RIZIN’s Bantamweight Grand Prix was narrowed down to eight fighters earlier this year, as the 16-man bracket kicked off during two cards in the summer. Getting closer to the promotion’s famous New Year’s Eve show, RIZIN will determine their bantamweight semi-finalists on Sunday at RIZIN 30.
The promotion’s four quarter-final bouts headline a 10-bout card that will take place at the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan.
Here’s a full preview of what is expected to go down on Sunday morning.
Main Card (1:00PM EDT / 2:00PM JST) (Live-Now / RIZIN Live)
Bout 1: Panchan Rina vs. Momoka (103 lbs) (Kickboxing Bout)
In the sole non-MMA bout of the card, kickboxers Panchan Rina and Momoka will meet in their respective promotional debuts.
Rina has gained momentum over the years fighting for Japanese promotions REBELS and KNOCK OUT. She has earned a large following in that time, attaining 60,000 Instagram followers and over 95,000 Youtube subscribers – numbers that set herself apart from many of her contemporaries.
Momoka has recently competed in RISE Kickboxing msotly. Her last bout came just two months back, where she lost a decision to Arina Kobayashi.
Bout 2: Shoji Maruyama (18-14-1) vs. Chihiro Suzuki (5-2) (146 lbs) (MMA Bout)
Chihiro Suzuki will make his return to MMA to face veteran Shoji Maruyama on Sunday.
Maruyama, an MMA veteran of over a decade, will be hunting for his first win in RIZIN. He lost his promotional debut in September, getting stopped within a round by Kai Asakura.
He has since taken a loss in DEEP Impact, where Yuki Motoya submitted him with a rear naked choke. It’s worth noting that both of his most recent opponents will appear in the tournament later.
Suzuki attained an MMA record of five wins and two losses in 2017 and 2018, fighting frequently in regional promotion Pancrase. He has since mainly focused on kickboxing, fighting under KNOCK OUT and REBELS from 2019 to 2021.
Bout 3: Shinobu Ota (0-1) vs. Yuta Kubo (0-0) (146 lbs) (MMA Bout)
In a classic clash of styles in MMA, former Olympic Greco-Roman wrestler Shinobu Ota will fight former K-1 Japan Kickboxing Champion Yuta Kubo.
Ota is a decorated wrestler, having won a silver medal at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics. He had an unsuccessful MMA debut late last year, getting submitted by MMA veteran Hideo Tokoro in the second round.
Kubo’s return to combat sports was a surprise to many. Kubo competed in kickboxing from 2005 to 2020, appearing in GLORY Kickboxing and earning a K-1 Japan belt late in his career. After defeating Jordann Pikeur last year, Kubo relinquished his belt and departed the promotion. Now he is in RIZIN and will be making his MMA debut.
Bout 4: Ulka Sasaki (23-8-2) vs. Yoshinori Horie (10-3) (146 lbs) (MMA Bout)
Moving up a weight class, Ulka Sasaki will collide against fellow former UFC fighter Yoshinori Horie.
Sasaki, a former UFC flyweight, has fought at bantamweight since entering RIZIN in 2017. He made his return from a broken jaw injury in late 2020, defeating Kenta Takizawa via unanimous decision to break a two-fight skid.
Horie is coming back after winning his RIZIN debut in March, stopping Tetsuya Seki in the third round with strikes. The Pancrase veteran fought once in the UFC two years back, losing to prospect Hakeem Dawodu.
Bout 5: Koji Takeda (12-1) vs. Yusuke Yachi (22-11) (157 lbs) (MMA Bout)
Continuing what he has dubbed his “sequel” campaign, Yusuke Yachi will fight Koji Takeda on Sunday.
Yusuke started his climb out of a losing streak in June, defeating Yuki Kawana via unanimous decision. Prior to that fight, Yachi had lost four of his previous five bouts.
Prior to his return, Yachi mentioned that he wants to defeat the top domestic champions in Japan before getting a big fight in RIZIN. Since he defeated the Shooto Lightweight Champion last time around, Yachi will now meet Takeda, who holds the DEEP Impact Lightweight Championship.
Takeda is a tough test, as he has one pro loss and has repeatedly proven his skills in RIZIN. He is currently on a four-fight winning streak that includes scorecard victories over Yuki Kawana and Takasuke Kume in RIZIN.
