lets go brandon
- Jan 15, 2015
Despite mounting concerns from the Japanese government over a new Covid-19 Omicron variant, Rizin Fighting Federation will return to the Saitama Super Arena, the mecca of combat sports in Japan, for its annual New Year’s Eve extravaganza.
A handful of the promotion’s top fighters have been announced for Rizin 33, including a tantalising match up between former champion Kai Asakura and Kenta Takizawa in a bantamweight grand prix semi-final.
Former UFC contender Naoki Inoue (15-2) will square off against The Ultimate Fighter Season 24 runner-up Hiromasa Ougikubo (23-5) in the other half of the bracket.
The winners will then lock horns later that same evening.
Asakuraz (18-3) will come in as a red-hot favourite, with 10 of his 18 wins having come inside the Rizin ring. His opponent, however, is no slouch.
Takizawa (13-7) secured the biggest win of his career at Rizin 30 in September, stopping Japanese veteran Yuki Motoya little more than two minutes into their opening round with a flurry of punches that sent him through the ropes and forced the referee to step in.
The stylistic match-up should be one of the more intriguing bouts across all 14 in the grand prix.
“I got the easiest opponent for the semi-finals,” Asakura said during a Rizin 33 press conference in Tokyo. “Winning this tournament is the bare minimum for me. I will show why I am the favourite of this tournament and the difference between the other three fighters.”
For Rizin, the path to its December 31 card – traditionally its biggest of the year – has proved difficult, with international competitors unable to travel because of Covid-19 restrictions.
Earlier this week, the Japanese government announced it would shut borders for the next 30 days to prevent the spread of the Omicron variant.
Rizin CEO Nobuyuki Sakakibara said the promotion was now looking at ways to deliver fight fans the same entertainment that a Rizin NYE card usually brings.
“We have had a rough year with Covid, and although we are grateful to have been able to make it with Japanese fighters, we were very much looking forward to bringing in international fighters for New Year’s Eve,” he said.
“We have still not been told that we are prohibited from bringing in international fighters, so at the moment I will say that we will continue to do our best. But if that doesn’t work out we will have some ideas to change up the current fight ideas we have.”
Also announced for Rizin 33 is a grand prix reserve bout between Yuki Motoya and Yuto Hokamura. Rizin lightweight champion Roberto de Souza will defend his crown, but an opponent has yet to be revealed.
Rizin Fighting Federation’s bantamweight grand prix will reach its conclusion at New Year’s Eve event inside Saitama Super Arena, but Omicron straining efforts to import international stars.