New Years Eve Martial Arts events have always held a special place in the hearts of fans in Japan and around the world. Rizin once again steps up to surpass expectations with a monstrous line up showcasing a host of the Japans finest Martial Artists. A collosal 16 bouts feature an diverse set of electrifying matches sure to keep fans around the world on the edge of their seats.
Catch all the action on PPV, December 31st, 14:00 JST
English (Commentary provided by Frank Trigg and Joe Ferraro)
In this first preview, we will cover the first segment of the Rizin 26, the first 7 fights on the card. Expect more bout coverage over the next few days.
6. Yoshinari Nadaka vs Phetmalai Phetjaroenvit
Taking prime spot in the 1st segment of the event, 19 year old prodigy Yoshinari Nadaka combines a formidable striking arsenal with maturity beyond his years. Owning WMC, WBC, IBF and regional titles at flyweight and mini flyweight, the young phenom also claimed Thailand’s most prestigious belts, Lumpinee Boxing Stadium and Rajadamnern Boxing Stadium. After winning the “Battle of Muay Thai Flyweight Tournament” Nadaka showcased his destructive KO power at Rizin 22, finishing Yuushin in the 2nd round with an onslaught of knees and elbows. While scoring T/KOs with a precision blend of knees, kicks, hooks and straights the Eiwa Sports Gym instructor is particularly fond of elbows. Technical, clinical, proficient and powerful, Nadaka is a joy to watch for striking aficionados.
Squaring off against Nadaka, Phetmalai Phetjaroenvit would appear to have a mountain to climb. The flip side for the Thai native is a perfect opportunity to steal Nadaka’s thunder and unseat a prominent name in Thai Boxing. No stranger to high level competition, Phetjaroenvit has multiple Isaan titles, moreover he has made himself a household name by claiming the Channel 7 Thai Boxing belt. The Thai native has over 70 bouts of experience to call upon and is gifted with 1 strike KO power rare for his weight class. Preferring to do his damage with well times straights and hooks, Phetjaroenvit will try to weave a dynamite blow through his adversaries defense for a crushing KO. The same age as his opponent Phetjaroenvit will for sure be completely focused on victory over his biggest rival.
5. Ulka Sasaki vs Kenta Takizawa
Ulka Sasaki entered Rizin’s Bantamweight division as one of the 4 touted as a potential champion. While he has had a fair amount of setbacks, he has also shown a deadly ground game capable of taking out big names, former champion Manuel Kape included. A technician with a constricting back mount, excellent scrambles and slick submissions, when he gets his game going he is a threat to anyone in the division. Sasaki finds himself back in the Rizin ring 14 months after a crushing KO loss to Kai Asakura left his jaw shattered. An emphatic win New Years Eve help erase the shadow of his last loss, and send a statement that he belongs in the division. Expect the Longo and Weidman MMA fighter to be more passionate and determined than ever.
Aggressive striker Kenta Takizawa employs combinations and relentless barrages to turn opponents lights out. Fast and rangy, the Reversal Gym Tokyo KO artist is adept at blasting through straight punches and knees. He has also demonstrated soccer kicks fit perfectly into his style. Striking pressure and forward motion overwhelms opponents, forcing mistakes, at which point Takizawa typically puts the final nail in the coffin. Last outing a spirited performance against one of the “big 4”, Hiromasa Ogikubo, was not enough to claim a victory. Takizawa has never lost back to back fights and will likely come out of the gates firing on all cylinders gunning for a first round stoppage.
4. Kanna Asakura vs Ai “Princess Bee” Shimizu
Kanna Asakura transitioned from wrestling to MMA at just 16 years old where she persistently linked chain wrestling techniques to defeat stronger foes and rack up the victories. With incredible transitional ability the Paraestra Matsudo grappler smoothly switches angles to hit takedowns. From there slick guard passes and back takes open the door to rear naked chokes. Tearing through the competition, Asakura claimed the 108 lbs Rizin Tournament Championship with a career defining submission over Rena Kubota. Her game has been constantly evolving and, with the addition of a versatile striking repertoire Asakura is a threat in all areas of the fight. On a 3 fight win streak, a big win New Years Eve will strengthen Asakura’s claim to a title shot with a chance at redemption over the winner of Miyuu Yamamoto and Ayaka Hamasaki.
Ai Shimizu got thrust into the spotlight with Abema TV/ Fuji TV’s reality MMA program, “Fighting Agent War Season 3”. While the tournament winner, Itsuki Hirata, secured a coveted spot on the One Championships roster, Shimizu also stood out, earning a reputation as a fighter with huge potential. The Krazy Bee Wrestling specialist incorporates a very physical, direct approach with a penchant for ruthless ground and pound. In her last bout with Andy Nguyen, “Princess Bee” went to war, overcame adversity, and snatched a well earned victory. Asakura represents a big step up in competition, however, if Shimizu can enforce her game she could cause a massive upset. A victory against an ex-champion of Asakura’s status would prove beyond doubt that “Princess Bee’s” time has come.
