RIZIN Announces Return Shows in August; Kai Asakura vs. Hiromasa Ougikubo for the Vacant Bantamweight Championship

RIZIN makes it's return with RIZIN 22. Photo courtesy of RIZIN FF.

After months of no shows and no word on the future of RIZIN, CEO Nobuyuki Sakakibara announced this week the promotion will be returning in August with back to back shows. RIZIN 22 and RIZIN 23 are scheduled to be put on at the newly built PIA Arena in Yokohama August 9 and 10. The promotion will be abiding by government capacity regulations due to COVID-19 operating at a half capacity of about 5,000 attendees. RIZIN is also seeking crowdfunding to help support the shows with various perks for donors. A number of fights were also announced for both shows.

Hiromasa Ougikubo vs. Kai Asakura

Hiromasa Ougikubo and Kai Asakura will meet in a fierce clash to crown a new bantamweight champion. Photo courtesy of RIZIN FF.

With the bantamweight belt currently vacant, this match can hopefully crown a longterm champion. The belt has had a streak of bad luck. Inaugural champion Kyoji Horiguchi injured his ACL last year and vacated the belt. At RIZIN 20Manel Kape beat Kai Asakura to become champion. A few months later, Kape signed with the UFC and vacated the belt.

Number one contender Hiromasa Ougikubo (20-4-2) is looking to get the biggest championship of his career. As a former Shooto flyweight champion, he vacated that organization’s belt when he signed with RIZIN. He has wins over Yuki Motoya and Shintaro Ishiwatari in RIZIN.

“It has been a long journey but I feel that I have finally come to where I need to be. I will show everything I’ve got, and I will beat Kai Asakura,” Ougikubo said.

Kai Asakura (14-2) has been a RIZIN regular since 2017. He shocked the combat sports world when he knocked out Kyoji Horiguchi in a non-title fight last year. He fought against Manel Kape at RIZIN 20 for the vacant bantamweight title and suffered his first loss in the promotion getting TKO’ed in the second round.

“I am very happy to be able to fight. I’ve learned so much from my last fight and I know that I’ve gotten better,” Asakura said. “I know must win this fight for the future of RIZIN and the future of Japanese MMA. I am determined to win this belt.”

Kanna Asakura vs. Mizuki Furuse

Former super atomweight champion Kanna Asakura returns to take on 19-year-old Mizuki Furuse at RIZIN 22. Photo courtesy of RIZIN FF.

Former super atomweight champion Kanna Asakura (16-4) will be returning to the RIZIN ring taking on DEEP Jewels fighter Mizuki Furuse (7-6).

Asakura (no relation to Kai) is riding a two-fight streak since her loss to Miyuu Yamamoto. The 22-year-old Paraestra Matsudo fighter has made a name for herself due to her dangerous grappling skills and outworking the most skilled of opponents.

“This will be the first time I will be facing somebody younger and inexperienced than me. I would like to be a great obstacle to this up and coming talent and put on a good fight,” Asakura said.

Furuse may only be 19-years-old but has amassed a lot of experience in the fight game. She is a former Amateur Shooto Champion, winning the 16th Kanto Amateur Shooto Championship. She is riding a four-fight win streak, with two being first-round finishes.

“I’m honored to be given the opportunity to fight on such a big stage,” Furuse said. “I am sitting here with confidence that I can beat Kanna Asakura. I look forward to making a name for myself and becoming recognized”

Yusuke Yachi vs. Roberto de Souza

Both fighters will look to bounce back and get back in the winning column in RIZIN MMA at RIZIN 22. Photo courtesy of RIZIN FF.

While these two fighters had much success in RIZIN’s MMA division in the past, recent fights have left them with devastating losses.

Yusuke Yachi (21-9) snapped his MMA losing streak at Bellator Japan with a beautiful soccer kick TKO to Hiroto Uesako. However, he is currently riding a three-fight losing streak in RIZIN. Once pegged to be the golden boy of the RIZIN lightweight division, that all came crashing down after those losses. A win for the Krazy Bee fighter will be a great comeback story.

“Putting on events during such times may have several opinions, but as long as I’m going to do this, I want to make sure to put on my best performance and deliver hope and inspiration to the Japanese fans,” Yachi said.

Roberto “Satoshi” de Souza (9-1) showed he wasn’t just a jiu-jitsu Superman when he fought in RIZIN. The BJJ black belt knocked out his first two opponents, Satoru Kitaoka and Mizuto Hirota. When he faced Johnny Case in the lightweight Grand Prix last year, Souza suffered a brutal knockout with an added soccer kick to the face.

“My last performance was embarrassing. I couldn’t end my career like this,” De Souza said. “But now I am very motivated and I don’t want to quit, I want to keep going until I make it to the top. There was much to learn from that loss.”

As of this writing, nothing has been announced for international distribution for either RIZIN 22 or 23.

RIZIN 22 Preliminary Fight Card:

Naoki Inoue vs. Shooto Watanabe (Bantamweight 61 kg)

Tetsuya Seki vs. Yojiro Uchimura (Featherweight 66 kg)

Yusuke Yachi vs. Roberto “Satoshi” de Souza (Lightweight 71 kg)

Kanna Asakura vs. Mizuki Furuse (Super Atomweight 49 kg)

RIZIN 23 Preliminary Fight Card:

Hiromasa Ougikubo vs. Kai Asakura for the vacant bantamweight championship (61 kg)

Yuki Motoya vs. Mamoru Uoi (Bantamweight 61 kg)

Yutaka Saito vs. Kazumasa Majima (Featherweight 66 kg)

Seiichiro Ito vs. Makoto Shinryu (Catchweight 59 kg)

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