Lindsey VanZandt takes on Rena Kubota at Rizin 20. The event goes on December 31st at 1:00 am EST. The pugilistic proceedings go down at Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan. Their first bout took place in the Bellator cage and now the rematch will go down in the Rizin ring. This is the latest iteration of the cross-promotional relationship between Rizin and Bellator MMA. VanZandt vs Rena II is one of many compelling bouts slated for this epic New Year’s Eve extravaganza.
The eagerness in VanZandt’s voice was palpable as she readies to fight in the land of the rising sun. VanZandt said, “It’s so exciting. I’m excited it’s finally happening. It’s still kind of like unreal. I know it’s happening but it doesn’t feel like it’s happening yet.”
The tradition of New Year’s Eve mixed-martial-arts in Japan is something VanZandt is well aware of. In fact, she was actually supposed to compete on an earlier NYE event.
VanZandt stated, “I watched it a couple of times and I was supposed to fight her on the card last year. She ended up coming up here to fight me. So I’m just excited the rematch is happening there. Everybody’s like ‘oh you’re going to enemy territory’ and I’m like dude, I want to go to Japan. I’m excited.”
The Japanese fans have been sending her positive messages already. The enemy territory narrative is not quite the same for gaijins coming into Japan. With going over to Japan, there also comes a change in the ruleset of the fight. This is something that VanZandt has examined from a few angles.
Lindsey VanZandt quipped, “I’m definitely going to do my thing. We are preparing for the different kind of rules. I’m pretty lucky because I played soccer when I was a kid. So I feel like the soccer kicks are going to be a natural thing for me. I’m pretty excited to have the different rules because I don’t get to use those rules a lot. Yeah, it’s kind of scary like it can be done to me. I can get kneed in the face on the ground or I can get soccer kicked…Hopefully, I can utilize it.”
After the initial Rena win, Lindsey VanZandt’s Invicta FC 36 performance marked her lone instance of losing in 2019. The split decision defeat to Jéssica Delboni was a minor setback though with VanZandt rebounding less than two months later. Her recent Invicta leg kick finish over Shino VanHoose occurred less than forty seconds into round one.
VanZandt said, “I honestly didn’t think it would end that quickly. I really worked on my standup after that fight. I definitely gained more confidence since then. So I’m excited that my game is becoming well rounded.”
The confidence in her striking is obviously growing but the grappling is coming along nicely as well. VanZandt got her brown belt in BJJ recently and it was a powerful moment for her. VanZandt stated, “I broke down. I was crying like a little baby. It was in no-gi class too. So I had to walk to my car to get my belt and I was crying on my way to the car. I don’t think I’ve ever cried so much being happy.”
It also helps that she’s working with names like DeAnna Bennett ahead of this bout. Upgrades happen daily in the gym but VanZandt also upgraded from a boil and bite mouthguard recently. Management hooked her up with some sweet mouthguards and the rising atom weight star also has a mental coach as well.
Invicta FC, Rizin FF, and Bellator MMA
After the Rena rematch, VanZandt will have taken part in five fights in 2019. She credits staying limber as well as good personnel in her life. VanZandt quipped, “I try to stretch as much as I can and mobility work and all of that stuff. But I feel like I owe it all to my massage therapist and my two chiropractic guys…..Ever since I’ve had them on my team, I’ve got injured way less.”
With the aforementioned five bouts in 2019, VanZandt will have performed for three different promotions. She has fought under the Bellator, Invicta, and Rizin banners all through the year. VanZandt is quite appreciative of her present contractual agreement with Invicta FC that is proving both fan and fighter friendly.
VanZandt stated, “That’s why Invicta is so awesome. They want their girls to get as much experience and they can fight outside as long as they allow it. As long as they don’t have a bout that they want me to be in coming up. They’re usually pretty cool with letting me fight outside the promotion. So yeah that’s so awesome. They just want me to have the best career that I can. So I’m just so blessed to be part of Invicta.”
Lindsey VanZandt also has aspirations for an atomweight phoenix rising tournament in Invicta for 2020. This will facilitate getting multiple fights lined up so she can sustain a similar pace in 2020. Before any of that can happen though, she must first get past Rena at Rizin 20.