3. X vs Atsushi “Shibatar” Saito
Atsushi “Shibatar” Saito made a name for himself in the Outsider organization with a pro wrestling inspired MMA style. With this bout being a complete mystery, in terms of rules and opponent, we can hope “Shibatar” will be involved in something competitive, light and entertaining.
2. Taiyo “The Sun” Nakahara vs Kazuma Kuramoto
Greco Roman wrestling standout and Supplex king Kuramoto possesses deceptive strength, endless stamina and an explosive MMA style. With a remarkable 7 fight win streak littered with vicious ground and pound, impressive T/KOs and devastating high altitude slams, Kuramoto earned his Shooto title shot. An early lead against Ryo Okada came to a shattering end when a perfect pin point counter dropped the Greco Roman specialist in the 2nd round. Okada did not let up and hammered away until the ref jumped in. His momentum stifled, and his undefeated record gone, the Shooto Gym Tokyo wrestler steps back into the cage ready to put the past behind him and get his career back on track.
Facing off against Kuramoto is Taiyo “The Sun” Nakahara, a wily veteran with an MMA career spanning 18 years. Returning after a 3 year hiatus, Nakahara’s career activity has been patchy, frequently taking years away before returning. The Wajutsu Keishukai GODS representative has faced, and beaten, many of the best in Japan throughout his career. With fundamentally sound foundations “The Sun” is a master at controlling the tempo of the fight. Last competing in 2017 the grappling expert bested Rizin veteran Moon Je Hoon, a fighter who once knocked out Kai Asakura. At his best “The Sun” is a force to be reckoned with and cannot be counted out. With the gaps in activity Nakahara returns to action as a bit of an unknown quantity, something that could play to the versatile grapplers advantage.
1. Ikuhisa “Minowaman” Minowa vs Tsuyoshi “Takanofuji Sanzo” Sudario
A legend in the sport who needs little introduction, “Minowaman” carved a name for himself by taking on massive challenges, literally, as he stood up against some of the biggest Super Heavyweights in MMA. At his peak, Minowa produced some of MMA’s most memorable moments, as he pulled off seemingly impossible tasks, toppling giants and doing so with his signature Pro Wrestling-esque flair. It is well known that time is not kind to fighters, and that is especially true for those with histories of fighting above weight class. Additionally, “Minowaman” has the wear and tear of a staggering 116 matches taking their toll. His heart has never been in question though and he will come to thrill fans win or lose. Drawing on his wealth of experience, willpower and submission skills “Minowaman” will give it his all in an attempt to once more pull off something magical in the ring.
While still learning the ropes when it comes to MMA, former Sumo Wrestler Tsuyoshi Sudario has considerable high level Martial Arts experience. With over 300 Sumo matches under his belt, Sudario competed under the alias Takanofuji Sanzo and reached Sumo`s 2nd highest “Juryo” division, reserved for just 10 competitors. Cases of misconduct cut his Sumo career short, resulting in an early retirement that opened the door for a career change. Training at Purebred under the tutelage of MMA pioneer Enson Inoue, Sudario has worked diligently on rounding out his game. Dropping from 157kg to 115kg the former Sumo Wrestler moves very well for a heavy weight, as demonstrated in his debut match, a TKO over Pro Wrestler Dylan James. Suadario will be determined to seize the opportunity to kick start his career with an emphatic victory over a legendary fan favorite.
Opening Match. Sakura Mori vs Eru Takebayashi
Slotted in just before the Heavyweight spectacle and kicking off the days event will be a 112lb ladies match. Submission ace Sakura Mori sports a 3-1 MMA record and an impressive resume on the grappling circuit. Last outing she became the first fighter to stop Pan “Kai” Hui, securing a rear naked choke in the opening stanza. The 17 year old Axis Yokohama BJJ specialist is historically a quick finisher, whether it be MMA or Grappling rules. Mori will try to get the job done quick and is a prospect worth keeping an eye on.
Eru Takebayashi is a dynamic striker who fuses together lightning quick combinations to hurt opponents. The aggressive Soutokai Mimura Dojo fighter moves fast, hits hard and ends blitzes with well timed knees and kicks. While she has a head-kick KO on her record, Takebayashi has shown herself more than just a striker, finishing her last opponent, Saki, by armbar after punishing her on the feet. Expect 2 Technicians with different styles battling for recognition