Juntaro Ushiku vs Mikuru Asakura
It is somewhat surprising, given their collective levels, that Juntaro Ushiku and Mikuru Asakura have not crossed paths.
A former DEEP and Rizin Featherweight champion, Ushiku has clashed with a lot of the best in the division. Most recently the well versed all rounder fell short while engaging in scrambles with submission ace, Kleber Koike Erbst, succumbing to a triangle choke in the 2nd round. Excellent in match and tempo control, Ushiko is most successful when forcing opponents to fight in long haul matches. Adept at conserving energy while making opponents work, the former Champion knows how to drag opponents into deep waters. When presented with a clear opening, the versatile fighter is more than capable of finishing
Cerebral fighting has come to be one of the hallmarks of the Asakura brothers, with the elder, Mikuru, the brains behind the meticulously planned tactics. The brothers are always dangerous early as they execute highly effective tricks and traps. Mikuru once stated he lacked the natural talent of his younger brother, yet could best him with wits and strategy. A patient fighter who will invest in the long game, the former Outsiders double weight class Champion has the endurance, fight IQ and perseverance to slowly take over as the bout progresses. Brilliant match making as 2 of the divisions top play high stakes chess where a single mistake could cost severely
Yutaka Saito vs. Ren Hiramoto
In what at first glance seems a mismatch, former Shooto and Rizin champion Yutaka Saito takes on MMA novice, the inexperienced 2-2 Ren Hiramoto.
While Hiramoto is certainly lacking in MMA experience, the Kickboxing elite is a formidable striker, the likes of which are rarely seen inside the cage. With solid Karate fundamentals, Hiramoto fires everything with ill intent and can turn the lights out of even the toughest of fighters. Flanked by solid boxing skills the world level Kickboxer is most dangerous when rattling off mid range combinations. If he can maintain distance the striker only needs to connect once and the threat of landing in itself can be a huge asset to Hiramoto, who would love to see his career skyrocket with a victory over a highly regarded former champion.
As expected from a fighter that ascended to the top in Shooto and Rizin, Saito has few holes in his fighting style. With many strings to his bow, the former Featherweight title holder has many routes to victory, and correct selection will be pivotal. It would certainly seem to be Saito’s fight to lose, being the generalist clashing with the specialist striker. If Saito chooses to play to the crowd and stand for too long with his opponent, or has a lapse in concentration, the ex-champion may end up leaving on a stretcher. Saito is masterful at remaining calm, collected and fighting within himself and the chances of Hiramoto getting under his skin remain slim. Can Saito orchestrate a flawless performance or will Hiramoto catch lightning in a bottle?
Kazuma Kuramoto vs. Shinobu Ota
In a match for wrestling aficionados, Greco-Roman specialists collide as supplex machine Kazuma Kuramoto meets powerhouse Olympian Shinobu Ota.
Olympic silver and world gold medalist Ota has demonstrated MMA progression at a blistering rate. With the physicality, mind set and dedication, Ota never makes the same mistake twice as he adjusts and adapts fight after fight. Thrown in at the deep end from the onset, his 2-2 MMA record belies a fearsome competitor with the potential to reach the very top.
While Kuramoto may not have the credentials or pedigree of his opponent in straight wrestling, the ferocious fighter has shown considerable aptitude for utilising his wrestling in MMA. Additionally, Kuramoto has concrete in his hands, able to score Knockouts in single shots and is not afraid to fight fire with fire in the striking department. Whether the Olympian can ground Kuramoto is more than likely the single biggest factor in an highly anticipated showdown of Wrestling phenoms!
Koji Takeda vs. Luis “Killer” Gustavo
Luis Gustavo represents the new generation of destructive Brazilian strikers. With a style that bears all the trademarks of his mentor, the legendary Wanderlei Silva, Gustavo is ferocious and imposing. Like a whirlwind on the feet, the Brazilian Thai Boxing specialist overwhelms with onslaughts of colossal blows. Leaving a trail of bodies in his wake, the aptly named “Killer” has a staggering 100% finishing rate.
In some intriguing match making fans may be in for a case of “irresistible force meets immovable object”. Gritty wrestler Koji Takeda has a reputation for remaining steadfast under even the harshest of conditions. Courageous and in possession of an unbreakable fighting spirit the sturdy grappler often has to walk through fire in order to get to the range where he excels. Drowning opponents in later rounds with consistent exertion, Takeda will most likely need to weather a huge storm before he can impose his game.
Kanna Asakura vs. VV Mei
Kanna Asakura enjoyed a Cinderella story under the Rizin banner, a victory over rival and tournament favourite Rena capped off a sensational Atomweight GP run. With the victory came the belt and Asakura was thrust into the limelight, securing her position as a Rizin mainstay. In the spotlight Asakura has fought through highs and lows, stringing together impressive victories before suffering heartbreaking defeats. A junior wrestling standout, the brave fighter entered MMA at aged 16, chaining together techniques to put her opponents on the mat she was a future star in the making. With experience comes maturity, while the former champion has tasted some bitter losses she has remained competitive in an increasingly deep division. The years have brought improved striking and fight IQ and now the first Atomweight title holder is more well rounded than ever. It is not a secret that Asakura has struggled with the more physical fighters, those that can maintain balance while shutting down her speed and transitions. Her opponent tomorrow should bring out the best in the 25 year old grappler, and visa versa!
