It’s the end of the year so you know what that means. The last major show of the year in combat sports will once again be hosted by Rizin. Rizin 45 will be on New Year’s Eve from the famous Saitama Super Arena and feature 17 fights. There will be MMA fights, modified MMA rules matches, and a kickboxing fight. Titles will be defended, debuts will be made, and retirements are scheduled. Let’s look at some of the fights you should look forward to.
Yuta Kubo vs Ruikya Anpo
These two former K-1 fighters will clash for the first time in MMA.
Yuta Kubo (2-2) had a rocky start when he left K-1 for Rizin. Immediately transitioning into MMA, he lost in his debut in which Shinobu Ota simply wrestled him to death. Then he faced pro wrestler Shibatar in a mixed rules bout in which he also lost. Controversy over the match ensued when texts had leaked between Kubo and Shibatar had planned to go competitively at the beginning of the fight. He rebounded since then with two wins. His wife Sara, who is a social media influencer, will likely come out to a bombastic entrance in which she will sing. He brings high-level striking to his fights and is slowly improving with each fight he has.
Rukiya Anpo (debut) is one of the most popular kickboxers in Japan. After leaving K-1 for Rizin, he went to a draw with Muay Thai legend Buakaw and made easy work of Sho “Patrick” Usami all this year. He was supposed to initially fight Minoru Kimura at Rizin 45 but Kimura failed a second PED test. Kimura failed his first one in August. It’s also ironic that this will be Anpo’s MMA debut considering his initial negative comments toward the sport. This will be his MMA debut so fans are eager to see how he looks in this match.
— Beyond Kickboxing (@Beyond_Kick) December 12, 2023
There are a lot of unknowns in this match. It will be 5 minutes and 2 rounds. Other than that, any other rules are not known. Will these two high-level strikers choose to keep it standing? Or will we get a Paul Daley/MVP situation where it becomes a grappling match? If they keep it on their feet expect an exciting stylistic clash between these two exciting strikers!
Kyoji Horiguchi vs Makoto Shinryu
Kyoji Horiguchi (31-5, 1NC) maybe 33 years old and fighting since 2010, but he is still one of the best active flyweights. His accolades include being a former UFC title challenger, former Bellator and Rizin bantamweight champion, and the winner of the 2017 Rizin bantamweight Grand Prix. He is incredibly fast with his in-and-out karate striking and is a skilled grappler if he needs to mix it up.
Makoto “Shinryu” (16-4-1, 1NC) is one of the hottest up-and-coming flyweights to come out of Japan. A former Cage Fury flyweight champion, he has soundly beat all but 1 opponent he has faced. His grappling skills are top tier and his striking gets better and better in every fight. His ability to control and takedown his opponents might be some of the best in his weight division.
This rematch is happening due to typical Bellator bad luck. The first match ended in barely 30 seconds due to an accidental eye poke from Horiguchi. Shinryu said he could not see when the doctor asked him about his vision. We didn’t learn anything from the first fight so this might as well be their first clash. The only difference is this will be in a ring and 3 rounds. Horiguchi will have the striking advantage and speed but grappling it might be neck and neck. Expect lots of great scrambles and takedown attempts between these two.
Seika Izawa vs Miyuu Yamamoto
Seika Izawa (11-0) is the best atomweight in the world. The current Rizin super atomweight champion and winner of the 2022 super atomweight Grand Prix, she has beaten all those put in her path. While her striking is still not the best, she has used her grappling to beat the best including Ayaka Hamasaki, Si Woo Park, and Claire Lopez.
This will be Miyuu Yamamoto’s (6-7) last fight. She has fought her entire career in Rizin and despite having her first pro fight at 42, she took on top-level competition way too early. She has an incredible wrestling pedigree and can out-muscle her opponents and cardio to go on for days.
Miyuu’s Achilles heel has always been submissions. Izawa has 5 submission wins. If Miyuu is going to get a win in her final fight, she is going to have to rely on striking and wrestling. Izawa just has to wait for Miyuu to make a mistake. She will have to wait for Miyuu to leave her neck open for a guillotine or use her flexibility to slap on a triangle.
Ren Hiramoto vs Ya-Man
Former K-1 kickboxer and all-around bad boy Ren Hiramoto (2-3) has had a rocky start as an MMA fighter. He has greatly improved since his first match. He made mince meat out of Satoshi “Dominator” Yamasu’s face with his striking and has shown more improved grappling defense.
Ya-Man (debut) is the next level star to make his way from kickboxing. He managed to stand out with a sensational knockout at The Match in 2022 and most recently knocked out Mikuru Asakura in an open-finger glove kickboxing match. He showed good grappling defense against the more experienced Kota Miura in their custom rules match and will likely keep his strong striking with the full transition to MMA.
Neither of these guys are grapplers. The bad blood between these two will hopefully result in these two just throwing hands for the entirety of the fight until someone gets KOed.
Kleber Koike vs Yutaka Saito
Kleber Koike (31-7-1, 1NC) is Rizin’s best submission specialist. All his wins in the promotion have come by way of submission and he has a whopping 27 wins by that finish. A former featherweight champion, he had to vacate the belt due to missing weight for a title defense.
Yutaka Saito (21-7-2) is also a former featherweight champion and quickly rose to popularity after defeating Mikuru Asakura in a highly contested fight. After some time off, he returned this year and narrowly beat Ren Hiramoto. He’s good at a little bit of everything. He’s got good striking, and takedown defense, and has a lot of intestinal fortitude.
The fight will come down to Saito’s patience versus Kleber’s willingness to finish the fight quickly. Kleber has 18 finishes in the first round so that is where he is most strong. Saito is going to need patience and focus on his striking to beat Kleber. The longer the fight goes the more it favors Saito.
You can watch Rizin 45 live on Triller TV on Dec 31 at midnight ET/9 p.m. PT. There will be English commentary for the show.
Kyoji Horiguchi vs Makoto “Shinryu” for the inaugural Rizin flyweight championship
Juan Archuleta (c) vs Kai Asakura for the Rizin bantamweight championship
Kleber Koike vs Yutaka Saito
Ren Hiramoto vs Ya-Man
Seika Izawa vs Miyuu Yamamoto (non-title)
Tsuyoshi Sudario vs Mikio Ueda
Hiromasa Ougikubo vs John Dodson
Yuki Motoya vs Vince Morales
Shinobu Ota vs Ryusei Ashizawa
Kota Miura vs Kouzi
Igor Tanabe vs Shinsho Anzai
Jo Arai vs Hiroya
Yuta Kubo vs Rukiya Anpo (custom rules MMA match)
Satoshi “Dominator” Yamasu vs Suguru Nii
Tatsuki Shinotsuka vs Daichi Tomizawa
Ryujin Nasukawa vs Jong Min Shin
Yushi vs Jo Hiramoto