RIZIN: Yarennoka adds first bouts, including Tatsuya Kawajiri headliner
Well, finally, announcements have begun rolling out courtesy of a press conference late Sunday in Japan. The stellar match-ups were topped by the announcement of a star-studded lightweight main event between Tatsuya Kawajiri and Satoru Kitaoka.
Also announced was an unexpected banger at 61kg as Jae Hoon Moon takes on Kai Asakura in what should be an incredible striking showcase. Kana Watanabe will rematch Shizuka Sugiyama, and Yuta Uchida faces Takuma Konishi in a kickboxing contest.
Tatsuya Kawajiri vs. Satoru Kitaoka
Tatsuya “Crusher” Kawajiri (36-12-2) has long been considered one of the best lightweights of all-time, and certainly in the history of Japanese martial arts. Throughout his storied career, Kawajiri has amassed many accolades. He has won the Shooto Rookie Tournament, the Shooto Lightweight Championship, the Shooto Welterweight Championship, and fought in some of the greatest fights of all time.
Kawajiri’s bouts with Eddie Alvarez in DREAM and Takanori Gomi in PRIDE are considered two of the best fights in MMA history. The former DREAM and Strikeforce title-challenger made his way to the UFC in 2014 backed by a ton of fanfare. “Crusher” went on a 3-3 run in the organization before leaving and heading back to Japan as he signed with RIZIN Fighting Federation in 2016. He is currently 1-2 since doing so, defeating Anthony Birchak in a war, tapping to BJJ wizard Kron Gracie, and most recently losing in a shocking upset to Gabriel Oliveira in late 2017.
Opposite the 40-year-old legend will be a fellow pioneer, as 38-year-old wildcard Satoru Kitaoka (41-16) will make his return to RIZIN. The former Sengoku and DEEP title-holder is one of the most underappreciated fighters in Japanese MMA history and has put together quite a resume for himself. Known for his unreal submission savvy, Kitaoka has been able to tap the likes of Carlos Condit, Paul Daley, Takanori Gomi, and Daron Cruickshank.
Since joining the RIZIN ranks in 2016, the Lotus MMA representative has gone just 2-4. Following the incredible come-from-behind win over Cruickshank, Kitaoka was starched by Yusuke Yachi and handily outworked by Kiichi Kunimoto in his sole 2017 outings. The bout against Kawajiri will be Kitaoka’s fourth of 2018, and he hopes to bring his record on the year to .500. Since a win under the Pancrase banner earlier in the year, he was knocked out by Diego Brandao at RIZIN 11 and very recently lost his DEEP title to Koji Takeda.
Jae Hoon Moon vs. Kai Asakura II
This is not hyperbole when I say this, but Jae Hoon Moon (11-11) genuinely may possess the most deceiving record in MMA. The Octagon Gym rep has showcased some exceptional boxing technique throughout his career that makes up for any holes in grappling he may have.
The former ROAD FC title-challenger made his RIZIN debut in 2017 and lost a very controversial split decision to Kevin Petshi in the RIZIN Bantamweight Grand-Prix quarter-finals. Two months later he returned and defeated UFC veteran Anthony Birchak to become an alternate in that same grand-prix. Back in June, Moon was stopped by Yuki Motoya in an absolute war during the final show at the famed Differ Ariake arena.
Prior to the RIZIN signing, Jae Hoon Moon had one last ROAD FC outing in mid-2017. Here he stopped undefeated hot prospect Kai Asakura.
Since losing the first bout of his career to Moon, Kai Asakura (11-1) has looked sensational competing solely for RIZIN. The former The Outsider Champion is 3-0 under the RIZIN banner against very solid opposition. Making his debut on the same card in which Moon defeated Birchak, the 24-year-old Asakura scored a brutal knockout win against Kizaemon Saiga.
Following that finish, Kai Asakura won two back-to-back decisions after going his entire career up until that point having never made it to the scorecards. Defeating Manel Kape in a somewhat controversial call at RIZIN 10 before most recently taking it to Topnoi Tiger Muay Thai at RIZIN 13 by utilizing his excellent striking with takedowns peppered in to show off a surprisingly well-rounded game.
Kana Watanabe vs. Shizuka Sugiyama II
Judo powerhouse Kana Watanabe (4-0-1) brings her undefeated record back to RIZIN against a foe she is very familiar with after picking up a fairly dominant unanimous decision win over Shizuka Sugiyama last year. The win over the 20-fight vet came in what was Watanabe’s second professional fight.
Since then she has competed three times under the DEEP (JEWELS) banner. After fighting Yukari Nabe to a majority draw earlier in the year, Watanabe went on to defeat her in the rematch three months later. Back in August, we saw Kana Watanabe dominate Asami Nakai before taking her out with a deep armbar early.
A veteran of the Japanese women’s MMA scene, Shizuka Sugiyama (16-5-1) has not remained terribly active as of late. The fight against Watanabe in 2017 was her third MMA bout in the span of three years.
Since that loss, in fact, Sugiyama has competed just once, at DEEP JEWELS 20, the same card in which Watanabe defeated Nabe. Prior to her former opponent getting a win, Sugiyama took to the ring and dominated Sachiko Fujimori. She was then given the biggest fight of her life at RIZIN 11 against Rin Nakai, but the bout was unfortunately canceled last minute.
Joining these three bouts will be the aforementioned kickboxing contest between Yuta Uchida and Takuma Konishi. RIZIN: Yarennoka will take place the same day as RIZIN 14, the morning of, in fact. The show will begin at 9am local time.
If the Yuta Uchida name sounds familiar to some, we have seen him in a RIZIN ring before. It was an MMA contest back in 2015 during RIZIN’s debut show. Here he lost to Valentin Moldavsky and had really not been heard from in the fight community since.