RIZIN 26 saw a number of important outcomes for the winners. We saw new champions, dominating performances, and many vicious finishes. Here we will look at some of the standout performances from RIZIN 26 and what could be in store for the future of these winners.
The last time Kyoji Horiguchi fought was August 18, 2019. He had lost the non-title match to Kai Asakura. We were supposed to get the rematch that year, but then Horiguchi suffered an ACL injury. When the rematch got booked finally, there were many questions. How would Horiguchi look post-surgery? Would he make the same mistakes in the 2019 match? Would he be slower? We got the answer to those questions in less than three minutes.
Horiguchi looked in his element. No hesitation, no ring rust. He immediately went to work on Asakura’s lead left leg, kicking it as if it owed him money. Asakura eventually stumbled, which he later confirmed was an injury due to the kicks. Horiguchi took advantage of the nearly one-legged champion and knocked him down and finished with strikes on the ground. Horiguchi is now a two-time Rizin bantamweight champion.
Next for him would be to get the Bellator bantamweight championship back and regain his double champion status. Champion Juan Archuleta said he is game. With Rizin having a show at the famed Tokyo Dome in March that would be a great match for the main event, provided it can happen per current Covid restrictions in Japan.
Asakura is certainly deserving of a rematch. Given the injuries he sustained, it likely won’t happen soon. That is a match you can save for the next New Year’s Eve show.
If there is any fighter who could be Rizin’s fighter of the year, it would have to be Naoki Inoue. All three fights of his in 2020 he won, with two submission wins. With Yuki Motoya, he managed to submit one of the top grapplers in MMA.
Inoue defended a takedown attempt by Motoya. He used the opportunity to take his back and put on a rear-naked choke and submit him in the first round. He submitted Shooto Watanabe almost the exact same way at Rizin 22.
Inoue has certainly earned himself a title shot. The only question is when. It looks like Rizin wants to book Horiguchi vs. Archuleta for the Tokyo Dome and Asakura is deserving of a rematch. Taking another fight puts Inoue’s title contention at risk but if an official number one contender’s match has to be booked, the best fight to make would be Inoue vs. Victor Henry. Henry is also undefeated in Rizin.
Ulka Sasaki last competed over a year ago. His career was halted due get his jaw broken in his fight with Kai Asakura. Coming back from such a jaw injury leads to many questions: Can the fighter take a punch? How will the fighter look with all that time off? In addition, Sasaki was on a two-fight losing streak.
Taking on Kenta Takizawa, Sasaki was able to dominate all three rounds with superior grappling. He was able to take Takizawa to the ground with ease and flawlessly take his back. He also was able to take Takizawa’s striking to the face and survive a very tight neck crank that his opponent locked in. He also did not gas out and his cardio looked great.
This was the best that Sasaki has looked since he beat Manel Kape. He looked great in all aspects of the MMA game. He immediately challenged Hiromasa Ougikubo after the match. This will be the best match considering both are coming off strong wins (both over Takizawa as a matter of fact).
Without a doubt, the best atomweight fighter in the world is Ayaka Hamasaki. She has gone through almost every top fighter in that division. Her fights have ended in a finish or three rounds of domination.
Coming up against Miyuu Yamamoto for the vacant super atomweight title, Hamasaki was able to easily finish her opponent in the first round by submission. The win makes Hamasaki a two-time champion.
What’s next for though is a very tough question. Kanna Asakura won her match against AI but Hamasaki has already beat Asakura. With the unlikelihood that foreigners can be booked, that might be the only fight to make. If Rizin is allowed to bring foreign fighters, Alesha Zappitella would be an ample opponent. She won the vacant Invicta FC atomweight championship in September.
Right now the big combat sports trend is Youtubers fighting. I know a lot of fans don’t like seeing people like Jake and Logan Paul duke it out as pros, but it brings lots of eyes to the sport. Japan is not exempt from such theatrics. Shibatar is a very popular pro wrestler and Youtuber. As of this writing, his channel has 1.18 million subscribers. Initially advertised as Shibatar facing an unknown opponent at openweight, fans didn’t know what to expect from this fight.
His mystery opponent was revealed to be kickboxer Hiroya. It would be fought as a two-round mixed rules match. First-round would be kickboxing rules and the second would be MMA rules.
In the first round, Shibatar ran the ropes, did the Ion Cutelaba pretending to be wobbled on his feet gimmick, and of all things managed to knock down the former K-1 kickboxer.
In the second round, Shibatar locked an armbar on Hiroya. Hiroya visibly tapped but the referee did not acknowledge it. The match was first ruled a draw but then later into the show it was announced it was reversed into a submission win for Shibatar.
Listen, Shibatar isn’t going to win any belts. He’s a meme fighter but a popular one. And most of all he can show he can actually fight and be wildly entertaining. You have the pick of the litter of fighters for him to fight. Throw him in there with Tenshin Nasukawa, Anderson Silva… heck give Bob Sapp a call! No matter who it is, you know Shibatar will come to fight and also entertain like he only can.
MMASucka had a ton of coverage of the Rizin 26 show. If you want to check out all coverage here is a list of them: