It just seems like yesterday was RIZIN 17. This weekend we have another RIZIN show gracing our FITE TV apps this weekend. RIZIN 18 takes place a the Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium in Nagoya and might be seen initially as one of their less important shows. On paper, it reads differently. There are a number of notable matches including a milestone kickboxing match, seeds of a future men’s strawweight division, and fights with major implications that will affect their rankings. I will look at five of the matches that I consider the most important and that you should keep an eye out for.
Fights to Watch: RIZIN 18
John Wayne Parr vs. Danilo Zanolini
What if I were to tell you that 43-year-old John Wayne Parr (99-33-1) started kickboxing professionally at the age of 16? What if I were to tell you this is his 133rd fight coming up? Finally, what if I were to tell you that this kickboxing fight against Danilo Zanolini (41-12) can potentially be his 100th win? It all sounds amazing that the highly decorated Muay Thai champion from Australia is STILL fighting to this day. He has achieved so much in this sport and his 100th win would be an incredible landmark in his career. With this fight, JWP makes his way back to Japan.
JWP is not fighting some can though. Zanolini, a Brazilian born fighter who now lives in Japan, has been a RISE welterweight champion and HEAT Kick middle weight champion. He has fast combos and strikes seemingly in the blink of an eye. A win over Parr would in the words of Jim Ross “make himself famous.”
Parr also has a major traditional boxing match coming up in Australia against Anthony Mundine which is getting major publicity. Hopefully this boxing fight has not been a distraction for him and he is giving this fight just as much attention.
Kazuma Sone vs. Justin Scoggins
This fight has many layers behind it. Both fighters are making their return to RIZIN after both losing to Yuki Motoya by submission in their debuts. Both are on losing streaks. Both lost in their RIZIN debut. Both started training in karate.
Justin “Tank” Scoggins (11-6) debuted at RIZIN 14 after having a bunch of fights that did not go his way in the UFC. His tendency was to do good in the beginning of the fights, but then just slip up and get caught in a submission. That happened in 3 of his 4 losses that he is on. He looked good in the against Motoya, then got caught in a rare scissors choke submission.
Seven of Sone’s wins come by submission which gives him the grappling advantage. Scoggins will have to make sure he doesn’t let his guard down, especially if hte fight is going his way. If he does he might wind up with a tight arm around his neck and tapping once again.
After the loss to Motoya, Kazuma Sone (23-18-1) lost his Shooto bantamweight title to Ryo Okada and suffered another loss after that. These two losses were by TKO. That does not bode well going up against a fast puncher such as Scoggins. Scoggins can certainly get the knockout if Sone doesn’t keep those hands up at all times.
Both fighters should come into RIZIN 18 for a win. Not only will that win snap their losing streak, but it gives them a step up in the bantamweight ladder. Whoever loses will continue on their losing streak and have another setback in the bantamweight division. Expect this to be a fast paced, technical match-up.
Haruo Ochi vs. Jarred Brooks
There is no men’s strawweight in America worth paying attention to. A lot of the fighters who should or could be in that division have to wind up fighting at higher weight classes if they want to fight. Jarred “The Monkey God” Brooks (14-2) is one of those fighters. One of three fighters from Michigan fighting on RIZIN 18, he has made a career of being the David taking on Goliaths. He has fought at bantamweight and flyweight and amassed a 14-0 record when he made it to the UFC. He has two questionable losses. One was a split decision loss to Deiveson Figueiredo in a fight many thought he won. The second loss he accidentally knocked himself out going for a slam on Jose Torres.
Making his debut in RIZIN after almost a year of competitive inactivity, Brooks is going to want to show why he was dominant for so many years at three weight classes. He is going down to a weight class that he can best the competition without any question. A win over Ochi would him shoot him up as the #1 strawweight in the world and he wouldn’t even have a belt to show off.
Haruo Ochi (19-7-2) is the current DEEP strawweight champion with two successful title defenses. He also is on a 7 fight win streak, haven’t lost a match since 2016. He made an incredible in his RIZIN debut knocking out then Pancrase strawweight champion Mitsuhisa Sunabe. Ochi can finish a fight on the feet, with a submission, or ride out a decision if he so desires. He is undoubtedly the #1 strawweight in the world right now and has been dominant in all of his streak of wins.
This is a case where the best strawweight in America is taking on the best strawweight in Japan. A winner for either competitor will cement them as the best strawweight in the world.
Alesha Zappitella vs. Kanna Asakura
Looking back at some of RIZIN’s original stars, seeing how they started, then where they are now seems like night and day. While Kanna Asakura (14-4) might have lost her RIZIN debut, she immediately made up for it going on a eight fight winning streak, winning the women’s RIZIN Super Atomweight Grand-Prix, and becoming competing for the inaugural RIZIN Super Atomweight championship. Since losing that fight to Ayaka Hamasaki, she went on to lose her next RIZIN fight to Miyuu Yamamoto.
Two losses are nothing to fret over normally, but considering her dominance in the super atomweight division, to see her go down so easily twice was disheartening. She gets a chance to get back on the RIZIN winning column with her fight at RIZIN 18.
Alesha “Half Pint” Zappitella (5-1, 1 NC) is an accomplished wrestler from the great wrestling state of Ohio, though fighting out of Michigan now. In the five fights she was won, she was dominated with putting on intense pressure on her opponents. She has never let her size hold her back. A win for Zappitella climbs her up the super atomweight ladder.
Two of Asakura’s three loses in RIZIN have been to great wrestlers, Yamamoto and Alyssa Garcia. While Asakura is a great wrestler and grappler herself, that also seems to be her disadvantage. To win this fight, she might have to keep on the stand up, which has improved since she started in RIZIN. I can’t see her having the advantage in the takedown department going up against a strong wrestler such as Zappitella.
Victor Henry vs. Trent Girdham
It was inevitable that “La Mangosta” Victor Henry (18-4) would be in RIZIN. The current DEEP bantamweight champion is on a five fight win streak and has never been finished. Seemingly always the underdog in his fights, this is one of the few times he is the favorite to win. Certainly having Josh Barnett in his corner will help him through this fight. He is tougher than a $2 steak and a guy who refuses to be finished.
Trent “Nino Loco” Girdham (11-2) is a 22-year-old fighter from Australia who now trains full time at Tiger Muay Thai in Phuket. Starting off in kickboxing, he has moved over to MMA and has been incredibly successful. He has finished 8 of his 11 wins. Henry maybe an all rounder, but Girdham certainly has the advantage in the stand up. His main goal will have to be defending against Henry’s top takedown game. If he does not, his RIZIN debut might end quicker than it started.
The fight is the story of two future bantamweight stars in RIZIN. Both are making their debuts and going to show why they should be next for RIZIN bantamweight champion Kyoji Horiguchi down the line. The bantamweight division has been built up great and a win from either competitor will only add more major competition.
RIZIN 18 airs live from Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium in Nagoya, Japan. You can watch live Saturday night at 1 am EST on FITE TV.