Bout 6: Ayaka Hamasaki (22-3) vs. Emi Fujino (25-11) (108 lbs) (MMA Bout)
RIZIN Super Atomweight Champion Ayaka Hamasaki will compete on Sunday’s card, although she won’t be putting her belt on the line. Instead, in a matchup that exemplifies the large history of the atomweight division, Hamasaki will battle against Emi Fujino.
Fujino has competed for nearly two decades, with her pro debut being back in 2004. Her career includes long runs in JEWELS/DEEP JEWELS, and a recent run in Pancrase. She has faced Hamasaki before, losing a unanimous decision against her back in 2012.
Hamasaki is currently on her second run as RIZIN’s 108-pound champ. She regained the belt on New Year’s Eve last year, submitting Miyuu Yamamoto within a round to take the vacant title. She defended it for the first time in March, going three rounds for a split decision victory against Kanna Asakura in a rematch.
Bout 7: Yuki Motoya (28-9) vs. Kenta Takizawa (12-7) (RIZIN Bantamweight Grand Prix Quarter-Final)
The top four bouts of the card will see RIZIN continue their bantamweight tournament. In the first of those fights, Yuki Motoya will meet Kenta Takizawa.
Motoya kicked off his bracket run with a solid win, defeating Shooto Japan champ Ryo Okada via unanimous decision in June. A win on Sunday could potentially set him up to rematch Naoki Inoue, who he lost to in December of last year.
Takizawa earned an infamous win in the first round of the tournament, evading the submission attempts of Masakazu Imanari to take a scorecard victory. The fight snapped a two-fight losing streak for him.
Bout 8: Hiromasa Ougikubo (22-5-2) vs. Takafumi Otsuka (29-18-1) (RIZIN Bantamweight Grand Prix Quarter-Final)
In a matchup of two incredibly experienced bantamweights, Hiromasa Ougikubo and Takafumi Otsuka will meet in a quarter-final fight.
Ougikubo has competed strictly in RIZIN over the past few years, establishing himself as one of the top bantamweights in the promotion. He lost a title fight last year to Kai Asakura, getting stopped within a round with strikes – a fight that could be made again if they both advance past the quarter-finals.
Ougikubo has built up a solid record since taking that 2020 loss. After defeating Kenta Takizawa in November, Ougikubo opened his tournament run with a scorecard nod over Takeshi Kasugai.
Otsuka stopped the momentum of tournament underdog Shian in the opening round of the grand prix, defeating him in June. The bout was his first appearance in RIZIN since 2017.
Bout 9: Naoki Inoue (16-2) vs. Kintaro (14-9-2) (RIZIN Bantamweight Grand Prix Quarter-Final)
The quickly rising momentum of Naoki Inoue has the chance to continue on Sunday, as he will face Kintaro in the second round of the bantamweight tournament.
Inoue, a former UFC fighter, has gone undefeated since joining RIZIN in early 2020. He has finished his past three opponents within a round, including experienced fighters Shooto Watanabe and Yuki Motoya.
He defeated another veteran to start his bracket run, stopping Shintaro Ishiwatari within two minutes with strikes.
Kintaro had a hard-fought beginning to the bracket, fighting to a decision win over Kuya Ito in June. His previous RIZIN appearances resulted in a win and a loss.
Bout 10: Kai Asakura (17-3) vs. Alan Yamaniha (18-8-4) (RIZIN Bantamweight Grand Prix Quarter-Final)
Former RIZIN Bantamweight Champion Kai Asakura will headline Sunday’s card, facing Bonzai Jiu-Jitsu representative Alan Yamaniha.
Asakura was the bantamweight champion in 2020, earning the vacant belt by defeating Hiromasa Ougikubo at RIZIN 23. He lost the belt on New Year’s Eve last year, getting stopped in the first round by now-two-time champ Kyoji Horiguchi.
Asakura made a statement in his first appearance in the tournament, stopping Shooto Watanabe in the fourth minute of action with strikes, putting him back into the win column.
For many, Yamaniha’s appearance in June was their first impression of him. While he carried a solid record from years in the Japanese regional scene, what brought him notoriety upon his entrance to the promotion is his ties to the Bonsai Jiu-Jitsu Gym. The gym is a hot topic in JMMA currently, as RIZIN Lightweight Champion Roberto Satoshi Souza and rising featherweight Kleber Koike train out of it.
Yamaniha had a good start to his run in the promotion, defeating Kazuma Kuramoto via decision at RIZIN 29. The fight extended his win streak to four consecutive.
If Yamaniha would be able to pull off a win in Sunday’s main event, it would become the biggest victory of his pro career.