Japan’s leading MMA organization RIZIN Fighting Federation will return on Saturday with RIZIN 21, the promotion’s first event in 2020. RIZIN usually has a longer absence to start the year, as they end every calendar year with a large event on New Year’s Eve with most of their talent.
Due to this, most talent is often not ready to take another fight for a while. As seen on this card, most of the star power that RIZIN leans on isn’t showcased. The biggest name on this show is Mikuru Asakura, who faces Mexican fighter Daniel Salas in the main event. Here’s a preview of the whole card which will go down from the Hamamatsu Arena in Hamamatsu, Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan.
Bout 1: Masaji Tozuka vs. Masahiro Ozawa (130 lbs) (Kickboxing Bout)
Bout 2: Yuya vs. Kouki (154 lbs) (Kickboxing Bout)
Bout 3: Henry Cejas vs. Seido (132 lbs) (Kickboxing Bout)
RIZIN is testing a type of preliminary system to start the show. Before the opening ceremonies of the even, three kickboxing bouts will be presented. These fights will not be shown on the English feed.
The English feed in general has been through a lot during the break. As reported by Mike Skytte throughout, RIZIN had a short falling out and make-up period with FITE. The show will be presented there again, with a different commentary team.
The most interesting matchup of these three is Henry Cejas versus Seido. Cejas already picked up a win this year through regional promotion HEAT. Seido has fought numerous times in kickboxing promotion RISE.
Yuya, who fights Kouki, has fought in RIZIN before, having previously lost to Yuki Tanaka at RIZIN 16.
Bout 4: Kenichi Takeuchi vs. Naoya (126 lbs) (Kickboxing Bout)
After the opening ceremonies, the kickboxing will roll on with two more bouts. Kenichi Takeuchi and Naoya will fight in a flyweight matchup. Naoya competed in RIZIN at RIZIN 12, losing to Ryuki in 2018.
Bout 5: Kousuke Jitsukata vs. Ryo Sakai (265 lbs) (Kickboxing Bout)
The final kickboxing bout of the evening is a heavyweight collision between Kousuke Jitsukata and Ryo Sakai. Sakai has primarily fought in MMA in the past, currently holding a 8-10 record. He mostly fought in regional promotion DEEP Impact.
Bout 6: Vugar Kyaramov (14-3) vs. Kyle Aguon (13-8) (145 lbs) (MMA Bout)
The first MMA matchup of the show is a double debut in RIZIN. Vugar Kyaramov will try to extend his winning streak to 11 when he faces Kyle Aguon. Kyaramov represents Azerbaijan, a country which has been well represented by Tofiq Musayev, who won the RIZIN Lightweight Grand Prix in 2019. Aguon has competed regionally in Pancrase for a while now. He most recently lost to Pancrase featherweight champion Isao Kobayashi in a split decision performance. Aguon is from Guam, fighting out of the well-represented gym Spike22.
Bout 7: Trent Girdham (12-3) vs. Naoki Inoue (12-2) (135 lbs) (MMA Bout)
Attempting to bounce back from his RIZIN debut, Trent Girdham will fight Naoki Inoue in the next fight. Girdham lost to Victor Henry at RIZIN 18, being submitted with a triangle choke. Inoue returned to Japan in December, getting a first round stoppage win over Toshiaki Kitada at DEEP 93 Impact. Previously, Inoue had a two-fight stint in the UFC, going 1-1.
Bout 8: Roberto Satoshi Souza vs. Team NAKAI (Jiu-Jitsu Exhibition Elimination Match)
In the most interesting portion of the card, Roberto Satoshi Souza will face a team of five in a elimination match. Team NAKAI consists of Yuki Nakai, Edison Kagohara, Koji Shigemizu, Hiroshi Shinagawa and Yuna Kimura.
Bout 9: Kintaro (12-8-2) vs. Kenji Kato (10-6) (135 lbs) (MMA Bout)
The next matchup is a classic Pancrase versus Shooto matchup. Representing Pancrase, Kintaro will fight Kenji Kato. In December, Kintaro was meant to fight Saimon Oliveira at Pancrase 311, however pulled out on short notice. Kato is on a two-fight winning streak in Shooto, having been with them since late 2017.
Bout 10: Marcos Yoshio Souza (8-2) vs. Falco Neto (11-10) (175 lbs) (MMA Bout)
Before the final four fights, an intermission will happen. The next fight will be Marcos Yoshio Souza facing Falco Neto. Souza had a tough entrance into RIZIN, losing to K-Taro Nakamura in just over a minute at RIZIN 19. His opponent, Neto, will be making his debut in the promotion. His last fight was at Bellator Birmingham in May, getting stopped by undefeated prospect Fabian Edwards in the first round.
Bout 11: Roque Martinez (14-5-2) vs. Hideki Sekine (7-3) (265 lbs) (MMA Bout)
Roque Martinez has been one of the more notable fighters in RIZIN’s thin heavyweight division over the years. After successfully defending his DEEP Openweight Championship in December, Guam’s Martinez returns to fight Hideki “Shrek” Sekine. Sekine had a short run in ONE, going 0-3 in the promotion. Being 3-2 in the last two years, Martinez is currently on a two-fight losing streak in RIZIN, albeit one of those losses being a doctor’s stoppage.
Bout 12: Victor Henry (19-4) vs. Masanori Kanehara (27-13-5) (135 lbs) (MMA Bout)
Victor Henry had an amazing 2019, going undefeated in his three MMA fights. His first of three wins was in DEEP Impact over Yuki Motoya. Then, after a win in RCC, Henry returned to Japan to make his RIZIN debut against Trent Girdham. He stopped him in the second round to get the win. Now, Henry challenges Masanori Kanehara in the co-main of RIZIN 21. Kanehara finished up a three-fight stint with the UFC in 2016. Since then, he has 2-0 in MMA, both being wins in DEEP Impact. He has done Muay Thai in that time as well, going 1-1 in Japanese promotion KNOCK OUT.
Bout 13: Mikuru Asakura (12-1) vs. Daniel Salas (16-6-1) (150 lbs) (MMA Bout)
Viral sensation Mikuru Asakura will fight RIZIN newcomer Daniel Salas in the main event. Asakura has a 6-0 record in RIZIN, debuting at RIZIN 12. He attained Youtube fame in 2019, with his main channel currently just under 900,000 subscribers.
Asakura had an online beef in late 2019 with Atsushi Saito, also known as ‘PROWRESTLING SHIBATAR.” As they both had an MMA background, the beef was squashed through a 25 second MMA fight, which saw Asakura drop Shibatar with punches. In his most recent fight, Asakura defeated John Macapa via decision on New Year’s Eve.
The opponent of Asakura, Salas, has won his last two fights. Tapology lists that Salas had an early career tear, going on a 12-fight winning streak on Mexican regionals.