Finally, Hiromasa Ogikubo (20-4-2) gets the bantamweight title shot he deserves. Unfortunately, it won’t be against champion Manel Kape since the former champ was forced to vacate to join the UFC roster earlier this year. This meant the title would be vacant.
The “A Side” of the vacant title fight was always going to be Ogikubo, as he earned his shot. But the mystery of who he may be facing for the vacant strap had multiple different, logical options available. Well, RIZIN Fighting Federation chose arguably the biggest star they had available within the division outside of an injured Horiguchi, and they picked Kai Asakura (14-2) to fight Ogikubo for the title.
Following his second loss to Kyoji Horiguchi in 2018, Ogikubo was considering retirement, but man should we all be glad he decided against it. His last three fights are some of the best of his career. This includes a Shooto title defense against Kiyotaka Shimizu and two separate, genuine 2019 ‘Fight of the Year’ contenders against Yuki Motoya and Shintaro Ishiwatari – a DEEP champion and a Pancrase champion respectively.
Kai Asakura set himself up for superstardom with a six-fight win streak to begin his RIZIN run. This included wins over Manel Kape, Kizaemon Saiga, Topnoi, and Ulka Sasaki. Up until late last year, Asakura’s one career loss came at the hands of Je Hoon Moon in a ROAD FC barn-burner, and Asakura got the win back in December of 2018 in yet another barn-burner against Moon, this time in the RIZIN ring. Last year in non-title action, Asakura shocked the world and knocked out the reigning Bellator and RIZIN champion Kyoji Horiguchi in just over a minute – unfortunately for him the title was not on the line.
Following a Horiguchi injury, he was forced to vacate the title and pull out of a planned championship rematch vs. Asakura. Instead, it was a vacant title fight in December of last year. Here, as previously mentioned, Manel Kape stopped Kai Asakura and became the champion. Now, Kape vacated due to a UFC contract, and another champion must be crowned.
Also on the card Yuki Motoya will face Mamoru “Fullswing” Uoi in a pivotal bantamweight clash as former ONE champion Kotetsu Boku makes his promotional debut against a relative unknown in Jin Aoi. Fan-favorite K-1 veteran TAIGA will also return to the RIZIN ring as he rematches RISE’s Kento Haraguchi.
Check out the full RIZIN 23 card below as it features other notable knows such as Seiichiro Ito, Makoto Takahashi, Shintaro Matsukura, Kaito, Yusaku Nakamura, and more.
Hiromasa Ogikubo vs. Kai Asakura – Title
Yuki Motoya vs. Mamoru Fullswing
Yutaka Saito vs. Kazumasa Majima
Seiichiro Ito vs. Makoto Takahashi
Shintaro Matsukura vs. Koji Mori – Kickboxing
Kaito vs. Daryl Lokoku – Kickboxing
Yusaku Nakamura vs. Tatsuki Saomoto
Kotetsu Boku vs. Jin Aoi
TAIGA vs. Kento Haraguchi – Kickboxing
* Bout Order TBA