Rizin 21: Roque Martinez & Mikuru Asakura Return, Naoki Inoue & Masanori Kanehara Debut for Promotion


At a press conference yesterday in Japan, Rizin Fighting Federation announced 12 fights for their first show of 2020, RIZIN 21. The announcement included a number of bantamweight fights, hinting there might be a tournament this year. Fighters who will be returning to the promotion include Roque Martinez, Mikuru Asakura, Victory Henry, and Trent Girdham. Former UFC fighters Naoki Inoue and Masanori Kanehara will also be having their first fights in the promotion. The show will take place at the Hamamatsu Arena in Shizuoka on February 22.

Roque Martinez vs. Hideki “Shrek” Sekine

Heavyweight Roque Martinez returns to RIZIN in a kaiju clash against Hideki “Shrek” Sekine. Photo courtesy of RIZIN FF.

Fans who have been clamoring for some big boy matches are getting their wish. Guamamanian Roque Martinez (14-5-2) will be taking on moat fighter, grappler, pro wrestler, and former police officer Hideki “Shrek” Sekine (7-3).

Martinez has not fought for Rizin since his split decision loss to Jake Heun at Rizin 16. In the meantime, he defended his DEEP Megaton Championship against Seigo Mizuguchi, knocking him out in the second round. “I’m very grateful to be called back to RIZIN. I feel that it is my responsibility to keep the heavyweight division active and to shine like in the PRIDE days,” Martinez said. “I want to be the face of RIZIN’s heavyweight division, and become a mainstay by putting on exciting fights.”

Sekine is a 46-year-old fighter who has fought for DEEP, Ganryujima, and ONE. He has also wrestled for All Japan Pro Wrestling. He is on a three-fight losing streak, one of those losses coming by knockout in 11 seconds in the first round. “I want to fight as a pro wrestler and show the greatness of a pro wrestler. My go-to move is my german suplex and backdrops so I would like to utilize those in my fight,” he said. “I want to show the people who I was involved with when I was a police officer and show them that police officers are really strong.”

Victory Henry vs. Masanori Kanehara

Victor Henry has the opportunity to get revenge on Masanori Kanehara for submitting in Quintet. Photo courtesy of RIZIN FF.

Josh Barnett’s protege Victor Henry (19-4) returns to RIZIN to face off against a familiar foe in Masanori Kanehara (27-13-5). The two met in at a Quintet grappling bout in 2018. Kanehara submitted Henry with a straight foot lock.

Henry is the current DEEP bantamweight champion, winning the belt from Yuki Motoya. He made his RIZIN debut at RIZIN 18 where he submitted Trent Girdham with a reverse triangle choke. “I’m looking forward to fighting a skillful veteran who has competed with the best in the world,” he said. “I’m looking to get revenge for that slick footlocker he caught me in during our Quintet match.”

Kanehara is a familiar name to JMMA fans. He is a former Sengoku featherweight champion and has wins over Kid Yamamoto, Alex Caceres, and The Korean Zombie. Kanehara also fought in the UFC where he went 1-2. “I want to make people say ‘Kanehara is at his prime’ instead of ‘Kanehara was at his prime’,” he said.

Trent Girdham vs. Naoki Inoue

Australia’s Trent Girdham (12-3) is looking to redeem his debuting loss in RIZIN as he takes on RIZIN newcomer Naoki Inoue (12-2).

Girdham trains out of the famed Tiger Muay Thai camp in Phuket, Thailand. Initially a boxer, he successfully transitioned to MMA. He has also fought in kickboxing, Muay Thai kickboxing, and shootboxing. “I’m missing one thing in my career at the moment and that’s a win in Japan,” he said. “I want this win really bad and I want to show the world that I can compete for the RIZIN belt by the end of the year and that starts with violently finishing Naoki Inoue.”

Inoue recently returned to his home promotion DEEP after going 1-1 in the UFC. He won his return fight by submission. The Longo-Weidman fighter is a submission specialist, with most of his wins coming by rear-naked choke or armbar. “Trent Girdham is a confident striker, but I will be able to take him on at every aspect of the fight so I would like to finish him and make a statement,” Inoue said.

Mikuru Asakura vs. Daniel Salas

Mikuru Asakura is quickly returning to the ring to face Daniel Salas in the main event. Photo courtesy of RIZIN FF.

Mikuru Asakura (12-1, 1 NC) is on record saying that he would fight less in 2020 to focus on his popular Youtube channel. His layoff appears to have been short-lived as he returns immediately after December’s RIZIN 20 to face Mexico’s Daniel Salas (16-6-1) in the advertised main event.

Asakura has become a favorite of the RIZIN fans due to his violent, brawling style standup. He is currently on an eight-fight win streak, with his most recent win coming from Bellator’s John Macapa by unanimous decision. “I know I can put on an entertaining fight regardless of my opponent, so I ask that everybody come to Hamamatsu to watch the fights LIVE and experience the fights,” Asakura said. “I’ve seen a few minutes of my opponents’ fights and I think he is very tough.”

Salas is a 31-year-old fighter from Mexico City, Mexico. Training out of the Bonebreakers MMA camp alongside UFC’s Augusto Montaño, Salas will be making his RIZIN debut. Salas is a Center Real Fights lightweight champion and was also on Kelvin Gastelum’s team on The Ultimate Fighter: Latin America 2. “I look forward in showing my technique and strong heart to the Japanese fans,” Salas said.

Current Card

Mikuru Asakura vs. Daniel Salas

Trent Girdham vs. Naoki Inoue

Victory Henry vs. Masanori Kanehara

Roque Martinez vs. Hideki “Shrek” Sekine

Marcos “Yoshio” Souza vs. Falco Neto

Vugar Kyaramov vs. Kyle Aguon

Kintaro vs. Kenji Kato

YUYA vs. KOUKI (Kickboxing)

Kousuke Jitukata vs. Ryo Sakai (Kickboxing)

Masaji Tozuka vs. Masahiro Ozawa (Kickboxing)

Henry Cejas vs. SEIDO (Kickboxing)

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Andrew has been a long time MMA and pro wrestling fan. When he isn't writing about MMA, he is usually training in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, playing video games, or going bar hopping (he only drinks on days that end in "y"). He also co-hosts the RIZIN focused podcast "We are RIZIN" which you can listen to on Soundcloud & Stitcher.

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