RIZIN 40 Preview

Roberto Satoshi Souza and AJ McKee Jr. pose at a press conference.
Roberto Satoshi Souza and AJ McKee Jr. will headline the annual New Year’s Eve card from Japan (RIZIN FF)

Hundreds of high-level MMA events have come and passed in 2022. Some eras have begun, while others have come to an end. And while most of the year has already been written into history books, it’s not entirely over yet.

Japanese MMA promotion RIZIN will return to the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan this Saturday for their annual New Year’s Eve card. The promotion offers its best matchups of the year on its December 31st show, often having tournaments or overarching themes of the year come to a conclusion on the card.

This year offers an interesting collaborative twist. Bellator will co-promote with RIZIN for the top portion of the card. The show is scheduled to include five fights that see a Bellator talent go up against a RIZIN name. The card is stacked full of top talent from both promotions. This includes champions like Kleber Koike, Patricio Pitbull, Roberto Satoshi Souza, and Seika Izawa. Here’s a preview of the entire evening of festivities.

Click here to skip to a preview of the “Bellator vs. RIZIN” section of the card.

Main Card (12:00AM EST / 2:00PM JST) (FITE / RIZIN Live)

Bout 1: Yushi (2-1) vs. Tatsuya Nakazawa (1-0) (137 lbs) (MMA Bout)

The lengthy New Year’s Eve card will kick off at a local time of 2PM. The first 10 bouts of the show are scheduled to be available on FITE TV in the U.S. The whole card can be purchased within Japan via many online services, including Abema, U-NEXT, and RIZIN Stream Pass.

The evening will begin with the fourth appearance from Yushi.

Yushi made his debut for RIZIN on New Year’s Eve last year. He was certainly not the focus of that debut bout. Instead, much of the spotlight went to opponent Kota Miura, who is the son of famous footballer Kazuyoshi Miura.

Yushi lost his first MMA fight in late 2021 to Miura. However, he has since bounced back with two consecutive finish wins inside the RIZIN ring. Yushi’s recent success along with his charisma as a person has made him a name that has garnered a fair amount of attention within the promotion. He has amassed a notable following, with his Instagram currently sitting at 129,000 followers. With the New Year’s Eve focus on him once again, he’ll be aiming for his third pro win.

Like Yushi, Nakazawa has little experience in MMA. His sole pro fight dates back to 2015 when he won on a DEEP card. He will be trying to play spoiler this weekend.

Bout 2: BeyNoah (1-2) vs. Sho Patrick Usami (5-1) (157 lbs) (MMA Bout)

Prospect Sho Patrick Usami will face kickboxer BeyNoah in an MMA bout next.

Usami, a 22-year-old MMA prospect, gained notoriety by competing on the reality TV show “LDH DREAMERS.” While sponsored by entertainment company LDH, he fought on the regional scene and picked up four wins from 2021 to 2022. His sole pro loss came earlier this year, when he dropped a fight against Nobumitsu Tyson.

Usami made his RIZIN debut in October, earning a third-round finish victory over veteran Shinji Sasaki.

BeyNoah is best known for his kickboxing career in the promotion RISE. He has briefly tested out MMA since 2021, attaining one win through three appearances. His last MMA bout was roughly a year ago when Koji Takeda submitted him in the second round with an armbar.

Bout 3: Yoshiki Nakahara (17-5) vs. Chihiro Suzuki (9-3) (146 lbs) (MMA Bout)

Winning streaks will collide on Saturday night when Yoshiki Nakahara and Chihiro Suzuki collide.

Nakahara made the move to RIZIN this year after previously competing in ONE Championship. He joined the promotion already on a two-fight winning streak from his previous fights for ONE.

He has since picked up a pair of wins in RIZIN, overcoming Tetsuya Seki and Akira Haraguchi. The fight against Haraguchi was originally scheduled to be a much bigger bout against the highly touted Vugar Karamov.

Suzuki has put together an impressive four consecutive wins since late 2021. His 2022 victories came against a trio of notable RIZIN names: Ren Hiramoto, Kyohei Hagiwara, and Masakazu Imanari.

Bout 4: Johnny Case (27-9-1) vs. Nobumitsu Tyson (14-6) (156 lbs) (MMA Bout)

Johnny Case will go up against short-notice opponent Nobumitsu Tyson this weekend.

Case was originally booked to face rising lightweight Luiz Gustavo this weekend. However, after Gustavo suffered an injury, he was pulled from the card and replaced by Tyson.

Case will be fighting to get back into the win column. He has gone winless since late 2019, albeit against some of the top names in RIZIN’s lightweight division. His last defeat saw him drop a decision to Koji Takeda in July.

Tyson will be making his first RIZIN appearance since late 2018, when he fought now-Bellator talent Tofiq Musayev. He has competed on the regional scene since then, picking up two wins and one loss.

Bout 5: Yuki Motoya (32-10) vs. Rogerio Bontorin (17-4) (134 lbs) (MMA Bout)

Appearing for the first time since a six-fight UFC run, Rogerio Bontorin will take on Yuki Motoya.

