Excellent kickboxing match-ups, highly-anticipated debuts, and a Kyoji Horiguchi (28-2) dream match of sorts have all been announced to take place at the event, which is in five weeks time.
Kyoji Horiguchi vs. Kai Asakura
In the main event of the evening, two-promotion champ Kyoji Horiguchi will look to win his 14th-straight against a red-hot Kai Asakura (14-1).
Fresh off his Bellator bantamweight championship-earning win in a rematch against Darrion Caldwell, the phenomenal Kyoji Horiguchi returns to Japan in hopes to strengthen his resume even more. Since joining the RIZIN ranks in 2017 – while riding a winning streak in the UFC – the 28-year-old has been nothing short of spectacular.
Following a successful debut against local champion Yuki Motoya, Kyoji Horiguchi joined the 16-man RIZIN bantamweight Grand Prix field and absolutely dominated his way to the championship. Horiguchi defeated Hideo Tokoro early before going on to defeat Gabriel Oliviera, Manel Kape, and Shintaro Ishiwatari, all by way of finish. Those final three bouts all took place in a single weekend and saw Horiguchi win it all by stopping former foe Ishiwatari in the finals.
Since then, the Japanese striker, somewhat predictably, lost a very exciting kickboxing exhibition match-up to kickboxing wunderkind Tenshin Nasukawa. This was followed up beautifully, though, as Horiguchi would go on to become the inaugural RIZIN bantamweight champion by submitting Bellator titleholder Darrion Caldwell at RIZIN 14.
In the past couple of months, fans have seen Kyoji Horiguchi maul Ben Nguyen in a RIZIN ring, and, of course, head overseas to New York City to rematch Caldwell and win the Bellator title in the Bellator cage.
Kai Asakura is a veteran of The Outsider and ROAD FC who has gone on to make quite the name for himself in RIZIN Fighting Federation. The Japanese slugger is a perfect 4-0 since joining the RIZIN ranks, a run that includes an absolute domination of Kizaemon Saiga in his promotional debut.
In his second fight in the promotion, Asakura defeated Manel Kape (13-4) in a very controversial split decision call. Thankfully for him, people would forget about that relatively quickly, as Asakura would go on to dominate Topnoi Tiger Muay Thai at RIZIN 13. Most recently at RIZIN: Yarennoka!, Asakura defeated Je Hoon Moon in a brawl for the ages, avenging the sole loss of his mixed martial arts career.
It is worth noting that this seems to be yet another non-title bout for Horiguchi at RIZIN 18.
Kanna Asakura vs. Alesha Zappitella
At just 21 years old, the future looks incredibly bright for Chiba, Japan’s Kanna Asakura (14-4) despite a recent skid of sorts.
A veteran of DEEP and RIZIN, Asakura put her name on the map in 2017 when she submitted Maria Oliveira and Rena Kubota in one night to be crowned the RIZIN atomweight Grand Prix champion. Making the victory even sweeter, Kanna Asakura was the tournament darkhorse, whilst Rena Kubota was the favorite to win it all, and the finals saw Asakura put Kubota to sleep in the opening round.
Since that tournament win, however, it hasn’t been all smooth sailing for Asakura. Immediately following the Grand Prix, Asakura easily defeated Melissa Karagianis of Canada before beating Rena Kubota in a rematch. This time, Asakura dominated Kubota for three rounds, leaving no doubt in anyone’s mind who the better fighter was.
Since this win, Asakura has gone 1-2, losing two-straight in RIZIN. Following an impressive run that saw her pick up two wins against Kubota, the promotion put Kanna Asakura in RIZIN’s inaugural atomweight title fight opposite former Invicta FC champ Ayaka Hamasaki. It wasn’t pretty, as Hamasaki manhandled Asakura on the mat before submitting her in round two. This being her first defeat in two years, Asakura returned to DEEP and dominated champ Tomo Maesawa in non-title action at DEEP JEWELS 23.
Most recently, at RIZIN 16, Kanna Asakura was simply out-matched in the wrestling department against a world-class Miyuu Yamamoto on the way to a clear-as-day unanimous decision loss.
