Kyoji Horiguchi Exacts Revenge, Reclaims Bantamweight Title at RIZIN 26

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Kyoji Horiguchi, RIZIN 26
Kyoji Horiguchi, RIZIN 26 Credit: RIZIN FF

After sitting out over a year due to an ACL injury, Kyoji Horiguchi returned to action at RIZIN 26 on New Year’s Eve. Facing off with Kai Asakura, the only man to have defeated him since Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson in 2015, Horiguchi (29-3) exacted his revenge.

It took under three minutes for Horiguchi, whose last fight was a non-title affair against Asakura in August of 2019, to get back to his winning ways. With the RIZIN bantamweight title on the line — Kai Asakura had eventually won the title vacated by Horiguchi following his ACL injury — Horiguchi connected with a right hand that sent Asakura to the ground midway through the opening frame. With his opponent stunned and on his back, Horiguchi swarmed in with additional strikes to seal the deal. The TKO win came officially at 2:48 of round one.

The victory brings the long and arduous journey back from injury to a close for the former two-promotion champion. Prior to his fall 2019 ACL tear, the Japanese fighter had held gold in both RIZIN Fighting Federation and Bellator MMA — an almost unparalleled feat in mixed martial arts. While the Bellator bantamweight title currently rests in the hands of Juan Archuleta, Horiguchi, considered by many the best lower-weight fighter outside the UFC, is once again at the top in RIZIN.

The win at the legendary Saitama Super Arena improves Horiguchi’s record to 14-1 since his 2015 fight with Johnson. Horiguchi would never get a second crack at “Mighty Mouse,” instead exiting the UFC in 2016 following a three-fight win streak.

Horiguchi’s victory over Asakura at RIZIN 26 improves his record inside that promotion to 10-1. He has fought exclusively for the Japanese outfit since exiting the UFC, with the exception of his Bellator title win at Bellator 222 in June 2019 against Darion Caldwell. The pair had previously fought under the RIZIN banner in December 2018, with Horiguchi winning the inaugural RIZIN bantamweight title at that time.

For Kai Asakura, the loss to Horiguchi is just the third of his professional career. He was defeated at RIZIN 20 in 2019 by current UFC athlete Manel Kape, in his first attempt to claim Horiguchi’s old title. He bounced back with a win over Hiromasa Ougikubo at RIZIN 23, then finally captured gold against Shoji Maruyama this past September. The fight against Horiguchi represented his first attempt to defend the title — and it clearly wasn’t his night.

Hamasaki Pulls Off Impressive Submission to Reclaim Atomweight Belt

Also on the RIZIN 26 card, former Invicta FC champ Ayaka Hamasaki claimed RIZIN’s vacant atomweight title in style. In a rarely-seen submission, Hamasaki caught opponent Miyuu Yamamoto, sister of the late, legendary Kid Yamamoto, in a leg scissors choke, capturing gold under two minutes into the opening round.

Ayaka Hamasaki, RIZIN 26 Credit: RIZIN FF

The win improves Hamasaki’s record to 21-3. The 38-year old now enters her second reign as RIZIN atomweight champion. She previously held the title from 2018 to 2019, defending it once prior to losing the belt against Seo Hee Ham at RIZIN 20. Ham would later vacate the title after signing with ONE Championship.

Full results from RIZIN 26 are available here.

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