RIZIN 35 Preview

Johnny Case and Roberto Satoshi Souza pose at the ceremonial weigh-ins for RIZIN 35.
Johnny Case and Roberto Satoshi Souza will headline RIZIN 35 on Sunday night (RIZIN FF)

Top Japanese MMA promotion RIZIN will present a strong lineup on Sunday night when they host a card from the Musashino Forest Sport Plaza in Tokyo, Japan.

RIZIN 35 is scheduled to be just 10 bouts in total but includes a solid three-fight lineup of title bouts at the top of the schedule. In the main event, Roberto Satoshi Souza will look to defend his RIZIN belt and avenge his sole pro loss when he fights Johnny Case.

Here’s a preview of the entire night.

Main Card (1:00AM EDT / 2:00PM JST) (Live-Now / RIZIN Live)

Bout 1: Takahiro Ashida (24-11-2) vs. Kyle Aguon (13-10) (146 lbs) (MMA Bout)

Featherweights Takahiro Ashida and Kyle Aguon will kick off the card.

Aguon is a veteran of regional promotion Pancrase. He has appeared twice for RIZIN in the past but has yet to come up with a victory for the promotion. His most recent appearance was on New Year’s Eve in 2020, when Kleber Koike scored a first-round submission win against him.

Ashida has earned a win and a loss in RIZIN. The DEEP Impact vet was finished last time around, losing to Masanori Kanehara in October 2021.

Bout 2: Vugar Karamov (15-4) vs. Taichi Nakajima (15-11-1) (146 lbs) (MMA Bout)

Pancrase veteran Taichi Nakajima will make his RIZIN debut on Sunday against Vugar Karamov.

Nakajima has primarily fought in Pancrase since making his pro debut in 2011. He became an interim champ for the promotion in his last fight, defeating Rui Imura in late 2021.

Karamov is returning to RIZIN after a few months out of the cage. His last appearance in the promotion was a close loss to Yutaka Saito in June 2021. Before then, he had a strong winning streak that included an appearance in RIZIN and Bellator each.

Bout 3: Yuki Motoya (29-10) vs. Alan Yamaniha (19-9-4) (134 lbs) (MMA Bout)

In a high-level bantamweight pairing, Yuki Motoya and Alan Yamaniha will face off.

Motoya fought in the RIZIN Bantamweight Grand Prix last year. He advanced past the opening round by beating Ryo Okada but lost in an upset to Kenta Takizawa in the quarter-finals.

Motoya finished his year on a high note, defeating Kintaro on New Year’s Eve.

Yamaniha also fought in the bracket, losing in the quarter-finals to Kai Asakura. This fight is a quick turnaround for him, as he submitted Motonobu Tezuka at RIZIN 34 just last month.

Bout 4: Shoma Shibisai (7-3) vs. Rihards Bigis (9-0) (265 lbs) (MMA Bout)

Undefeated heavyweight Rihards Bigis will make his debut in the next fight, facing Shoma Shibisai.

There is not a ton of information online regarding the RIZIN newcomer. Bigis has fought as a pro since 2015, attaining nine wins in this time. Most of his wins have come via stoppage in the first round due to punches.

Shibisai had a three-fight winning streak broken on New Year’s Eve, as veteran Hideki Sekine stopped him in the second round of a fight.

Bout 5: Koji Takeda (13-2) vs. Spike Carlyle (13-3) (157 lbs) (MMA Bout)

Former UFC fighter Spike Carlyle will test his skills in the RIZIN ring when he meets Koji Takeda.

Carlyle had a brief UFC run in 2020, earning one win and two losses before departing the promotion. He is joining RIZIN after a strong 2021, picking up four finish wins around the U.S. This includes a comeback victory he earned on a Bellator card against Dan Moret.

Takeda beat kickboxer BeyNoah in his last appearance, submitting him via armbar on New Year’s Eve.

Bout 6: Kanna Asakura (18-6) vs. SARAMI (16-12) (108 lbs) (MMA Bout)

Former RIZIN Super Atomweight Champion Kanna Asakura will attempt to snap a losing streak when facing SARAMI on Sunday.

