunch of particularly nasty finishes. Three UFC veterans also picked up nice finishes, while one lost pretty badly.
- RIZIN.40 had eight straight finishes, leading up to a razor thin split decision in the Super-atomweight GP final that was won by Seika Izawa to remain undefeated at 8-0. Si Woo Park finished the fight very strong, and it was a close and competitive bout, but judges awarded it to Izawa for winning most of the fight.
- John Dodson is as explosive as ever at 38-years-old. The UFC vet followed up his BKFC win with a successful RIZIN debut and a backflip celebration to boot. Dodson landed hard body shots against Hideo Tokoro, before eventually landing one to the jaw that put his fellow veteran out cold.
Also hilarious is him listing his height almost a full foot taller.
LOL JOHN DODSON LISTED HIMSELF AS 6’2 pic.twitter.com/QGxWnJGKV9— Anton Tabuena (@antontabuena) December 31, 2022
- Japanese UFC veteran Naoki Inoue got a nasty armlock over Kenta Takizawa. The 25-year-old, whose UFC tenure surprisingly ended after only one loss in 2018, has now won seven of his last eight bouts
- UFC vet Rogerio Bontorin was flatlined and upset by Yuki Motoya. The Japanese veteran landed a nice body kick that hurt him a little, before following up with a brutal knee that put Bontorin out cold.
- Johnny Case lost his original opponent, and handled business as he dispatched his late replacement Nobumitsu Tyson early. It’s a much needed win for the UFC vet as it halted his three fight losing streak with RIZIN, where he’s now 4-3.
- Chihiro Suzuki was getting picked apart by Yoshiki Nakahara, but he weathered the storm and got a nice comeback KO.
- Sho Patrick Usami got a pretty brutal KO, landing a clean left hook very early and putting Noah Bey out cold for an extended period.