Bontorin fought on the UFC roster from 2019 to 2022 as part of their flyweight division. He competed against some of the promotion’s top name in the division, with his last fight being an early 2022 decision loss to Brandon Royval.

Motoya will be looking to wrap up a solid 2022 that has seen him already score three victories. His most recent win was just last month, when he beat Kazuma Kuramoto on a “LANDMARK” card.

Bout 6: Ren Hiramoto vs. X (Special Rules Bout)

The final bout before the intermission will be a special one. Competing in a stand-up rules match, Ren Hiramoto will take on an opponent that has yet to be revealed. It is assumed that the opponent will only be revealed once it comes time for the match to happen.

All things considered, Hiramoto has had a pretty solid 2022. He entered the year after an excursion in the U.S., training at Roufusport with the goal of rounding out his MMA skills. While he started his in-ring year with a loss to Chihiro Suzuki, he was able to turn things around in the second half of the year with victories over Hiroaki Suzuki and Satoshi Yamasu. He’ll be heading into 2023 with an even MMA record, and possibly a win in this rare style of fight.

Bout 7: Hideo Tokoro (35-31-2) vs. John Dodson (22-13) (126 lbs) (MMA Bout)

In a clash between two veterans of MMA, Hideo Tokoro and John Dodson will meet at flyweight.

Dodson most notably fought in the UFC from 2011 to 2020. He challenged for the promotion’s 125-pound belt twice during his time there. He has competed on the U.S. regional scene more in recent years. Dodson’s last fight was an appearance in the bare-knuckle boxing promotion BKFC, where he beat UFC alum Ryan Benoit in 40 seconds.

Tokoro, an MMA vet of more than two decades, will be making his seventh RIZIN appearance. He appeared for the first time in a year-and-a-half in July, losing a fight at RIZIN 37 to Makoto Shinryu.

Bout 8: Tsuyoshi Sudario (6-1) vs. Junior Tafa (3-0) (265 lbs) (MMA Bout)

Heavyweight Tsuyoshi Sudario will attempt to keep his winning streak going this weekend when he takes on Junior Tafa.

Sudario has put together six wins and one loss since debuting in 2020. He moved to MMA after a career as a sumo wrestler. Sudario picked up his biggest win yet as a pro in July, stopping veteran Hideki Sekine in just 53 seconds at RIZIN 37. He has since also earned a finish win against Janos Csukas.

Junior Tafa, the brother of UFC talent Justin Tafa, will be making his RIZIN debut this weekend. He has a background in numerous combat sports, having fought in both boxing and kickboxing along with MMA. His second MMA win emerged just last month, beating Nicolas Djurdjevic at Brave CF 66.

Bout 9: Naoki Inoue (15-3) vs. Kenta Takizawa (13-8) (134 lbs) (MMA Bout)

Naoki Inoue and Kenta Takizawa will return to action in the next matchup.

Both bantamweights have been out of action throughout 2022, having been inactive since appearing in the RIZIN Bantamweight Grand Prix.

Inoue advanced through the first two rounds of that tournament in 2021, stopping Shintaro Ishiwatari and beating Kintaro on scorecards. But his bracket run came to an end on New Year’s Eve, as Hiromasa Ougikubo beat him in the semi-finals on scorecards. Ougikubo went on to win the entire bracket later that night.

Takizawa became somewhat of an underdog semi-finalist in the grand prix last year, advancing past Masakazu Imanari in the first round and then scoring an upset first-round finish over Yuki Motoya. His tournament run was stopped by Kai Asakura on New Year’s Eve last year.

A fight between Inoue and Takizawa was first booked for a July card this year, but didn’t happen then due to an injury.

Bout 10: Seika Izawa (8-0) vs. Park Si-woo (9-4) (RIZIN Super Atomweight Grand Prix Finals)

RIZIN’s Super Atomweight Grand Prix will culminate on Saturday night when divisional champion Seika Izawa faces Park Si-woo for the second time.

Izawa has been one of the most impressive names in RIZIN in recent years. She made a splash in her promotional debut late last year, beating then-champion Ayaka Hamasaki in a non-title fight. She then faced Hamasaki once again this year, that time beating her via decision to earn the 108-pound belt.

RIZIN kicked off an eight-woman tournament in July after Izawa called for the bracket to be made. Izawa has submitted both of her opponents in the tournament thus far, defeating Laura Fontoura and Anastasiya Svetkivska.

Similar to Izawa, Park’s RIZIN debut came in late 2021 with a win over a notable opponent. Her first fight for the promotion was on New Year’s Eve when she beat star talent RENA on scorecards.

Park’s two fights in the tournament thus far have been against big-name opponents. In her quarter-final fight, Park beat Kanna Asakura – the person who notably won RIZIN’s 2017 super atomweight tournament. She then beat former champion Ayaka Hamasaki in September to secure a spot in the finals.

Izawa and Park notably met on a DEEP Impact card in October 2021. That fight went the way of Izawa on scorecards but was a close contest. Their second meeting comes more than a year later on a significantly larger stage.

