RIZIN 14 is set to take off a few hours from now with arguably its most stacked card ever. Fans might not be able to watch the exhibition fight between boxing legend Floyd Mayweather Jr. and kickboxing phenom Tenshin Nasukawa, but the card is headlined by two highly-anticipated title fights.
Kyoji Horiguchi, who won the RIZIN 2017 Bantamweight Grand Prix, puts his 10-fight winning streak on the line against Bellator bantamweight champion Darrion Caldwell.
Before that, Kanna Asakura and Ayaka Hamasaki will fight for the RIZIN super atomweight title. Asakura won the RIZIN 2017 Super Atomweight Grand Prix, while Hamasaki is the former Invicta FC atomweight champ.
While those three fights will soak up most of the event’s shine, the rest of the card also contains can’t-miss MMA. Here are five under-the-radar-fights at RIZIN 14.
Daron Cruickshank vs. Damien Brown
Cruickshank and Brown will meet in a lightweight battle of two UFC veterans. “The Detroit Superstar” has gone 6-2 since being released from the UFC and has garnered a 5-2 record in RIZIN to go along with a flashy, yet violent reputation. The American has become a fan favorite in Japan with his patriotic attire and mustache. He’ll put his string of success on the line against Brown.
RIZIN 14 will mark the Australian’s first fight since his UFC release. But he’ll get a chance to get back in the win column in emphatic fashion in a fight that has Fight of the Night potential. Both Cruickshank and Brown are career finishers, with Cruickshank holding wins over Diego Brandao, Erik Koch and Koshi Matsumoto. Brown holds UFC victories over Jon Tuck and Cesar Arzamendia.
Yusuke Yachi vs. Johnny Case
Talk about another exciting lightweight match-up. Yachi will look to get back in the win column after suffering his first RIZIN defeat to Luiz Gustavo. Johnny Case has gone 2-0 since his UFC release, and had a draw with Professional Fighters League championship contender Natan Schulte.
Much like Cruickshank vs. Brown, Yachi and Case are both strikers with a lot of finishing power. Yachi holds wins over Cruickshank, Diego Nunes, Takanori Gomi and Satoru Kitaoka. Case has victories over Frankie Perez, Francisco Trevino and Yan Cabral.
Both Case and Yachi have a tendency to get into wild exchanges, which is a scenario where Yachi thrives. Once things get wild, expect a lot of fun striking until either man goes down.
Ulka Sasaki vs. Manel Kape
Sasaki, a UFC veteran, returns to Japan to fight Kape, who has steadily been building a name for himself in RIZIN.
Sasaki is a submission specialist, through and through, as all four of his UFC victories came via sub. He finished Justin Scoggins, Jenel Lausa, Willie Gates and Roland Delorme in the Octagon.
Kape, on the other hand, is a knockout artist with fight-ending power in both his punches and kicks. He holds RIZIN wins over Ian McCall, Yusaku Nakamura and Erson Yamamoto. His only defeats in the promotion have come to Horiguchi and a split decision to Kai Asakura.
This is an intriguing stylistic match-up for a lot of reasons. On its surface, it’s a striker vs. grappler classic, which is interesting enough. However, Kape has been testing his evolving ground game as of late, as evidenced by his submission win over Nakamura. Something to watch will be whether Kape does his best to keep it standing, or if he tries to test his grappling at all with the dangerous Sasaki, who has been submitted multiple times himself.
Yuki Motoya vs. Justin Scoggins
Motoya has won 14 of his last 15, with his lone loss coming to Horiguchi. He’s a well-rounded fighter mostly known for his submissions, as eight of his 22 wins have come via tapout. He has a couple of ground and pound victories on top of that to further showcase his grappling, which are included in his six T/KO victories.
Scoggins enters the fight with a strong background in wrestling and kickboxing, and recently told MMASucka he wants to test his striking against Motoya. That may be the smart play against Motoya.
However, if Motoya gives Scoggins any issues in the stand-up, we may see Scoggins turn to his wrestling which could open up some wild grappling exchanges. Whatever happens, it’s an exciting bout on paper between two great fighters.
Nobumitsu Osawa vs. Tofik Musaev
A lightweight battle between two RIZIN debutantes will be featured early on RIZIN 14. Osawa has made a name for himself in Shooto, with half of his 12 career wins coming via T/KO. He’ll look for his fourth consecutive win against Musaev, who is looking for his 10th straight win.
Musaev has finished all 13 of his wins, with 11 of them coming via T/KO. He recently earned the two biggest victories of his career, stopping both Marif Piraev and Zurab Betergaraev within two rounds.
Musaev appears to be a heavy favorite, but don’t count the power of Osawa out in a fight that virtually guarantees a finish.
RIZIN 14 goes down Monday morning on New Years’ Eve in a few hours, and can be caught live on FITE TV.