Japanese MMA promotion RIZIN will carry on the tradition of a New Year’s Eve event on Friday night, presenting a 16-bout card from the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan.
The show is expected to include a lightweight title fight, the end of their 16-man bantamweight tournament, and fights including notable names like Tenshin Nasukawa and Ayaka Hamasaki.
Here’s a full preview of the festivities.
Main Card (11:30PM EST / 1:30PM JST) (RIZIN Live / Live-Now)
Bout 1: Kota Miura vs. YUSHI (146 lbs) (MMA Special Rules Bout)
Two new faces will compete in MMA to kick off the evening. In the first fight of the night, Kota Miura will take on YUSHI.
Miura is the son of Kazuyoshi Miura, who is a famous footballer in Japan. The 54-year-old player has competed since 1986 and is currently recognized as the oldest professional football player.
YUSHI, also making his MMA debut, has a background in bodybuilding. He enters the ring with a fair amount of online clout, currently boasting 80,000 Instagram followers.
The fight will be under special rules which make the fight three rounds that are three minutes each.
Bout 2: Kai Asakura (18-3) vs. Kenta Takizawa (13-7) (RIZIN Bantamweight Grand Prix Semi-Final Bout)
Star power will take the stage early on Friday, as former RIZIN Bantamweight Champion Kai Asakura will face Kenta Takizawa. The fight, along with the following bout, is taking place early as the winners will compete later on the card in the grand final of the tournament.
Asakura lost his bantamweight championship last year, getting stopped in the first round by Kyoji Horiguchi. He then made a statement in his opening bout of the Grand Prix, finishing Shooto Watanabe in the first round with strikes. He made it to the semi-finals in September, defeating Alan Yamaniha on scorecards.
Takizawa is the biggest underdog heading into the semi-finals. He snapped a two-fight skid in the opening round of the bracket, sneaking by Masakazu Imanari in a scorecard win. He then pulled off an upset in the quarter-finals, catching Yuki Motoya in the first round with punches for a victory.
Bout 3: Hiromasa Ougikubo (23-5-2) vs. Naoki Inoue (15-2) (RIZIN Bantamweight Grand Prix Semi-Final Bout)
The other half of the RIZIN Bantamweight Grand Prix will see Hiromasa Ougikubo and Naoki Inoue collide.
Inoue, a former UFC fighter, has gone undefeated since joining RIZIN in early 2020. He had a quick win to open his bracket run, stopping Shintaro Ishiwatari in just under two minutes with strikes. He then went the distance against Kintaro for a scorecard win.
A win in the quarter-finals would set Ougikubo up for a rematch, as he has faced both Kai Asakura and Kenta Takizawa in the past.
Bout 4: Yuki Motoya (28-10) vs. Kintaro (14-10-2) (RIZIN Bantamweight Grand Prix Reserve Bout)
Yuki Motoya and Kintaro could get a potential second chance in the Grand Prix on Friday. They will fight in a reserve bout, meaning the winner could be called upon later in the night if one of the finalists has to pull out of their appearance.
Motoya was stopped in the quarter-finals of the tournament, getting finished by Kenta Takizawa. His previous fight in the bracket saw him defeat Shooto Japan veteran Ryo Okada, handing him his first loss since 2017.
Kintaro has flipped between winning and losing in his last six fights. Before his quarter-final loss to Naoki Inoue, he beat Kuya Ito at the start of the bracket.
Bout 5: Kazuma Sone (24-21-1) vs. Shinobu Ota (1-1) (134 lbs) (MMA Bout)
Searching for his second win in MMA, Shinobu Ota will fight experienced bantamweight Kazuma Sone.
Ota is an Olympian with a background in Greco-Roman wrestling. His appearance this weekend marks exactly one year since he crossed over to MMA.
Sone will attempt to get out of a recent slump. The veteran has lost six of his last 10 MMA bouts and is coming off a recent kickboxing loss to Kouzi.
