Just weeks out from the big Hamamatsu event, RIZIN 21 finally has a handful of bouts announced. This includes the return of Japanese star Mikuru Asakura (12-1, 1NC) against a debuting Mexican.
Asakura has won eight-straight fights and remains unbeaten when competing in RIZIN – which he has done exclusively since joining the roster in August of 2018. Despite a late 2018 debut, Asakura fought three times in RIZIN before the end of the year. He picked up wins over Takeshi Inoue and Hatsu Hioki, two Shooto legends, and a newcomer in the form of Karshyga Dautbek.
Last year, the 27-year-old found big-time fame through his YouTube channel, where he earns a large amount of his overall income from currently. Because of this, he wasn’t as active as he had been in recent years, though he still fought three times – which is nothing to scoff at!
With some thrilling knockouts recently, many wouldn’t expect that Mikuru Asakura finished 2019 with three-straight decision wins. But he did. He defeated Wanderlei Silva protege Luiz Gustavo, fan-favorite Yusuke Yachi, and Bellator fighter John Teixeira. All three of these contests were fun, but not exactly competitive.
In November, he competed in a pro wrestling / exhibition bout against Atsushi Saito. Though not relevant, Asakura did win this as well.
Fighting out of Mexico City, Mexico, 31-year-old Daniel Salas (16-6-1) fights out of Bonebreakers MMA and is in desperate need of a victory heading into his Japanese debut. “El Cazador” has won two-straight against less-than-stellar competition, but it could be argued that he lost both of these fights.
Salas is a veteran of The Ultimate Fighter Latin America 2, and has only fought one time per year since 2015. Heading into this bout against Mikuru Asakura, Salas must prepare for the toughest fight of his back-and-forth career.
In heavyweight action, top-ranked Roque Martinez (14-5-2) will face 46-year-old Hideki Sekine (7-3) of pro wrestling and ONE Championship fame.
Guam’s Martinez is the current DEEP Megaton Champion and fights out of Spike 22 alongside the likes of Erson Yamamoto, Jon Tuck, and Kyle Aguon. At 33-years-old, Martinez was primed to become Japan’s next big star at heavyweight. Following an unfortunate loss to the legend Mirko Cro Cop due to cut in 2018, Martinez dropped a decision to a Japanese fan-favorite in Jake Heun in mid-2019.
With two losses in his last thirteen bouts, Roque Martinez is an event 2-2 in RIZIN. This includes wins over K-1 legend Jerome Le Banner and Kiyoshi Kuwabara, as well as the aforementioned losses to Cro Cop and Heun.
Since winning the DEEP championship in 2017, Martinez has since defended the strap twice – with both title defenses coming in 2019. He opened 2019 with a last-second ground-and-pound finish over Ryo Sakai, returning to DEEP in December and taking out Seigo Mizuguchi with a barrage of punches while standing.
Hideki Sekine – often referred to as “Shrek” or “Big Body” – is a veteran of Japanese pro wrestling, Ganryujima, and ONE Championship.
Early in his career, 2010 and 2013 respectively, Sekine defeated Seigo Mizuguchi and Ryo Sakai, two of Martinez’s recent opponents. In one of his more mainstream appearances, Sekine challenged Brandon Vera for the ONE Championship title in 2016, losing via knockout.
Marcos de Souza (8-2) will look to win his first fight under the RIZIN banner when he challenges a promotional newcomer in the form of Falco Neto (11-10) out of Portugal.
Known for his spectacular jiu-jitsu acumen, “Marquinhos” fights out of Bonsai Jiu Jitsu and was a very interesting addition to RIZIN’s welterweight division last year due to the organization’s serious lack of 170-pound fighters.
The Brazilian grappler opened 2019 with a knockout win over South Korean veteran Hyung Seok Lee, resulting in him getting a contract from RIZIN Fighting Federation. Debuting at RIZIN 19 in October, de Souza was annihilated in his debut against a fellow debutant in the form of UFC veteran Keita Nakamura.
Unfortunately for Neto, his most prolific moment as a professional fighter came in May of last year when he competed in Bellator MMA for the first time. The unfortunate part of this was that he took on the unbeaten Fabian Edwards and was knocked out with vicious upkicks from a grounded Edwards in round one.
That was the first and only bout for “Telelo” in 2019. He competed one year prior, stopping the unbeaten Rumen Ganchev in the Porto Fight Club 3 main event.
RIZIN 21 takes place on February 22, live from the Hamamatsu Arena in Hamamatsu, Japan.