Trailblazing veteran for womens MMA, Mei “V.V” Yamaguchi returns to Japan after taking on One Championships best over the last 7 years. To suggest that she was the “Kanna Asakura” of her time would not be out of place. Yamaguchi traversed through the competition of the era, pulling off upsets en route to becoming the fighting Queen of her era. Since the ascent to the top “V.V” Mei has fought in multiple weight classes and multiple disciplines and remained extremely competitive. Of particular note, Yamaguchi is as durable as they come. With 36 MMA bouts under her belt, plus almost the same number of combined grappling and striking matches, “V.V” has astonishingly never been stopped. With a Karate background bolstered by solid grappling, Yamaguchi brings her characteristic style to Rizin rules for the first time!
RENA vs. Claire Lopez
Japanese superstar Rena Kubota needs little introduction. A mainstay of Rizin, Rena forged a successful MMA career off the back of her Shootboxing striking prowess. A 15 year fight veteran who has flirted with retirement, her motivation and commitment have come under fire at times, creating additional pressure. The onus is on the figurehead for Japanese women’s fighting to deliver once again, something that may test her focus as fights to appease fans. With the weight on her shoulders, the striking sensation’s overzealousness to score a highlight reel finish has led to her downfall in the past. Pace and timing will be vital, as will the fighting environment, Rena traditionally marches forward, driving opponents to the ropes. Backed into a corner under threat, fighters make mistakes and Rena capitalizes with combinations, rarely finding the finish with the initial blow. Cage fighting requires a very different approach, evening the odds for Rena’s debuting opponent.
Unknown to the Japanese audience, Claire Lopez has everything to gain and nothing to lose by going for broke. The Thai Boxer turned MMA fighter now has a chance on a global stage that she will not let go to waste. A solid stand up base with a growing penchant for submission grappling, Lopez matches well with Rena and “styles make fights” as the saying goes. As a Combate Global veteran Lopez has already a lot of cage experience, training and fighting in the environment from the onset of her MMA career. Lopez will certainly not be intimidated by the status of her opponent as the 2 ladies square off. Under the spotlight it is doubtful Lopez will hold anything back, knowing that, win or lose, her performance will be vital in determining her future career.
Tsuyoshi Sudario vs. Rocky Martinez
Small for a Heavyweight, fan favorite Roque “Rocky” Martinez more than compensates in heart and fighting spirit. A wrestling base and low stature assists Martinez with his “stand and bang” boxing. “Rocky” never lets up, fighting on the front foot and throwing combinations at every moment. With an endless gas tank and fabled durability, Martinez has been nigh impossible to put away on the feet, soaking up blows that would have felled most. Facing off against a Sumo based striker will be perfect for “Rocky” to let leather fly and get fans on their feet!
Hailing from a Sumo backbone, Tsuyoshi “Takanofuji Sanzo” Sudario is far from a “typical” Sumo wrestler. Athletic and fast, Sudario moves very well and, thanks to his Karate striking, is sharp on his feet with monstrous firepower. Seemingly Preferring to gut it out on the feet, blow for blow, Sudario falls back on his grappling to take command of position rather than seek takedowns. With fantastic fighting instincts, Sudario can adapt with the flow of the match and take advantage of even the smallest mistakes. The ex-Sumo warrior will not have to go looking for “Rocky” and will have chances to lead the dance and strike first. With thunderous kicks and 1-2s will he be able to stop the forward momentum of the Guam native? Or can Martinez get chest to chest and unload a barrage of punches to the body and head?
Masanori Kanehara vs. Sora Yamamoto
Given the reputation of his top shelf grappling skills it is easy to forget that Kanehara also possesses considerable KO power. A well balanced Mixed Martial Artist and consummate finisher, Kanehara sports an equal number of submissions and T/KOs, 11 a piece. Tenacious on the ground, the 40 year old veteran is methodical and precise, securing the position before submission. On the feet the Reversal Gym Tachikawa fighter carries natural power, stopping fighters in their tracks or putting them out with single shots. Treading a fine line between stifling control and playing with fire going for a finish, Kanehara can be drawn into his opponent’s game, something that has cost him in the past.
At just 22 years old, Yamamoto carries the confidence of youth into his fights. Setting a fast pace from the get-go the Power Of Dream Sapporo representative requires just a small window to capitalise. With a free flowing grappling style the majority of the slick grapplers wins have come by submission. Though his adversary has the edge in experience, Kanehara has contended with the world’s best, Yamamoto will take comfort in the fact his defence has proven to be air tight. The mat will more than likely be where the match plays out, as fans enjoy the ebb and flow of fortunes in a battle of technique and mettle!
Tatsuya “Yanbo” Saiga vs. Ali Abdulkarikov
With the withdrawal of Johnny Case Tatsuya “Yanbo” Saiga steps in, and steps up, to face Russian Ali Abdulkarikov.
Number 1 ranked Pancrase contender “Yanbo” has etched his name on the Lightweight Division as a fighter to be afraid of. With dynamite in his hands and an unwavering, never-say-die attitude Saiga has yet to go to the judges in 12 outings. Boasting an implausible 100% finishing record consisting solely of first round T/KOs, “Yanbo” is always out to separate opponents from their consciousness!
Bringing a “traditional” Russian MMA style to the table, Ali Abdulkarikov maintains distance, darting in for crisp, textbook strikes while relying on wrestling when fights get up close and personal. An opportunistic finisher, all of Abdulkarimov’s stoppages have come by way of strikes, as expected from the Wushu Sanda stylist. Both fighters share a striking foundation, however, Abdulkarimov is highly proficient at selecting the right tool for the job and will not be throwing down recklessly with “Yando”. The opening bout should be an explosive one!