RIZIN 26 is set to close out the year 2020 on the MMA calendar. As usual, the New Year’s Eve show looks to be another stacked event.
On Wednesday, the promotion held a pre-fight press conference to announce the first batch of fight announcements for what is expected to be a 16-18 fight card overall. The additional seven fights currently put the card at eight in total as the highly anticipated title fight rematch between Kai Asakura and Kyoji Horiguchi was announced three weeks prior.
Of the seven new matchups, the most notable is what will be RIZIN 26’s second title fight. First and former RIZIN super atomweight champion Ayaka Hamasaki (20-3) returns to vie for the vacant crown when she takes on the ageless Miyuu Yamamoto (6-4).
“Miyuu Yamamoto has been an idol of mine for such a long time,” Hamasaki said via press release. “I am very excited to be facing her on such a great stage. Please look forward to a great masterpiece on a great night and great stage against a great opponent. Miyuu’s physical strength is outstanding and she has grown as a fighter, I don’t think I will be able to beat her easily.”
For Hamasaki, this will the 11th title fight in her illustrious career and her fourth in RIZIN. The last coming at RIZIN 20 on New Year’s Eve 2019 when she dropped a split decision to longtime rival Seo Hee Ham. Ham has since departed RIZIN to sign with ONE Championship.
“I am truly grateful for [Nobuyuki] Sakakibara and the people who worked hard to give me such an opportunity during this global pandemic,” Yamamoto shared. “I am very excited to be able to perform in the ring on New Year’s Eve. I made my professional debut in 2016 and I may have had some detours but I have finally made my way to a world title fight. I think this fight against Ayaka Hamasaki will be my grand sum of what I have lived for. Please look forward to the fight.”
In the case of the 46-year old Yamamoto, her most recent loss also came against Ham in a title eliminator to get a crack at Hamasaki. Since then, Yamamoto rebounded with a dominant unanimous decision over Suwanan “Amp the Rocket” Boonsorn that also came at RIZIN 20.
Also on tap for RIZIN 26 will be what is likely a top contender fight for the vacant title fight, Kanna Asakura (17-4) vs. Ai Shimizu (5-0).
“This will be my fifth NYE appearance since I have made my promotional debut,” Asakura said. “I feel that I have grown with RIZIN and am very proud of what we have become. Ai is a better wrestler than me but I am a better MMA fighter. I will take her on with respect.”
Bantamweight standouts such as Naoki Inoue (14-2), Yuki Motoya (26-8), Ulka Sasaki (22-8-2), and Kenta Takizawa (11-6) are also set to compete. And just to have a little fun, we’re also getting the return of the one and only “Minowaman” Ikushi Minowa (64-42-8). This bout against Sudario Tyuyoshi (1-0) will be Minowaman’s first since September 2017.
The current RIZIN 26 lineup as it currently stands can be seen below.
- Bantamweight – 135lbs: (C)Kai Asakura vs. Kyoji Horiguchi
- Super atomweight – 108lbs: (C) – Ayaka Hamasaki vs. Miyuu Yamamoto
- Super atomweight (no elbows allowed): Kanna Asakura vs. Ai Shimizu
- Bantamweight: Yuki Motoya vs. Naoki Inoue
- Catchweight – 149lbs: Ren Hiramoto vs. Kyohei Hagiwara
- Heavyweight – 207-265lbs (no elbows allowed): Sudario Tsuyoshi vs. Minowaman
- Bantamweight: Ulka Sasaki vs. Kenta Takizawa
- Bantamweight: Hideo Tokoro vs. Shinobu Ota