Juan Archuleta may have been stripped of his bantamweight title for missing weight ahead of RIZIN 45 — but he showed up at the Saitama Super Arena on New Year’s Eve ready to fight.
In a mulligan he would later blame on illness, Archuleta missed the mark by nearly six pounds for his would-be title fight with Kai Asakura. Luckily, an agreement was reached that allowed the RIZIN 45 co-main event to move forward, with Archuleta forced to make a Fight Night weight of 68kg.
Only Asakura, however, would be eligible to win the title. Should Archuleta come out victorious, the bout would be declared a No Contest.
Early in the opening round, Juan Archuleta was on the attack, and Asakura found himself dropped. The right hand was there for “The Spaniard,” who would later catch his Japanese counterpart in a guillotine. Tight as the choke attempt was, Kai Asakura defended well, escaped, and would even clip Archuleta later in the round.
Things got ugly late in the first frame, with Archuleta connecting with a trio of punches after the bell. After entering the fight with a red card due to the weight miss, Archuleta was handed a yellow card on top. Given the red card already made a decision win all but impossible for the now-former champ, the yellow on top necessitated a finish. Though Archuleta was, in reality, fighting only for his purse.
In round two, it was Asakura coming out looking to turn up the heat, firing his right hand and looking to fell Archuleta with a head kick. Archuleta found success with his jab, but too often was seen chasing after his opponent. That backfired when he ran right into an Asakura knee later in the round, a blow that floored Juan Archuleta! The former champ fell to his knees, with Asakura moving in and unloading ground and pound while Archuleta covered up. Soon enough, the ref had waved it off, leaving Kai Asakura the new RIZIN bantamweight champion!
The win kicks off the second reign over RIZIN’s bantamweight division for Kai Asakura, who previously held gold in 2020.
The crowning of a new champ was one of many big stories coming out of RIZIN 45, including the tease of a possible Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs. Manny Pacquiao exhibition bout.