Kyoji Horiguchi finally has his next opponent firmed up, even if it should have been a no-brainer all along.
Rizin Fighting Federation has officially announced that Horiguchi, the centerpiece of its ongoing bantamweight grand prix, will take on undefeated Brazilian prospect Gabriel Leite de Oliveira in the quarterfinals of the tournament on Dec. 29 at Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan.
The 27-year-old Horiguchi punched his ticket to the second round of Rizin's bantamweight bracket on July 30, clobbering popular veteran Hideo Tokoro in less than two minutes. At Rizin's Oct. 15 card in Fukuoka, Oliveira made his promotional debut in what was billed as a tournament “wild card” bout, leveling Japanese legend Tatsuya Kawajiri was a vicious knee in six minutes flat. With the emphatic, breakthrough victory, it seemed like the Brazilian blue chipper had earned his place in the bracket, yet Rizin was initially non-committal about his placement in the tournament.
On Oct. 16. Rizin announced the majority of its quarterfinals for the bantamweight grand prix, while simultaneously introducing its other wild card entrant, Ultimate Fighting Championship veteran Ian McCall. However, only seven competitors were announced, as the promotion continued to wait on confirming Horiguchi's adversary, despite the fact that just one night earlier, Oliveira had seemingly won a fight to earn a berth in the bracket.
"Gabriel Oliveira who beat Kawajiri yesterday also has a chance, but I still want to decide. We are negotiating with promoters from around the world such as Bellator and BAMMA [British Association of Mixed Martial Arts],” said Rizin CEO Nobuyuki Sakakibara at the Oct. 16 press conference in Tokyo.
The former Shooto 132-pound world champion Horiguchi has not lost since April 2015, when he was submitted by flyweight and pound-for-pound king Demetrious Johnson in his UFC title bid. Horiguchi has now won five consecutive bouts between UFC and Rizin employ. Oliveira, also 27, has yet to lose in his pro career, carrying a sterling 10-0 record.
In the other three Rizin bantamweight grand prix quarterfinal bouts set for Dec. 29: the aforementioned McCall faces Angolan upstart Manel Kape; bantamweight King of Pancrase Shintaro Ishiwatari squares off with France's Kevin Petshi; and former Deep champion Takafumi Otsuka meets undefeated Khalid Taha.
The semifinals and finals of the Rizin bantamweight tournament will be contested on the same night just two days later on Dec. 31, back at the Saitama Super Arena.