One of the highlights of my year is traveling overseas to Japan, to call the two Rizin FF New Year’s Eve events. While the travel may be arduous, let’s be honest: first world problems.
While for some, the thought of sitting on a plane for 14 hours is not ideal, I for one have traveled enough and know that I need to keep my mind occupied. I’m often unable to sleep on planes, so it’s safe to say I always hope the movie selection is to my liking, but as a backup, I load my iPad with movies and documentaries.
Mind you, for the flight over this time around, I spent it watching the last three Rizin FF events, to get me prepped for what’s in store for this weekend. And I cannot express to you enough, how excited I am for the two events.
For those who don’t know, the annual tradition of holding two events is due in part to the promotion showcasing a tournament, with quarter finals on December 29th and the semi-finals and finals on New Year’s Eve. Usually, it’s just one tournament, but this time around, we have three tournaments.
Yes - you read that correctly; three different tournaments that are sure to create some new stars in the martial arts world.
From a kickboxing perspective, there is a four-man tourney featuring Tenshin Nasukawa, Yuma Hamamoto, Mitsushisa Sunabe and Yamamoto Fujita.
The favorite heading into this one night, winner take all bracket is Nasukawa, who in my honest opinion could be one of the biggest break out stars in the region. If you’ve never seen him fight, do yourself a favor and watch him. While anything can happen in fighting, I’m telling you, this youngster is someone special. He’s an incredible talent who is uber fast.
Then there’s the women’s super atom weight tournament featuring Japanese star Rena, who will do her part to representing the country of her birth vs other select talent from Japan and the international sector.
Rena will have to first dispose of Spain’s Irene Rivera with the winner taking on the victor between Brazil’s Maria Oliveira and Japan’s Kanna Asakura. Today, Frank Trigg (my broadcast partner) and I already interviewed all three of these ladies, with Rena scheduled to join us this evening.
To end it all on New Year’s Eve is the incredible bantamweight tournament which features familiar names to MMA fans like Ian McCall and Kyoji Horiguchi. These two MMA vets will try and meet in the finale, but first, on December 29th, McCall will have to defeat Manuel Kate while Horiguchi will have to stall the momentum of Gabriel Oliveira.
Then there’s the other competitors: Kevin Petshi will take on Shintaro Ishiwatari while Khalid Taha will face off against Takafumi Otsuka. To make things interesting, the reserve bout features Anthony Birchak vs. Jae Hoon Moon. I think it goes without me saying it, but pay attention to the reserve bout because you just never know what can happen, as either of Birchak or Moon can easily find themselves in the main event on New Year’s Eve.
Of course, leave up to Rizin FF to keep MMA fans happy. Also fighting on the shows will be the likes of Mirko Cro Cop vs. Tsuyoshi Kosaka, Takanori Gomi, Gabby Garcia, King Reina and Cindy Dandois (who will be cornered by Miesha Tate).