Four of Asia’s top bantamweight fighters converge on the Saitama Super Arena on New Year’s Eve looking to end 2021 with a new accolade on their resume – Rizin FF Bantamweight Grand Prix Champion.
In the first semi-final, former Rizin bantamweight champion Kai Asakura takes on former King of Pancrase challenger Kenta Takizawa, with the former champ keen to score a quickfire victory and progress to the main event final unscathed and as fresh as possible.
Speaking after making weight for the event, Asakura said, “My opponent has a wide range of kicks but that’s about it. His striking isn’t a threat to me. This will be a stand-up fight and I will knock him out in the first round.
“I have put in everything to win this tournament so winning it all is the minimum.
“This is a one night tournament so it would be nice to be able to finish him without taking any damage or fatigue, but I’m not looking past this Semi-Final and I will be focused on facing a tough opponent.
“The Finals of the tournament will be the main event so I plan to open up this event with my win and end it with my win.”
Takizawa has other plans, of course, and the 27-year-old Tokyo native said he has left no stone unturned ahead of the event.
“I’ve prepared myself in the best way I can. All I have to do now is to go in there and fight so I have no regrets,” he said.
“My opponent is a very tough opponent but I have a game plan to win it in a one-sided fight. Which is something I have been working on all year.
“I lost my fight last year on NYE and I have worked very hard to win on this day.
“I have a karate base and have come up with my own style that adopts best with MMA meaning different angles and effectiveness things like that.”
Immediately following the Asakura vs. Takizawa bout, Hiromasa Ougikubo and Naoki Inoue will face off for the second spot in the tournament final.
Ougikubo is a former bantamweight title challenger and finalist of The Ultimate Fighter: Tournament of Champions, and has all the experience needed to be successful in a tournament format.
And, after bouncing back from his title fight loss to Asakura in August 2020, the 34-year-old is riding a three-fight win streak heading into Rizin 33, and says he’s flying the flag for thirtysomething fighters as he prepares to battle his way to the final.
“It’s been a long year with many fights and I feel that I’m finally here,” he said.
“My opponent has a great ability to keep distance in his striking range and is a solid grappler so I plan to use all three rounds to frustrate him and win at all cost.
“I’ve been wanting to fight Inoue ever since the tournament has begun. I can’t wait to fight him and throw everything I have at him.
“For the past two to three years I have always been stepping in the ring thinking this might be my last fight. Every fight is the grand sum of my career and that hasn’t changed.
“I’m the only one left in my thirties in this GP so I want to show how tenacious a middle-aged man can become.”
Ougikubo takes on Rizin’s newest bantamweight star Inoue, who, at the age of 24, has already amassed an impressive record of 15-2.
He heads into his semi-final bout with Ougikubo with an unbeaten record under the Rizin FF banner, having won all five of his bouts inside the Rizin ring through 2020 and 2021.
Now Inoue is ready to make an impact in the bantamweight grand prix, and he is in confident mood heading into the New Year’s Eve event.
“My opponent has a strong heart,” he stated.
“He’s probably going to want to grapple and I’m okay with that. If he chooses to strike, I’m also okay with that.
“Everybody who’s left are tough guys, but I don’t see a future in myself if I don’t win this tournament in a convincing way.
“My goal in this fight is to let him do absolutely nothing. I hope to react and respond to whatever he brings.
“I think being calm and executing what I trained is the key to winning this one-day tournament.”
Rizin 33: Fight Card
- Main Event: Rizin Bantamweight Grand Prix Final
- Roberto Satoshi Souza vs. Yusuke Yachi – for Rizin lightweight title
- Yutaka Saito vs. Mikuru Asakura
- Tenshin Nasukawa vs. Takanori Gomi – stand-up rules
- Rena vs. Si Woo Park
- Ayaka Hamasaki vs. Seika Izawa
- Koji Takeda vs. “Blackpanther” Beynoah
- Shoma Shibisai vs. Hideki Sekine
- Kyohei Hagiwara vs. Hiroaki Suzuki
- Kouzi vs. Ya-Man – kickboxing rules
- Shibatar vs. Yuta Kubo
- Kazuma Sone vs. Shinomu Ota
- Yuki Motoya vs. Kintaro – bantamweight grand prix alternate bout
- Hiromasa Ougikubo vs. Naoki Inoue – bantamweight grand prix semi-final
- Kai Asakura vs. Kenta Takizawa – bantamweight grand prix semi-final
- Kota Miura vs. Yushi
Rizin 33 streams internationally via Live NOW with English commentary by Joe Ferraro, Damien Brown and Johnny Case.