Bout 6: Shibatar vs. Yuta Kubo (198 lbs) (Special Rules MMA Bout)
Viral sensation Shibatar will compete again on New Year’s Eve, this time facing former K-1 Japan Champion Yuta Kubo.
Shibatar is a pro wrestler and MMA fighter, although he has gained notoriety in recent years through his Youtube channel. Shibatar’s channel currently sits at an impressive 1.2 million subscribers, with most videos surpassing 100,000 views each.
Shibatar made his RIZIN debut last year, facing what was billed as a mystery opponent. He ended up fighting kickboxer HIROYA in an exhibition MMA bout.
Kubo is coming off an MMA loss against Shinobu Ota. That fight marked his return to combat sports, appearing for the first time since he successfully defended his K-1 Japan belt in early 2020.
Bout 7: Kouzi vs. YA-MAN (137 lbs) (Kickboxing Bout)
In the sole kickboxing fight on New Year’s Eve, Kouzi will face Rise Kickboxing standout YA-MAN.
Kouzi picked up his first RIZIN victory just last month, defeating Kazuma Sone on scorecards. The former K-1 Japan fighter previously lost kickboxing bouts to Taiju Shiratori and Tenshin Nasukawa, and dropped an exhibition boxing match to MMA legend Takanori Gomi.
YA-MAN will be making his RIZIN debut on Friday. He has produced strong results in Rise Kickboxing, including three wins just this year. He last fought in November, defeating Kan Nakamura.
Bout 8: Kyohei Hagiwara (5-4) vs. Hiroaki Suzuki (1-0) (146 lbs) (MMA Bout)
Both coming off strong performances, Kyohei Hagiwara and Hiroaki Suzuki will be matched for Friday night.
Suzuki is a Muay Thai and Shootboxing fighter who recently crossed over to MMA. He won his debut in October, stopping winless pro wrestler Keisuke Okuda in the second minute with strikes.
Hagiwara has gained a reputation in RIZIN for being an explosive finisher. His promotional record currently sits at four wins and two losses, with all of the victories coming via stoppage.
Hagiwara returned to the win column last month, as a doctor stoppage took veteran Shoji out of his fight against him.
Bout 9: Shoma Shibisai (7-2) vs. Hideki Sekine (10-5) (265 lbs) (MMA Bout)
Heavyweights will collide when Shoma Shibisai and Hideki Sekine meet.
Shibisai has been a weirdly on-and-off fighter in recent years, although he has shown success in MMA. He picked up his third consecutive win in June, handing former sumo wrestler Tsuyoshi Sudario his first pro loss with a rear naked choke submission.
Sekine is a former ONE Championship fighter. His previous RIZIN fight, his sole prior appearance in the promotion, was a loss to Roque Martinez in early 2020. He has since returned to DEEP Impact and has been able to pick up two finish wins and one loss.
Bout 10: Koji Takeda (12-2) vs. BeyNoah (1-1) (157 lbs) (MMA Bout)
Kickboxer BeyNoah will fight to keep his MMA momentum alive when fighting successful lightweight Koji Takeda.
BeyNoah earned his first MMA victory just over a month ago, making a comeback to finish Daryl Lokoku in the third round with punches. He had previously lost his MMA debut in a split decision against Satoshi Yamasu.
Takeda, the current DEEP Impact Lightweight Champion, is coming off a loss. His strong four-fight winning streak was snapped in September, as rising lightweight Yusuke Yachi picked up a decision win over him.
Bout 11: Ayaka Hamasaki (23-3) vs. Seika Izawa (4-0) (108 lbs) (MMA Bout)
RIZIN Super Atomweight Champion Ayaka Hamasaki is set to compete this weekend, although not in a title fight. She will face DEEP Jewels prospect Seika Izawa, who enters the weekend with a flawless record.
Izawa made her pro debut just over a year ago. She has now attained four victories and is the current DEEP Jewels Strawweight Champion. She won her debut fight at the super atomweight class in October, beating Park Si-woo on scorecards.
