Manel Kape (15-4) will look to make his first bantamweight title defense against Hiromasa Ogikubo (20-4-2), as previously reported. And now, we have a target date for the inevitable title clash.
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Following this morning’s RIZIN 21 fight card in Hamamatsu, RIZIN boss Nobuyuki Sakakibara spoke to on-site media and revealed that the current plan for RIZIN 22 in April is a bantamweight title fight between Kape and Ogikubo.
The RIZIN bantamweight division has fast become one of the strongest divisions in the entire sport. Reigning above these true murderer’s row of 135-pound athlete is a slick Angolan in the form of Manel “Prodigo” Kape. Back in December at RIZIN 20, Kape fought for the vacant bantamweight strap and was able to secure a massive second-round knockout win over a red-hot Kai Asakura.
This was Kape’s third-straight win in 2019, as the rest of the calendar year saw him put an absolute clinic on former ZST champion Seiichiro Ito before scoring a predicted knockout win over WEC and UFC veteran Takeya Mizugaki. The move to AKA Thailand in 2018 has proven to be incredibly smart on behalf of Manel Kape, as it’s evident having watched his fast rise and development as a fighter since doing so. Now, holding RIZIN’s 135-pound championship, Kape has a massive target on his back. First up to challenge the champion will be Shooto title-holder Hiromasa Ogikubo.
The TUF 24 semi-finalist has lost two fights in his last sixteen, both of which against one of Japan’s finest in the form of former RIZIN and Bellator bantamweight champion Kyoji Horiguchi. Aside from these blemishes, Ogikubo has been perfect since 2010. This includes wins over Yosuke Saruta, Kana Hyatt, Czar Sklavos, Danny Martinez, Kiyotaka Shimizu, Yuki Motoya, and Shintaro Ishiwatari. In those names alone you have former Kings of Pancrase in Ishiwatari and Shimizu, a former ONE champion in Saruta, and a former DEEP champion in Yuki Motoya.
In 2018, Hiromasa Ogikubo made his RIZIN Fighting Federation debut and lost to Horiguchi for the second time. In 2019, Ogikubo picked up three massive wins. Defeating Shimizu to defend his Shooto title before winning two-straight Fight of the Year contenders in RIZIN against Motoya and Ishiwatari.
RIZIN 22 is set to take place on April 19 live from the Yokohama Arena in Yokohama, Japan. No bouts are confirmed, but currently this title fight between Kape and Ogikubo is being targeted, as well as a lightweight clash between Mikuru Asakura and former ONE champion Kotetsu Boku.