RIZIN x Bellator (Showtime)

Bout 11: Koji Takeda (15-3) vs. Gadzhi Rabadanov (156 lbs) (MMA Bout)

The final five fights of the card will be a “RIZIN vs. Bellator” showcase. This portion of the card will be available on tape delay for U.S. viewers, airing on Saturday night during prime-time hours on Showtime.

In the first of two lightweight bouts as part of this showcase, Koji Takeda and Gadzhi Rabadanov will meet.

Takeda has frequently competed on the RIZIN roster since 2020. He started his year with a loss to Bellator talent Spike Carlyle. He bounced back from this defeat with a win over Johnny Case in July, plus a submission victory against Zach Zane in October.

Rabadanov has yet to lose through three appearances in Bellator. He took Jay Jay Wilson’s undefeated record this year, and also beat Bobby King on scorecards.

Bout 12: Juan Archuleta (26-4) vs. Kim Soo-chul (18-6-1) (134 lbs) (MMA Bout)

Former Bellator Bantamweight Champion Juan Archuleta will take on Kim Soo-chul in the next bout.

Kim currently holds a featherweight belt in the Korean promotion Road FC. He made his return to RIZIN this year, putting on a three-round battle against 2021 RIZIN Bantamweight Grand Prix winner Hiromasa Ougikubo. Kim walked away from that fight with a decision win.

Archuleta snapped a two-fight skid in October, beating Enrique Barzola on scorecards. His previous losses saw him drop his belt to Sergio Pettis in 2021, then lose an interim title fight versus Raufeon Stots.

Bout 13: Kyoji Horiguchi (30-5) vs. Hiromasa Ougikubo (25-6-2) (125 lbs) (MMA Bout)

The trilogy bout between Kyoji Horiguchi and Hiromasa Ougikubo will go next.

While Horiguchi is the current RIZIN Bantamweight Champion, he is also currently a Bellator fighter, and because of that is representing them in this matchup.

Horiguchi’s last appearance saw him appear at RIZIN 38, submitting Kintaro in the second round of a bout. This put him back into the win column after losing a Bellator title fight to Sergio Pettis in late 2021 and getting eliminated from the promotion’s ongoing bantamweight tournament in April.

Ougikubo picked up four victories in 2021 en route to winning the RIZIN Bantamweight Grand Prix. He notably beat Naoki Inoue and Kai Asakura in the same night to win that tournament. He took a loss in his last fight, dropping a decision to Kim Soo-chu in September.

Horiguchi and Ougikubo previously met in both 2018 and 2013. Horiguchi prevailed in both instances that they battled before. Ougikubo has noted recently that he has wanted to face Horiguchi again in hopes of avenging those losses.

It’s worth noting that this fight is being held at a flyweight limit, a class lower than what both fighters have been competing at as of late.

Bout 14: Patricio Pitbull (34-5) vs. Kleber Koike (31-5-1) (145 lbs) (MMA Bout)

In the sole champion vs. champion match of the night, Patricio Pitbull and Kleber Koike will compete.

Pitbull regained the Bellator Featherweight Championship in April, going five rounds against AJ McKee Jr. to win a unanimous decision and get back a loss he took a year prior. He went the distance in a title fight again later in the year, overcoming Adam Borics in October to defend his belt.

Kleber earned champion status in October, submitting Juntaro Ushiku in the second round of a bout at RIZIN 39. A long string of wins for Kleber led him to the title fight this year. He first debuted for RIZIN in late 2020 with a submission over Kyle Aguon. After scoring four more submission victories, including wins over Mikuru Asakura and Ulka Sasaki, he was finally given a title shot this fall. Now with a title around his waist, Koike has the biggest fight of his career this weekend.

Bout 15: AJ McKee Jr. (19-1) vs. Roberto Satoshi Souza (14-1) (156 lbs) (MMA Bout)

New Year’s Eve will conclude with a fight between flashy Bellator talent AJ McKee Jr. and RIZIN grappling ace Roberto Satoshi Souza.

McKee Jr. is known for being incredibly successful in Bellator and winning many fights via impressive fashion.

McKee Jr.’s entire 20-fight pro career has taken place within the Bellator cage. He fought as a featherweight from 2015 to earlier this year but moved up to lightweight after dropping his belt in a rematch with Patricio Pitbull.

McKee Jr. won his lightweight debut in October, going the distance against hectic opponent Spike Carlyle for a decision win. This weekend he’ll have a tough opponent for what is just his second lightweight bout.

Souza has held RIZIN’s lightweight belt since 2021. He captured the title in his fourth victory for the promotion, submitting Tofiq Musayev at the Tokyo Dome in June 2021. A showcase of his grappling skills has only continued since then, submitting Yusuke Yachi at RIZIN’s 2021 New Year’s Eve card and putting away Johnny Case within a round in April this year.

2022 in MMA will go out with a bang like it usually does with New Year’s Eve events. The night will come to an end with a fight between two of the biggest names from each promotion, fighting in what could potentially be a tiebreaker in the “promotion vs. promotion” card after the first four bouts take place.

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