Hamasaki re-gained the RIZIN Super Atomweight Championship on New Year’s Eve last year, submitting Miyuu Yamamoto in the first round. She has since defended her belt once, beating Kanna Asakura in March.
Hamasaki’s last appearance was a victory over fellow veteran Emi Fujino.
Bout 12: RENA (12-3) vs. Park Si-woo (5-4) (110 lbs) (MMA Bout)
RIZIN will return from intermission after their 11th bout and broadcast the rest of the show on Japanese network Fuji TV. That leg of the program will kick off with a bout between RENA and Park Si-woo.
This fight is a quick turnaround for RENA, as she picked up a finish win against Miyuu Yamamoto just last month in the main event of RIZIN 32. That performance moved her winning streak to four consecutive – a series of wins she has developed since 2019.
Park has competed in DEEP Jewels since 2019. She is currently on a two-fight skid, although it comes against respectable opponents in Saori Oshima and Seika Izawa.
Bout 13: Tenshin Nasukawa vs. Takanori Gomi (Custom Rules Bout)
Kickboxing star Tenshin Nasukawa will make his final appearance under the RIZIN lights on New Year’s Eve, facing MMA veteran Takanori Gomi in a special rules bout. The fight is set to be three rounds of boxing, although it will not count towards any pro records.
The fight is one of Nasukawa’s last appearances before he makes his switch to boxing. Of course, the much bigger recent story surrounding Nasukawa is his kickboxing superfight against K-1 Japan talent Takeru, which was recently announced for June.
Nasukawa’s appearance on this card is a significantly more relaxed setting as opposed to previous years. In 2020, Nasukawa fought to a decision win against Muay Thai talent Kumandoi Phetjaroenvit. A year before then, he made quick work of kickboxing talent Rui Ebata. And in 2018, he notoriously fought Floyd Mayweather in a boxing exhibition.
Gomi, 43, fought in a similar exhibition striking match last year, defeating Kouzi on New Year’s Eve. His last appearance in his primary sport, MMA, dates back to 2018.
Bout 14: Yutaka Saito (20-5-2) vs. Mikuru Asakura (15-3) (146 lbs) (MMA Bout)
Former RIZIN Featherweight Champion Yutaka Saito will meet Mikuru Asakura in a rematch on Friday night.
Saito first defeated Asakura in 2020, scoring a close decision win against him to become the inaugural featherweight champ in RIZIN. He recently lost that belt to Juntaro Ushiku, as a doctor stoppage halted their title fight in October.
Asakura has picked up two wins and one loss since his defeat to Saito. His last appearance was in October, beating Kyohei Hagiwara at RIZIN’s first “LANDMARK” card.
Bout 15: Roberto Satoshi Souza (12-1) vs. Yusuke Yachi (23-11) (RIZIN Lightweight Championship)
Roberto Satoshi Souza will attempt to defend his RIZIN Lightweight Championship for the first time when facing Yusuke Yachi in a rematch.
Souza first met Yachi in August 2020, finishing him in just under two minutes with punches. He has since only continued to show his dominance, submitting Kazuki Tokudome and Tofiq Musayev within a round each – with the latter performance making him the promotion’s first lightweight champ.
Yachi’s loss to Souza was part of a long slump he developed between 2018 and 2020. During that time, he suffered five losses through six appearances. He is getting the title shot after two strong showings in 2021, going the distance against regional champions Yuki Kawana and Koji Takeda.
A win for Yachi on New Year’s Eve would make him three for three when facing champions this year – the only difference this time is it could also make him a title in the process.
Bout 16: TBA vs. TBA (RIZIN Bantamweight Grand Prix Final)
The evening will conclude with the finale of the RIZIN Bantamweight Grand Prix. The finalists, which will be determined earlier in the card, will be fighting for the second time in one night. The matchup will also be the fighter’s fourth performance, and potentially fourth victory of 2021, making the winner of the bracket undoubtedly a standout for the year.