Japanese MMA promotion RIZIN confirmed Friday that they will return to the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan for RIZIN 37 on July 31st. Along with the announcement was an eight-pack of bouts that were revealed to take place next month.
The card is expected to include a fight between high-level bantamweights Naoki Inoue and Kenta Takizawa.
Both names competed in the promotion’s bantamweight tournament last year, each only making it as far as the semi-finals. Inoue lost his New Year’s Eve tournament bout against bracket winner Hiromasa Ougikubo. That same night, Takizawa suffered a loss to Kai Asakura.
Before then, both names were on winning streaks that included two previous wins in the 135-pound bracket.
ONE Alum Nakahara To Make RIZIN Debut Against Sasaki
A pair of featherweight bouts were announced for RIZIN 37 on Friday afternoon.
Searching for his first win since coming back to the featherweight class, Ulka Sasaki will fight former ONE Championship talent Yoshiki Nakahara.
Sasaki, a former RIZIN bantamweight, has suffered two consecutive losses since moving up to featherweight. His last fight was a big challenge, as he took a defeat against Kleber Koike in February.
Nakahara will be appearing for the first time since a campaign in Singapore-based promotion ONE Championship. He had success under their banner, scoring three finish victories through four appearances.
Nakahara’s sole loss came against Garry Tonon, a name that later climbed up to a title shot in the promotion’s 155-pound division.
Vugar Karamov and Rikuto Shirakawa will also appear in a featherweight bout.
Karamov has earned two wins and one loss since joining RIZIN in early 2020. He had a quick performance in his last outing, submitting Taichi Nakajima in the second minute with a triangle choke.
Shirakawa is on a tear as of late, having scored three straight wins in RIZIN. He last added to that streak at RIZIN 31 last year, stopping Takuya Yamamoto within a round with strikes.
Big Challenges Ahead For Many Smaller Names
A series of matchups for RIZIN 37 follow a trend, as they see fighters with somewhat small records get big step-ups in competition.
Former Olympic wrestler Shinobu Ota will arguably get the biggest challenge of them all, as he will face veteran Yuki Motoya next month.
Ota picked up the first finish win of his career in December 2021, stopping Kazuma Sone in the second round of a bout. That fight marked his second victory since he debuted in late 2020.
Motoya, a fighter with over 40 pro appearances, is currently riding a two-fight winning streak. He last appeared in April, when he handed Alan Yamaniha a loss on scorecards.
Former sumo wrestler turned heavyweight MMA fighter Tsuyoshi Sudario will also appear, facing the experienced name Hideki Sekine.
Sudario bounced back from his sole pro loss in October 2021, defeating DEEP Impact talent SAINT. Earlier that year, he was submitted by Shoma Shibisai.
Sekine has been on a strong run recently, having scored four wins since February 2021. Two of those have come in RIZIN, including a finish he earned in April against Sudario’s brother, Satoshi Kamiyama.
Kota Miura’s fight against Felipe Masoni has also been rebooked for this card. The pairing was first scheduled for April but ended up not happening.
The fight is a big step-up challenge for Miura following an explosive debut on New Year’s Eve. He will now face Masoni, a name who has scored nine wins through 13 pro appearances.
Updated Card, What’s Next
It was confirmed at Friday’s press conference that RIZIN will kick off a super atomweight tournament this summer. More details will be provided by the promotion next week (credit to CJ of Sogo-Kaku.com for this information).
The card is also scheduled to include a fight between Hideo Tokoro and Makoto Shinryu, along with the return of YUSHI. Here’s how the lineup looks currently:
Bout 8: Naoki Inoue (15-3) vs. Kenta Takizawa (13-8) (134 lbs) (MMA Bout)
Bout 7: Ulka Sasaki (23-10-2) vs. Yoshiki Nakahara (15-5) (145 lbs) (MMA Bout)
Bout 6: Yuki Motoya (30-10) vs. Shinobu Ota (2-1) (134 lbs) (MMA Bout)
Bout 5: YUSHI (1-1) vs. Haruki (136 lbs) (MMA Bout)
Bout 4: Kota Miura (1-0) vs. Felipe Masoni (9-4) (145 lbs) (MMA Bout)
Bout 3: Vugar Karamov (16-4) vs. Rikuto Shirakawa (11-8-1) (145 lbs) (MMA Bout)
Bout 2: Hideki Sekine (12-5) vs. Tsuyoshi Sudario (4-1) (265 lbs) (MMA Bout)
Bout 1: Hideo Tokoro (35-30-2) vs. Makoto Shinryu (13-1-1) (125 lbs) (MMA Bout)