Champions Patricio Pitbull, Kleber Koike Among Fighters Announced For RIZIN 40

Kleber Koike holds the RIZIN Featherweight Championship beside Patricio Pitbull, who holds the Bellator Featherweight Championship.
Kleber Koike and Patricio Pitbull will meet as part of the 2022 New Year’s Eve card (RIZIN FF)

Four big matchups were announced for the New Year’s Eve co-promoted card between Bellator and RIZIN on Wednesday. The show, which will take place at the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan, is expected to include some of the top names from both promotions.

In a champion vs. champion pairing, Bellator’s 145-pound king Patricio Pitbull will meet newly-crowned Kleber Koike.

Pitbull regained his featherweight belt earlier this year, winning in a rematch against AJ McKee Jr. He has since defended his belt once, going five rounds against Adam Borics early this month for a unanimous decision win.

Koike became the RIZIN Featherweight Champion just last weekend, scoring a second-round triangle choke submission against Juntaro Ushiku. He had an overwhelmingly strong campaign towards a title fight before then, earning five consecutive submission wins since his late 2020 RIZIN debut.

Lightweight Champion Souza To Face McKee Jr.

Hot off a successful lightweight debut, AJ McKee Jr. will face RIZIN Lightweight Champion Roberto Satoshi Souza in December.

McKee Jr. fought as a lightweight for the first time earlier this month, working toward a scorecard victory over Spike Carlyle. This move in divisions came after McKee Jr. took his first pro loss in April in a decision result against Patricio Pitbull in a title fight. He had 18 wins as a pro before then.

Souza is much like featherweight champion Koike, who trains at the same gym as him. He has a grappling background and is currently on a five-fight streak of finish wins. He defended his lightweight title for the second time in April, catching Johnny Case in the first round with an armbar.

Horiguchi vs. Ougikubo Trilogy Booked, Archuleta To Face Kim

Hiromasa Ougikubo will get his wish on New Year’s Eve, facing Kyoji Horiguchi for the third time.

Despite currently being recognized as the RIZIN Bantamweight Champion, Horiguchi will be representing Bellator on this card. He has beat Ougikubo twice over the past decade, including once in the RIZIN ring.

Time has passed since their last meeting and Ougikubo has picked up some momentum in the promotion. Because of this, he has called in the past for a trilogy fight between him and Horiguchi.

The fight will notably be at flyweight, a class that neither fighter has appeared at in years.

Horiguchi snapped a two-fight losing streak in his last appearance, overcoming Kintaro in the main event of RIZIN 38.

Ougikubo lost on that same card to Road FC Champion Kim Soo-chul, who will also be appearing at RIZIN 40.

Representing RIZIN, Kim will meet former Bellator champ Juan Archuleta at bantamweight.

Kim’s win over Ougikubo in September was his return to the promotion after competing in Korean promotion Road FC for the past six years.

Archuleta is coming off a recent decision win against Enrique Barzola. Earlier this year he was in the Bellator Bantamweight Grand Prix, but was eliminated by now-finalist Raufeon Stots in April.

Updated Lineup

Here’s an updated look at the RIZIN 40 card. The show currently has four Bellator vs. RIZIN bouts, plus the end of RIZIN’s super atomweight tournament.

Bout 5: Patricio Pitbull (34-5) vs. Kleber Koike (31-5-1) (145 lbs) (MMA Bout)

Bout 4: AJ McKee Jr. (19-1) vs. Roberto Satoshi Souza (14-1) (155 lbs) (MMA Bout)

Bout 3: Juan Archuleta (26-4) vs. Kim Soo-chul (18-6-1) (135 lbs) (MMA Bout)

Bout 2: Kyoji Horiguchi (30-5) vs. Hiromasa Ougikubo (25-6-2) (125 lbs) (MMA Bout)

Bout 1: Seika Izawa (8-0) vs. Park Si-woo (9-4) (RIZIN Super Atomweight Grand Prix Final)

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