Lead Japanese MMA promotion RIZIN will return to their home, Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan for the first time since 2019 on Sunday. The event at the venue should present a different atmosphere than usual, as COVID-19 protocol will present a small crowd and much more masked up one.
However, the history of the building within Japanese MMA and RIZIN alone makes its inclusion present a sense of a return to normalcy.
The 11-fight card presents many new faces, some to RIZIN, and some to MMA as a sport. Although, the show also includes many of the household names like Kai Asakura, RENA and Tenshin Nasukawa. Here’s a full preview of the card.
Bout 1: Yusuke Yachi (21-10) vs. Juri Ohara (26-18-3) (157 lbs)
The card will kick off with Krazy Bee’s Yusuke Yachi facing regional veteran Juri Ohara. Yachi’s last fight was a loss, being finished in the second minute of a main event bout last August to Roberto Souza. While being matched against big names, Yachi has now lost four of his last five bouts.
Ohara has fought frequently in regional Japanese promotion DEEP Impact since his debut in 2009. He has competed against former RIZIN names in the past like Hiroto Uesako, Koji Takeda and Daryl Lokoku.
Bout 2: Mutsuki Ebata vs. Rasta (121 lbs) (Kickboxing Bout)
The first of three kickboxing fights on RIZIN 24 will see Mutsuki Ebata, the brother of Rui Ebata, face Rasta in a kickboxing bout. Rasta has spent the last couple of years competing in RISE Kickboxing, earning five wins in 2019 and 2020 (one outside of the promotion). The fight will be Ebata’s first in 2020, as his last fight was a draw against Saotho Sitchefboontham on a card last October.
Bout 3: Sudario Tsuyoshi (0-0) vs. Dylan James (0-0) (Heavyweight)
The third bout of the evening will be sumo versus professional wrestling when Sudario Tsuyoshi faces Dylan James. Both making their debuts in MMA, Tsuyoshi and James are transitioning over from their other forms of athletics.
Tsuyoshi, who previously went by the name of Takanofuji Sanzo, competed in sumo from 2013 to 2019. His career came to an end after allegations came out about him hitting an attendant. Due to this, the Japan Sumo Association pressured him to retire.
James has wrestled in Japan since 2011, working with promotions like Pro Wrestling Zero1 and AJPW.
Bout 4: Takahiro Ashida (23-10-2) vs. Kyohei Hagiwara (1-2) (146 lbs)
The fourth bout on RIZIN 24 sees the experienced Takahiro Ashida face Kyohei Hagiwara, who has three fights under his belt. Ashida has fought in MMA 35 times. His last fight was in October of 2019, winning on a DEEP Impact card. He last fought on a Bellator card in December, losing a kickboxing bout to Ren Hiramoto.
Hagiwara’s last fight was a win, defeating Rikuto Shirakawa at RIZIN 22. The fight was his first win as a pro, as he had taken losses in 2018 and 2017 previously.
Bout 5: RENA (10-3) vs. Emi Tomimatsu (15-16) (117 lbs)
One of RIZIN’s biggest names, RENA, returns on the card when she faces Emi Tomimatsu. RENA last competed on RIZIN’s 2019 New Year’s Eve card, avenging a loss against Lindsey VanZandt.
Her opponent, Tomimatsu, is a veteran of the regional scene in Japan. Tomimatsu has competed since 2006, with most of her fights taking place in all-womens promotion DEEP Jewels. She has lost her last two fights, dropping bouts to Tomo Maesawa and Yoon Ha Hong, knocking her record below a 50 percent win-rate. She looks to even it with a win against RENA.
Bout 6: Kintaro (13-8-2) vs. Kenta Takizawa (10-5) (134 lbs)
Fighting for his second win in RIZIN, Kintaro will face fellow Pancrase regular Kenta Takizawa on Sunday. Kintaro, a former bantamweight King of Pancrase, made his RIZIN debut last February, stopping Kenji Kato within a round via rear naked choke. He now faces Takizawa, who has competed in Pancrase since 2015. He last competed in November, stopping Hayato Ishii in the third round.
Bout 7: Yuuki Kitagawa vs. Taishi Hiratsuka (132 lbs) (Kickboxing Bout)
The seventh bout of the evening will see Shoot Boxing’s Yuuki Kitagawa face Taishi Hiratsuka. Kitagawa’s last fight snapped a losing streak, defeating Sota Nishikawa in the second round in early 2019. Hiratsuka will enter the fight on a three-fight streak of wins, through promotions like RISE Kickboxing and DEEP Impact. The former K-1 Japan fighter, like his opponent, will aim for his first RIZIN victory.
Bout 8: Takasuke Kume (23-6-3) vs. Satoru Kitaoka (42-20-10) (157 lbs)
Lightweight King of Pancrase Takasuke Kume will enter RIZIN for the first time on Sunday, fighting veteran Satoru Kitaoka. Kume captured his Pancrase belt in 2016, dethroning Kazuki Tokudome. He has since defended it twice. His last fight was in October of 2019, defeating Shooto Lightweight Champion Koshi Matsumoto on a ONE Championship card.
Kitaoka will be in search for his first win since 2018 on Sunday. His last two outings in RIZIN were stoppage losses, being finished by Roberto Souza and Johnny Case. His last fight was in July, fighting to a draw against Sho Kogane in his newly formed promotion iSMOS.
Bout 9: Koji Takeda (10-1) vs. Yuki Kawana (16-4-5) (157 lbs)
Experienced lightweights will compete in the ninth bout, as Koji Takeda will battle against Yuki Kawana. Takeda is the current DEEP Impact Lightweight Champion. He won the belt in 2018, defeating Satoru Kitaoka. He has since defended it twice, both times against Juri Ohara in 2019. He appeared in RIZIN for the first time in 2019, losing a decision to Damien Brown.
Kawana returned to his main promotion of Shooto in 2019 after a three-fight stint with the PFL. He has won two fights since, including a win last July over Shutaro Debana.
Bout 10: Kai Asakura (15-2) vs. Shoji Maruyama (18-12-1) (134 lbs)
The co-main event will have RIZIN Bantamweight Champion Kai Asakura facing veteran Shoji Maruyama. Asakura claimed his belt last month, defeating Hiromasa Ougikubo in the first round. While he is the champion, he won’t be defending the belt in the fight.
Maruyama has extensive experience in MMA, having fought 31 times through numerous promotions. His career pre-dates RIZIN, as he also competed in DREAM, a now-defunct promotion which was once the flagship organization for Japanese MMA. Like Asakura, he’s returning relatively quickly, as his last fight was a late August win over Kosuke Terashima.
Bout 11: Tenshin Nasukawa vs. Kouzi (129 lbs) (Kickboxing Bout)
The main event of the evening sees the return of Tenshin Nasukawa to RIZIN, fighting Koji Tanaka, also known as Kouzi. While Nasukawa is known for a hectic work rate that saw him compete six times in 2019, he has been relatively quiet in 2020. His sole fight in the year so far was last July, defeating Yuki Kasahara on a RISE Kickboxing card.
His last RIZIN appearance was last December, defeating Rui Ebata in under three minutes with a trio of knockdowns. The performance capped off a successful year that moved him to an undefeated 36-fight kickboxing record (now 37).
The fight will be Kouzi’s first fight outside of K-1 Japan since 2017. He finished his time in the promotion with three-straight wins in 2019. Prior to that, he fought Takeru, one of the stars in K-1 who currently holds a stellar 40-win record. Kouzi usually fights around 130-pounds and slightly above, however, he will make the cut down to 129-pounds for his bout against Nasukawa.