After both men put together fantastic performances earlier in the week, it appears as though the next RIZIN bantamweight title match is set in stone, as Manel Kape (15-4) is currently in line to make the first defense of his title against Shooto champion Hiromasa Ogikubo (20-4-2) sometime this year.
With former champion Kyoji Horiguchi (28-3) on the sidelines due to an unfortunate, and severe, leg injury, the bantamweight division has been shaken up quite a bit. The rise of the likes of Kai Asakura, Shintaro Ishiwatari, Manel Kape, Hiromasa Ogikubo, and Victor Henry, among others, has been incredibly exciting. Even if Horiguchi has wins over most of those high-level men.
In a rematch of a 2018 contest, Manel Kape sought revenge on Kai Asakura at RIZIN 20 on December 31. He got just that, finishing 2019’s breakout fighter Kai Asakura in the second round with punches. This a mere four months after Asakura’s staggering 64-second knockout over Kyoji Horiguchi, and two months removed from Asakura’s jaw-breaking victory over Ulka Sasaki.
Manel Kape, a 26-year-old Angolan star, is the new RIZIN Bantamweight Champion. Earlier on the card in which he won the title in the main event, a pivotal bantamweight clash went down to determine a #1 contender to the winner of the evenings main event, which wound up being Kape. Shooto champ Hiromasa Ogikubo bested former King of Pancrase champion Shintaro Ishiwatari (26-8-4) in an all-out brawl to earn his shot at RIZIN bantamweight gold.
The title win for Kape was almost inevitable given his progression as of late. After a loss to Sasaki at last year’s RIZIN 14 NYE show, Kape went on to win three-straight in 2019. This includes an absolute masterclass against ZST veteran Seiichiro Ito, a sick knockout of UFC, WEC veteran Takeya Mizugaki, and, of course, him capping off the calendar year with a big-time title win over Kai Asakura. The move to AKA Thailand in 2018 has paid dividends for the Angolan, as he’s fast become one of the biggest prospects to watch in all of MMA.
As for Hiromasa Ogikubo, what needs to be said? The TUF 24 semi-finalist has lost two fights in his last sixteen bouts – both to arguably Japan’s greatest fighter in the form of Kyoji Horiguchi. Aside from that, Ogikubo has been perfect since 2010. This includes wins over Yosuke Saruta, Kana Hyatt, Czar Sklavos, Danny Martinez, Kiyotaka Shimizu, Yuki Motoya, and, of course, Shintaro Ishiwatari. In those names alone you have former Pancrase champions in Ishiwatari and Shimizu, a former ONE champion in Saruta, and a former DEEP champion in Yuki Motoya. Following a loss to Horiguchi in his RIZIN debut back in 2018, Ogikubo was seriously considering retirement. Now, in 2019, the Shooto representative has won back-to-back in serious fight of the year contenders. Will he be able to make it three-straight when he faces Manel Kape sometime this year?