Wanderlei Silva to Return to Action at Rizin in 'Tag Team Grappling Match'

Fightland Blog

By Jake Hughes

Photo by Luiz Pires Dias/Zuffa LLC

After Rizin’s inaugural New Year’s Eve show just three months ago, Pride FC’s surrogate has already garnered a reputation for having a penchant for the ridiculous.

Its next event, set to take place in April at the 10,000 capacity Nippon Gaishi Hall in Nagoya, Japan, looks to be heading in a similar direction to that of the debut show back in December.

Wanderlei Silva, who recently signed contracts to compete under both Bellator and Rizin banners, is the big name to push the event in Nagoya.

How can Wanderlei compete at an MMA event when he’s banned from competing until 2017, you ask? Well, Rizin, as ever, has the perfect solution for such a silly rule break like flat-out refusing to submit to his mandatory drug tests. That solution? Stick him in a ring with Kazushi Sakuraba in a tag team grappling match under extreme rules.

Rizin didn’t do much to explain the concept or guidelines behind the “extreme rules grappling match,” but we do know that Sakuraba will be teaming up with fellow ailing JMMA favorite Hideo Tokoro. Wanderlei’s partner has yet to be announced.

Wanderlei hasn’t fought professionally since his thrilling victory over Brian Stann at a UFC on Fuel TV show in Pride’s former stomping ground—the Saitama Super Arena—back in 2013. Sakuraba, meanwhile, competed at Rizin’s introductory event following a four-year hiatus and was promptly bludgeoned by Shinya Aoki in one of those fights you never want to revisit out of respect for a man who deserves the hero status he enjoys in Japan and across the rest of the MMA-loving world. Tokoro also featured at Rizin’s debut event, emerging victorious against Kizaemon Saiga by ambarring his foe in the first round.

Rizin also announced a smattering of other fights to pad out their second show. In an all-Japanese affair, Yuta Watanabe will be taking on a name American MMA fans will be familiar with—Hisaki Kato—who caused one of the biggest upsets in Bellator history by knocking out US kickboxer Joe Schilling with a superman punch.

Two of Japan’s biggest female names will also be featuring on the card. 24-year-old kickboxer-turned MMA fighter Rena Kubota will be competing against a so-far unnamed opponent in a fight under shootboxing rules. Kubota won her MMA debut by defeating Italian upstart Jleana Valentino by a flying armbar submission. The other announced name is that of Kanako Murata—a promising wrestling star who will be making her first appearance under MMA rules in April.

However, it’s clear the gimmick of tag team grappling and the undoubted big names in Wanderlei Silva and Kazushi Sakuraba is what will be used to sell Rizin’s sophomoric effort. The pair have fought under the Pride banner three times, with Wanderlei earning decisive knockout wins on each occasion. Despite Wanderlei’s suspension running until May 2017, Sakuraba claimed he would be happy to meet his Brazilian foe in the ring once again under MMA rules. For “The Gracie Hunter’s” sake, I hope such a rematch doesn’t materialize.


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