Though not a household name, Alesha Zappitella (5-1, 1 NC) has proven to be the real deal throughout her Invicta FC run.
The 24-year-old “Half-Pint” became a Kunlun Fight champion just two fights into her pro career and debuted in Invicta twelve months ago with a perfect 3-0 record. Zappitella’s debut win against Jillian DeCoursey was impressive, but it was her next win over former title challenger Amber Brown that showed she was a true threat.
Ohio’s Zappitella earned herself a co-main event slot against a UFC veteran in the form of Viviane Pereira at Invicta FC 35. “Half-Pint” fell short, but she is now set to make her RIZIN debut just two months later at RIZIN 18.
Erson Yamamoto vs. Kazuma Sone
Fighting out of Spike 22 in Guam, 22-year-old Erson Yamamoto (3-4) has not had an easy road thus far in his MMA career. Being born into one of the most famous families in combat sports has proven to be quite a challenge for the young fighter. He is the son of fellow fighter and renowned wrestler Miyuu Yamamoto, the nephew to another top wrestler in Seiko Yamamoto, the nephew of the late great Norifumi “KID” Yamamoto, and the grandson of Ikuei Yamamoto, a former Olympic wrestler. All of this made Erson Yamamoto a massive target almost immediately when he became an MMA fighter in his late teens.
Expectations have always been undeniably high, and since entering the sport, Yamamoto has faced and lost to some truly high-caliber competition. “Badman” began his run with a first-round submission loss to Kron Gracie before rebounding with a win against Kizaemon Saiga. Since then he has gone 2-3, including a King of the Cage win against Jesse Rogge and losses to Kazuyuki Miyata, Manel Kape, and Hideo Tokoro, respectively.
Most recently, at RIZIN 16, Erson “Badman” Yamamoto knocked out Tim Eschtruth early with a lethal standing elbow.
Fighting out of Shimura Dojo in Nagoya, Japan, Kazuma Sone (23-18-1) will certainly be the crowd favorite at RIZIN 18 next month.
A former Shooto Pacific Rim champion and Tenkaichi title-holder, Sone has had many impressive runs throughout his MMA career. He is a rather unimpressive 3-3 in his last six, however; it was during a six-month span in 2017/2018 that he won both of his aforementioned titles. Sone became the Shooto Pacific Rim champion by defeating recent RIZIN addition Mamoru “Full-Swing” Uoi. The win over Sone granted him a shot in RIZIN, but he would lose that promotional debut to Yuki Motoya at RIZIN 12.
That loss has since been followed up by two straight knockout losses, including the loss of his Shooto title via knockout in the final second of the opening round against Ryo Okada.
Hiroto Uesako vs. Yves Landu
A striker in every sense of the word Hiroto Uesako (15-7) will enter the RIZIN ring proudly representing Pancrase.
Since joining the Pancrase ranks late last year, Uesako has won two-straight against some high-level competition in Togashi and Sadulloev. Luckily for him, and all the fans that will be watching RIZIN 18, Uesako will be in his element in a ruleset that allowed head stomps and soccer kicks.
Uesako spent the vast majority of his career competing in DEEP, becoming champion in 2017 after knocking out Koichi Ishizuka with a nasty soccer kick.
Despite being one of the most unknown fighters on this card, Yves Landu (13-7) of France is riding an impressive four-fight win streak heading into next month.
After taking a break from MMA in 2017, Landu returned this year and has since won three-straight. This includes winning the lightweight title in two promotions. Landu defeated Matheus Pereira to become the 100% Fight Lightweight Champion before defending that title against Jean-Marc Howell the next month. In May, Landu became the Octofight Lightweight Champion as well.
Also announced for the card was an MMA fight between Shooto legend Takaki Soya and DEEP’s Yutaro Muramoto. The previously reported match-up between Manel Kape and Takeya Mizugaki was also confirmed.
RIZIN 18 is scheduled to take over Dolphins Arena in Nagoya, Japan on August 18.
More bouts will be announced in the coming weeks, but the event is starting to fill out nicely.