Rizin 26 Announced for Dec. 31, Headlined by Kai Asakura-Kyoji Horiguchi Title Rematch

By Jay Pettry Nov 13, 2020

There will be a major New Year’s Eve MMA event in 2020 after all, courtesy of Rizin Fighting Federation.

The promotion revealed via press release on Thursday night that Rizin 26 will take place on Dec. 31. There will be a limited audience inside the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan, of 5,000 people, with the option for more depending on potential loosening government restrictions. Although the promotion has put on three-day festivals in past years, the COVID-19 protocols only allow for a single fight card on NYE.

Headlining Rizin 26 is a bantamweight championship rematch between former divisional kings, as Kai Asakura (16-2) takes on the returning Kyoji Horiguchi (28-3). The two met in August 2019, and Asakura flattened the reigning but not defending champ in 67 seconds. Although they competed at 135 pounds, the belt was inexplicably not on the line. Horiguchi later vacated his throne, along with the Bellator MMA bantamweight crown he took from Darrion Caldwell, when tearing his ACL. The Rizin belt then went to the winner of Manel Kape vs. Asakura at the 2019 New Year’s Eve card, and Kape won by knockout only to also surrender his title to go to the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

Asakura has lost once in nine trips to the Rizin ring, and he finally won the title he sought after by dispatching Hiromasa Ougikubo with a vicious knee and soccer kicks in August. Since then, Asakura stepped up in a non-title affair to lay waste to Shoji Maruyama in under three minutes. Asakura is one of the winningest fighters in promotional history since first joining the organization in 2017, but he trails Horiguchi by one victory.

Horiguchi departed the UFC on a three-fight win streak to take Rizin by storm, winning his first nine MMA bouts and the 2017 bantamweight grand prix along the way. In a cross-promotional bout, Horiguchi tapped out Caldwell to earn the inaugural Rizin 135-pound belt, and then chased Caldwell to Bellator to take Caldwell’s belt there as well. His last bout is a loss, however, that snapped 13-fight win streak – not counting his jaunt to kickboxing to take on Tenshin Nasukawa – and he has been inactive ever since.

In addition to this bout, Rizin also made official its lineup for Rizin 25, which will take place on Nov. 21 at the Osaka-Jo Hall in Osaka, Japan. Sitting atop that card is a clash for the inaugural Rizin featherweight strap as Asakura’s brother, Mikuru Asakura (13-1), vies for gold against Yutaka Saito (18-4-2). Six MMA bouts will be interspersed between four kickboxing matches, with a “grappling demonstration” including Roberto de Souza and Kleber Koike Erbst splitting the prelims from the all-MMA main card.

Rizin 25 Lineup:

Mikuru Asakura vs. Yutaka Saito – featherweight title
Hiromasa Ougikubo vs. Kenta Takizawa – bantamweight
Ryuichiro Sumimura vs. Gota Yamashita – welterweight
Tatsuki Saomoto vs. Daichi Kitakata – flyweight
Roberto de Souza, Kleber Koike Erbst, Hari Sakamoto, Misaki Akita – grappling demonstration
Yojiro Uchimura vs. Kyohei Hagiwara – featherweight
Taiga Kawabe vs. Yuma Yamahata – bantamweight kickboxing
Hidenori Ebata vs. Isami Sano – middleweight kickboxing
Kotetsu Boku vs. Rikuto Shirakawa – featherweight
Jin Mandokoro vs. Syuto Sato – strawweight kickboxing
Yuma Yamaguchi vs. Shohei Asahara – featherweight kickboxing

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