It appears the rumors of Kyoji Horiguchi’s demise have been greatly exaggerated.
Rizin Fighting Federation wrapped up 2020 in style with an event that saw the crowning of two brand new champions. In the Rizin 26 main event, former Rizin and Bellator MMA bantamweight champion Horiguchi (29-3) recaptured the 135-pound championship by smashing former titleholder Kai Asakura (16-3). Horiguchi looked to chop down Asakura’s leading leg with low kicks early in the fight, putting the defending champion on alert as he saw annulled his reach advantage. The former Ultimate Fighting Championship title contender put everything he had into these leg kicks, causing Asakura some difficulties putting down his lead leg in the early going.
As soon as Horiguchi noticed he had his opponent hurt, he pressed forward throwing heavy combinations. One of them landed on the button, sending Asakura crashing down to the ground. The end came when Asakura wasn’t able to defend himself any longer, and the referee had to step in to save him from Horiguchi’s fury. The official time indicated 2:48 minutes in the opening frame, avenging a loss Horiguchi suffered to Asakura in 2019.
The co-main event saw young unbeaten kickboxing star Tenshin Nasukawa lock horns with Kumandoi Phetjaroenvit. Nasukawa dominated his opponent in the opening round with surgical striking. Midway through the round, the Japanese fighter landed a kick while his opponent was grounded. Kumandoi retaliated by angrily throwing his opponent to the canvas. In the second stanza, the Japanese fighter turned up the intensity and stunned Kumandoi with a punch. It took a few seconds, but Kumandoi recovered from the shot and came back with a few combinations of his own.
In the third round, Nasukawa worked the upper and the middle part of Kumandoi. The Japanese fighter delivered some hard shots, and Kumandoi survived to hear the final bell thanks largely to his superhuman durability. When it came to hear the judges’ scorecards, Nasukawa’s domination was rewarded with a unanimous decision victory.
Earlier in the main card, Mikuru Asakura (14-2) annihilated Satoshi Yamasu (11-6) in a 150-pound catchweight contest. Asakura stunned “Dominator” with a head kick before finishing him off with a follow-up punch that put the former Deep champion away at 4:20 of the first frame.
In a Rizin special standing rules bout, Takanori Gomi edged Koji Tanaka by majority decision after a furious brawl; Ayaka Hamasaki (21-3) captured the vacant 108-pound championship once again after she sank a kimura combined with a leg scissor choke that forced Miyuu Yamamoto (6-5) to tap after only 102 seconds into the opening stanza.
In the mid-card, UFC alum Naoki Inoue (15-2) submitted Yuki Motoya (24-9) with a rear-naked choke at three minutes flat in their 135-pound battle. Former KSW champion Kleber Koike Erbst (26-5-1) left Kyle Aguon unconscious (13-10) with a vicious brabo choke in a 148-pound catchweight affair. Kyohei Hagiwara (3-3) battered Ren Hiramoto (0-1) in a 150-pound catchweight bout, forcing Hiramoto’s corner to throw in the towel at 1:29 of Round 2. In a 135-pound clash, Hideo Tokoro (35-30-2) submitted 2016 Olympic silver medalist wrestler Shinobu Ota (0-1) with a lightning-quick armbar at 2:24 in the second round.
In the opening section of the card, Nadaka Yoshinari mauled Phetmalai Phetjaroenvit in their kickboxing match thanks to vicious punches and elbows; UFC vet Yuta Sasaki (23-8-2) upended Kenta Takizawa (11-7) via unanimous consensus at the end of their bantamweight clash; Kanna Asakura (18-4) did enough to take home a unanimous decision victory over Ai Shimizu (7-2) in a 108-pound fight; Kazuma Kuramoto (7-1) stopped Taiyo Nakahara (15-9) thanks to a few punches accompanied by brutal soccer kicks at 2:12 in Round 1; finally, Tsuyoshi Sudario (2-0) chopped down Ikuhisa Minowa (62-44-8) via leg kicks before punctuating the fight with a few hammerfists at 3:19 into the first round.
The openweight, mixed rules match between Atsushi Saito and Kawabe Hiroya ended up in a draw in a contest that used the kickboxing rules in the first round and MMA in Round 2. A few hours later, Rizin officials reviewed the footage and overturned the draw, awarding “Shibatar” the victory by armbar, with video footage showing Hiroya tapped out.
In the non-televised preliminary fight, Sakura Mori (3-1, 1 NC) submitted Eru Takebayashi (0-0, 1 NC) via armbar at 1:37 into the opening frame; since Mori missed weight, the bout was automatically ruled a no-contest.