A random draw has set the opening round for the 2019 Rizin lightweight tournament, with all four bouts taking place at Rizin 19 in October.
The first matchup will be between Bellator MMA great Patricky Freire (21-8) and Dream and Ultimate Fighting Championship veteran Tatsuya Kawajiri (37-13-2). Unbeaten grappling ace Roberto de Souza (9-0) will clash with another former UFC fighter in Johnny Case (26-6-1). Brazilian phenom Luiz Gustavo Felix dos Santos (9-1) will face off against Japan's Hiroto Uesako (18-7), and rounding out the bracket is ex-UFC competitor Damien Brown (19-12) taking on the surging Tofiq Musayev (15-3). After the first round is completed, an additional random draw will determine the semifinals, which will take place at the event held on New Year's Eve.
Freire is one of the most experienced fighters in Bellator history, appearing 21 times with the promotion and tied for the second-most bouts with Michael Chandler and his twin brother Patricio Freire. Unlike his two-division champion brother, however, Patricky Freire has never held gold, and not for lack of trying. He suffered a quick knockout while fighting for the lightweight strap at the hands of Chandler at Bellator 157 in 2016, and since then he has rattled off five victories including three knockouts.
With over 50 fights on his resume, including bouts in the UFC, Dream, Pride Fighting Championships and a few others, "Crusher" will be entering this tournament with far more experience than any other combatant. Kawajiri holds the second-most victories under the Dream banner with 11, although he was unsuccessful when vying for the Dream lightweight throne in 2010 when Shinya Aoki submitted him in less than two minutes. In his last time out, he became the first fighter to beat Russia's Ali Abdulkhalikov, grinding out the formerly unbeaten fighter at Rizin 17 in July to earn his spot in the tournament.
Headlining the event will be a light heavyweight non-title affair as organizational kingpin Jiri Prochazka collides with the well-traveled Fabio Maldonado. Additionally, Seo Hee Ham will meet Miyuu Yamamoto in an atomweight title eliminator match. The event will take place at the Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium in Osaka, Japan, on Oct. 12.
Rizin 19 Bout Lineup:Jiri Prochazka vs. Fabio Maldonado
Seo Hee Ham vs. Miyuu Yamamoto
Keita Nakamura vs. Marcos Yoshio Souza
Rena Kubota vs. Shawna Ram
Patricky Freire vs. Tatsuya Kawajiri
Roberto de Souza vs. Johnny Case
Luiz Gustavo Felix dos Santos vs. Hiroto Uesako
Damien Brown vs. Tofiq Musayev