RIZIN FF has yet to name a bantamweight champion, but that will be figured out at their New Year’s event when Bellator champion Darrion Caldwell will head to Japan to face RIZIN’s best in Kyoji Horiguchi.
Official announcements from both RIZIN and Bellator confirmed this exciting matchup of the best 135ers not in the UFC.
This will not be the first time Bellator has sent representatives to Japan, with Muhammad Lawal being the most notable. Lawal competed in RIZIN’s Openweight Grand Prix in 2016. However, this will be the first time the crossover will directly feature a belt on the line.
RIZIN President Nobuyuki Sakakibara was quoted stating that he’d love to see a “Champion Carnival” take place between the two promotions. This is certainly a step in the right direction to make that dream a reality.
Darrion Caldwell has been beyond dominant in Bellator. The former NCAA national champion wrestler has a 10-1 record in the Bellator cage, defending his title once. “The Wolf” moved up to featherweight for his last fight against Noad Lahat, winning by second round knockout.
Kyoji Horiguchi was one of the top flyweights in the UFC, accumulating a 7-1 record in the Octagon. The one loss, of course, came against nearly unbeatable former champion Demetrious Johnson. At the end of his contract, Horiguchi headed for greener pastures in his home country of Japan. After a successful RIZIN debut, Horiguchi tore through a 16-man bantamweight tournament to re-assert his dominance. Since then, Horiguchi recorded a nine-second KO over Ian McCall and another victory on top of that. His most recent action was a kickboxing bout against top-tier striker Tenshin Nasukawa.
RIZIN is bringing out the big guns for their New Year’s event. On top of the superfight, an exhibition bout between Tenshin Nasukawa and Floyd Mayweather will take place. Also featured will be former UFC standouts Ulka Sasaki, Justin Scoggins, and RIZIN fan-favorite Daron Cruickshank.