Asakura took two losses in 2021, ending a four-fight winning streak that she strung together in previous years. Her first fight was a close three-round battle against champion Ayaka Hamasaki, with that fight ending via split decision.

Later that year she lost a close decision to rising prospect Saori Oshima.

Asakura is now facing a veteran of the regional scene in SARAMI. She has been fighting since 2012, mainly in promotions like DEEP Jewels and Shooto Japan. She is riding a three-fight winning streak and recently beat Mina Kurobe to earn the Shooto Japan Atomweight Championship.

Bout 7: Tsuyoshi Kosaka (41-33-2) vs. Mikio Ueda (0-0) (265 lbs) (MMA Bout)

In the final non-title fight of the card, veteran Tsuyoshi Kosaka will take on Mikio Ueda.

Kosaka, 52, is a veteran of MMA. He was early to the scene, fighting in the mid-to-late 90s during the early days of RINGS and UFC. He also appeared in Pride FC a few times and even with RIZIN in recent years. He is searching for his first victory since 2015, with his last three appearances being losses.

Research online shows that Ueda is coming from a karate background, and is making the transition to MMA for the first time this weekend.

Bout 8: Ayaka Hamasaki (23-4) vs. Seika Izawa (5-0) (RIZIN Super Atomweight Championship)

In the first of a trio of rematch title fights on Sunday, RIZIN Super Atomweight Champion Ayaka Hamasaki will face undefeated prospect Seika Izawa.

Izawa made a statement on New Year’s Eve last year, pulling off a ground and pound finish win against Hamasaki. Unfortunately for Izawa, this outcome came in a non-title fight, meaning she will have to beat Hamasaki again to officially earn the belt.

Izawa was making her first RIZIN walk in just her fifth fight as a pro. She had previously shown success in DEEP Jewels, where she earned an atomweight belt in 2021.

Hamasaki is currently on her second run as champion. She earned the belt in late 2020 with a victory over Miyuu Yamamoto. Her sole defense of the belt was in March 2021, when she beat Kanna Asakura on scorecards. A loss for her on Sunday could sound the end of an era in the division, as Hamasaki has reigned as the top figure since late 2018.

Bout 9: Juntaro Ushiku (21-8-1) vs. Yutaka Saito (20-6-2) (RIZIN Featherweight Championship)

The long-awaited rematch between Juntaro Ushiku and Yutaka Saito will go next in the lineup.

Ushiku became champion in October 2021, although it wasn’t in a satisfying fashion. Ushiku’s win against Saito came in the second round of a bout due to a doctor stoppage. Because of this, a rematch is happening with the hopes of a more decisive result.

Ushiku is a veteran of DEEP Impact and has seen a large amount of success in that promotion. He remains their featherweight champ still, last defending the belt against Kouya Kanda in December 2021.

Saito fought once since that title bout, losing on New Year’s Eve to Mikuru Asakura.

Bout 10: Roberto Satoshi Souza (13-1) vs. Johnny Case (27-7-1) (RIZIN Lightweight Championship)

RIZIN Lightweight Champion Roberto Satoshi Souza has the chance to avenge his sole pro loss when he faces Johnny Case in Sunday’s main event.

Souza has dominated RIZIN in recent years, scoring four consecutive wins from 2020 to 2021. He became the promotion’s first lightweight champ last year, defeating Tofiq Musayev via submission. He has since also beat Yusuke Yachi.

Case, a former UFC fighter, holds the only win over Souza. He beat him back in October 2019, storming him with punches and finishing him in the second minute of a fight.

Case exited RIZIN in late 2019 after losing to Tofiq Musayev in the semi-finals of their lightweight tournament. He was expected to join the PFL roster in 2021 but was pulled from the lineup being arrested and charged with misdemeanor domestic battery.

Souza’s growth as a fighter has been seen as he has climbed up the RIZIN ranks. But to fully show his growth on Sunday, he has the chance to beat the one person who can say they have a win over him.

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