As Bellator MMA heads to Japan for the first time ever, the promotion is looking to bring an absolutely stacked card to the fans in attendance next month at the Saitama Super Arena.
RIZIN Fighting Federation will also have a few fights of their own take place on this card. The four bouts will take place following the Bellator Japan main event between Fedor Emelianenko and Quinton Jackson. Unlike the rest of the card, which will be contested under Bellator’s typical unified ruleset, these hand-picked RIZIN bouts will all feature full RIZIN rules. Of course, the bouts will still take place in Bellator’s cage set-up.
Here are three of the show’s promotional warfare match-ups.
Former Bellator title-challenger Lorenz Larkin (21-7, 1NC) will travel to Japan to take on the only true welterweight on RIZIN’s roster in the form of fan-favorite “K-Taro” Keita Nakamura (35-10-2, 1NC), fellow veteran of the UFC.
After leaving the UFC following two-straight wins and joining Bellator’s roster in 2017, Larkin rallied from two-straight losses in the organization and has since won three-straight. This includes his most recent win, a split decision win over former champion Andrey Koreshkov. Another title shot may be in Larkin’s future, though. As a win in Japan may earn “The Monsoon” another shot at champ Douglas Lima.
Keita Nakamura had an exciting eight-fight run in the UFC that saw him exchange wins and losses throughout. Following his departure from the promotion earlier this year, fans received exciting news a few months ago when it was announced that K-Taro has signed with RIZIN Fighting Federation. He made good on his debut, knocking out jiu-jitsu specialist Marcos de Souza early in round one.
Nakamura requested a fight against one of Bellator’s finest at Bellator Japan or RIZIN 20, and he gets just that when he faces Lorenz Larkin on December 29.
In women’s action, Ilara Joanne (9-4) puts her win streak on the line against an absolute powerhouse in Kana Watanabe (8-0-1) of Japan.
Fighting out of the famed Pitbull Brothers gym, “Arya Stark” made her Bellator debut last month and picked up a massive win as she submitted UFC veteran and bareknuckle boxing champion Bec Rawlings with a nasty knee-bar in the second round. This was Joann’es third-straight win, and she proceeded to call out Valerie Letourneau, Valerie Loureda, and champ Ilima-Lei Macfarlane. Instead, she gets an unexpected opponent at Bellator Japan.
Kana Watanabe of Fighter’s Flow is an undefeated judo specialist who has made quite the name for herself in the past few years, competing in RIZIN and DEEP JEWELS. In the last twelve months, Watanabe has muscled her way through four opponents. This included two dominant wins over less-than-stellar opposition in DEEP JEWELS, a relatively one-sided win against unbeaten prospect Justyna Haba, and an incredible 11-second knockout against DEEP JEWELS legend Shizuka Sugiyama – the wife of Keita Nakamura.
Finally, last but not least in Bellator vs. RIZIN action, Goiti Yamauchi (24-4) faces the always flashy Daron Cruickshank (22-12, 1NC) at lightweight.
In his last six bouts, Goiti Yamauchi has one loss, and that came against one of Bellator’s best lightweights of all time in Michael Chandler. Before this loss, Yamauchi earned that big-time opportunity by winning three-straight fights all in the very first round. Following that defeat early last year, Goiti Yamachi beat former featherweight title-challenger Daniel Weichel before submitting Bellator mainstay Saad Awad in under two minutes in October. It is also worth noting that Yamauchi holds a win over current King of Pancrase; Isao Kobayashi.
Arguably RIZIN’s biggest international star, Daron Cruickshank was hand-picked to represent the organization against one of Bellator’s elite. Since making his promotional debut in 2016 and making good use of those legal soccer kicks against Shinji Sasaki, “The Detroit Superstar” has managed to pick up wins over the likes of Andy Souwer, Shooto champ Koshi Matsumoto, former HEAT champion Tom Santos, and TUF 14 winner Diego Brandao, all of which came by way of a sick finish. Following two-straight losses against Damien Brown and Tofiq Musaev, Cruickshank is looking to get back in the win column and making a statement against Goiti Yamauchi.
Now, the RIZIN bouts set to take place on Bellator Japan.
Yusuke Yachi (20-9) will look to snap his three-fight losing streak when he faces fellow striker Hiroto Uesako (16-8) in a pivotal lightweight clash. Yachi was, at one point, one of RIZIN’s biggest stars. And now, he is in desperate need of a win. Uesako lost in the quarter-finals of RIZIN’s lightweight Grand-Prix, and now the former DEEP champ looks to get back on track against KRAZY BEE’s Yachi.
Arguably the greatest male strawweight of all time, Haruo Ochi (19-7-2, 1NC) faced UFC veteran Jarred Brooks (15-2, 1NC) in a highly-anticipated fight at RIZIN 18. In an incredibly unfortunate turn of events, an unintentional clash of heads stopped the bout ten-seconds in due to a cut opened up on the head of Ochi. The DEEP champion has not fought since this bout in August, whereas Brooks returned in October and submitted the unbeaten Victor Altamirano at Warrior Xtreme Cagefighting 83.
Following a win at DEEP 92 Impact, former DEEP champion Ryuichiro Sumimura (14-7) welcomes Guam’s Jon Tuck (10-5) to the welterweight division in what will be “Super Saiyan”‘s first fight since August of last year – and his first non-UFC fight since 2011. And finally, former King of the Cage champion Andy Nguyen (6-8) looks to rebound from two-straight losses against KRAZY BEE’s “Princess Bee” Ai Shimizu (5-1) who will be in search of her fifth-straight win.
Bellator Japan is set to take place on December 29, live from the Saitama Super Arena in Japan. In the main event, a battle of legends as Fedor Emelianenko faces Quinton “Rampage” Jackson at heavyweight. The co-main event will be a lightweight rematch between Benson Henderson and Michael Chandler.