RIZIN’s final show of the year, RIZIN 26, looks to be pulling out all the stops with another title fight. The announced New Year’s Eve card will have Miyuu Yamamoto taking on former super atomweight champion Ayaka Hamasaki for the vacant belt. Also announced was a high profile bantamweight match between Naoki Inoue and Yuki Motoya. A heavyweight match between Ikuhisa Minowa vs. Tsuyoshi Sudario was also announced.
Ayaka Hamasaki vs. Miyuu Yamamoto
Miyuu Yamamoto (6-4), sister of “Kid” Yamamoto and mother of current RIZIN fighter, Erson Yamamoto, has fought her entire pro career in the organization. A women’s freestyle wrestling champion, she had a rocky start in RIZIN. She managed to turn it around by using her athleticism and grappling against her opponents. “I made my professional debut in 2016 and I may have had some detours but I have finally made my way to a world title fight,” Yamamoto said. “I think this fight against Ayaka Hamasaki will be my grand sum of what I have lived for.”
Interestingly, Yamamoto is not a citizen of Japan. She obtained Canadian citizenship in 2015. Japan forbids dual citizenship, which would force her to give up her Japanese citizenship. This opens the possibility that more fighters not based in Japan could be announced for the card.
Ayaka Hamasaki (20-3) went undefeated in her RIZIN career until she rematched Seo Hee Ham last year at RIZIN 20. In a very close fight, Hamasaki lost the super atomweight title by split decision. Ham vacated the belt after signing with ONE. Hamasaki is known as an expert submission finisher. She has finished most of her fights by armbar. “Miyuu’s physical strength is outstanding,” Hamasaki said. “She has grown as a fighter. I don’t think I will be able to beat her easily.”
Yuki Motoya vs. Naoki Inoue
Naoki Inoue (14-2) has had a successful career in RIZIN as soon as he set foot in the promotion’s ring. His most recent win saw him get a submission over expert grappler Shooto Watanabe at RIZIN 22. “I want to beat Motoya in a memorable way so that people will know that I deserve a title shot.”
Yuki Motoya (26-8) has been a RIZIN regular since 2015. While 2019 saw him go winless, including losing the DEEP bantamweight championship, he rebounded this year with three wins. One of those wins was a submission finish over “Fullswing” Uoi at RIZIN 23. “I plan to beat [Inoue] in a great way and take the spotlight.”
The winner of this match will likely be next in line for the winner of the Kai Asakura vs. Kyoji Horiguchi championship match.
Ikuhisa Minowa vs. Tsuyoshi Sudario
In a fight that no one predicted, Ikuhisa Minowa aka “Minowaman” (64-42-8) will don the red trunks again to take on former sumo Tsuyoshi Sudario at RIZIN 26.
Minowaman made a name for himself in DREAM and PRIDE taking on fighters of all different sizes. He was a fighter known to take risks on the ground and on the feet. His entertaining fight style always excited audiences. He fought as low as welterweight and as far up as heavyweight. He famously won the DREAM Openweight Grand Prix aka the Super Hulk Tournament despite being the smallest guy in the brackets. “Sudario is a big strong young athlete and I will take him on Minowaman style,” he said.
Tsuyoshi Sudario (1-0) will be having his second pro fight and looks to be on track to maybe be the most successful sumo wrestler to transition to MMA. His lone win was a doctor stoppage over pro wrestler Dylan James at RIZIN 24. He is being trained by Enon Inoue. “I have never stopped training since my debut, and I cannot wait to show everybody my improved self as an MMA fighter.”
A number of other fights were announced for RIZIN 26 including Hideo Tokoro (34-30-2) making his MMA return. He will be taking on the debuting 2016 Olympic wrestling silver medalist Shinobu Ota. Kanna Asakura (17-4) will be taking on Ai Shimizu (5-0) with the winner possibly taking on Hamasaki or Yamamoto. Ulka Sasaki (22-8-2) makes his return to competition after recovering from a broken jaw to take on Kenta Takizawa (11-6). Two of the most colorful (and tattooed) fighters of the featherweight division, Kyohei Hagiwara (4-3) will look to continue his RIZIN success as he takes on former K-1 kickboxer Ren Hiramoto in the latter’s MMA debut.
To see our previous coverage of the announcement of bantmaweight champion Kai Asakura vs. Kyoji Horiguchi check it out here.
To see the press conference where all the fights were announced, check out the video below. Note the audio is Japanese only.
Kai Asakura (c) vs. Kyoji Horiguchi for the RIZIN bantamweight championship
Miyuu Yamamoto vs. Ayaka Hamasaki for the vacant RIZIN super atomweight championship
Ikuhisa Minowa vs. Tsuyoshi Sudario
Ulka Sasaki vs. Kenta Takizawa
Kanna Asakura vs. Ai Shimizu
Hideo Tokoro vs. Shinobu Ota
Kyohei Hagiwara vs. Ren Hiramoto