Rizin’s NYE Card is Taking Shape But Fedor Saga Drags On

Fightland Blog

By James Goyder

The wait to discover who Fedor Emelianenko will be fighting on New Year’s Eve is developing into something of a saga. First Ariel Helwani gave us the name of Jaideep Singh, only for the promotion to deny this. Then Bas Rutten announced it would be Tsuyoshi Kohsaka, only for this to be denied by someone who might or might not be Fedor’s manager.

The furor over Fedor’s comeback fight has dragged on so long that it has completely overshadowed a spate of recent Rizin announcements. While fight fans have been busy discussing the relative merits of prospective Fedor opponents like Singh and Kohsaka the promotion has been announcing a series of solid matchups.

There will be two eight man tournaments. The 205 lbs bracket features former Strikeforce light heavyweight champion Muhammed ‘King Mo’ Lawal while recently crowned Jungle Fight champion Bruno Cappelozza will be one of the participants in the heavyweight Grand Prix.

Rizin has booked the Saitama Super Arena for three days with a catchweight contest between Shinya Aoki and Kazushi Sakuraba headlining the December 29th card. The quarter final matchups in the two tournaments will also take place that night while the following day will be a designated “fan day”.

The main action is taking place on New Year’s Eve with reigning Deep champion Yuki Motoya set to meet former Road FC champion Nam Jin Jo in a battle between two of the region’s top flyweights. In the featherweight division two men who have held titles with either Deep or Dream will go head to head when Hiroyuki Takaya meets Daiki Hata.

Perhaps the most intriguing matchup on the December 31st card pits Andy Souwer against Yuichiro Nagashima. The Japanese fighter hasn’t fought since 2006 but all eyes will be on the Dutchman who is a two time K-1 Max champion and will be making his pro MMA debut after a highly successful career in the world of stand up fighting.

In Japan, the lines between MMA and pro wrestling can occasionally become blurred and promoter Nobuyuki Sakakibara has booked famous female wrestler Lei'D Tapa. She will need to brush up on her ground game because she’s facing multiple time BJJ world champion Gabi Garcia in a match between two heavyweights who will both be making their debut.

There could also be a kickboxing bout on the card with rumors circulating that current UFC fighter Kid Yamamoto will face two time K-1 Max champion Masato. If the fight goes ahead on December 31st it will be exactly 11 years to the day that the mixed martial artist beat the kickboxer by majority decision in their first K-1 fight.

Yamamoto is currently training at The Fight Lab in Bangkok along with his nephew, Arsen Yamamoto who is reportedly regarded as something of a prodigy in Japan. The 19-year-old is going to be making his pro debut on New Year’s Eve with Gracie confirmed as his opponent in a Rizin press conference today.

Other fighters to look out for this December include a retired Sumo wrestler from Estonia called Kaido Hoovelson who, according to Sakakibara, ‘has outstanding talent with the potential to lead the future of MMA.’ He probably won’t be the only Sumo wrestler in action as Akebono has reportedly agreed to a rematch with infamous heavyweight Bob Sapp.

It’s tough to keep track of which Rizin fights definitely are happening, possibly might be happening or aren’t actually happening after all. But there is plenty of exciting news emerging from the newly formed Japanese promotion. We just don’t know who Fedor will be fighting yet.


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