Japanese martial arts seem to be on a turbo charged comeback as of late; mostly thanks to Rizin and Rise Kickboxing, which have worked to re-popularise the sport through innovative marketing and by embracing the ‘Just Bleed Culture’ which has seemingly slowly faded from western MMA. Japanese MMA fans have even started being labelled as the ‘Hipsters’ of the MMA realm, due to their incessant belief that JMMA is the greatest of all MMA.
As we look forward to all that’s in store for 2019, it’s best to sit down at our computer screens, to metaphorically scream to the MMA Gods that be; that we want these fights to get made. These are the hypothetical fights that inspire the most awe in us: Please MMA Gods, sprinkle some love on the community and help make these happen!
Takeru VS Tenshin
This is perhaps the biggest fight in all Japanese Kickboxing. Takeru; like Tenshin is an undefeated kickboxing sensation, with a flair for the extraordinary. Both dudes are still young and far away from their athletic prime, but we still need to see this fight multiple times. The fight will likely never happen though, as Takeru is currently signed to K-1 whilst Tenshin is signed to rival promotion Rise, Rise & K-1 have a frosty relationship to say the least.
Even though Takeru has gone so far as to say he wants to “Fight you know who in 2019 & rip his head off” don’t be surprised if the fight never happens due to promotional feuds.
Rodtang VS Tenshin
Rodtang fought Tenshin back in May 2018, and he came extremely close to wrecking Tenshins perfect record. Both Rodtang and Tenshin are explosive finishers with a ‘Do or die’ type attitude. They are also both currently set to take part in the Rise Grand Prix this year, so you’d imagine a rematch between the two stars is inevitable at this point; Though Rodtang is currently signed to ONE FC it’ll be interesting to see if ONE president Chatri allows Rodtang to compete in another promotion.
Kaito VS Rodtang
Kaito VS Tenshin was supposedly the main event of Rizin 14 before Floyd Mayweather went over and screwed everything up. Kaito is basically just a bigger, slightly better version of Tenshin so the original matchup at Rizin 14 was compelling. Despite this I would rather see how Kaito matches up with a smaller opponent who possess nuclear knockout power like Rodtang. There’s rumours floating around the inter-web that Kaito is trying to compete in the Rise Grand Prix yet I don’t think he could make the 126lb limit without dying. Meaning this fight will require Rodtang to go up a few weight classes to challenge in a rival promotion which ONEs Chatri will likely not allow.
Kape VS Gustavo
Luiz ‘Killer’ is an undefeated Rizin prospect who made waves in the JMMA scene by beating the living snot out of Japanese hero – Yusuke Yachi in the main event of Rizin 12. Since the win Luiz has been relatively silent; forging away in his gym with mentor and coach Wanderlei Silva. We’d love to see Luiz make a 2nd trip to Japan, we think Luiz VS Kape is a super compelling matchup as Kape is technically proficient in all aspects of MMA and has that bite down on the mouthpiece and swing Nick Diaz aura around him, which fans love. The matchup between the two maniacs could be the one of the biggest highlights of MMA in 2019.
Sapp VS Baruto
Who doesn’t like watching two big men bang it out? ‘The Beast’ Bob Sapp is on a tear of late, beating up Ossunarashi in my 2018 pick for fight of the year. As for Baruto, he’s currently enjoying the fruits of retirement, after losing his last fight via beheading to Mirko Cro Cop. Sapp VS the elite sumo wrestler Baruto could be one of the most interesting fights to ever happen in Rizin.
This is because Sapp looks to have all the momentum coming off the win over Ossunarashi, whilst Baruto could use the fight as an opportunity prove the doubters wrong and to gain huge fame by beating Sapp (The Yoda of Japanese MMA). Hopefully Rizin are able to persuade Baruto with a big enough bag of cash to come out of retirement so we can see this dream matchup take place.
Garcia VS Kandori
You remember the 53 year old ex pro wrestler that Gabi Garcia was meant to annihilate, right? It was a cursed fight from the beginning to be honest; Garcia VS Kandori was originally scheduled to take place back at the 2017 Rizin New Years Eve card, yet it seemed to good to be true as the matchup fell apart due to Garcia missing weight by a whopping 28 pounds. Fast forward a few months and we still want to see the fight happen, (Mostly out of boredom), the fight seems more likeable after Kandori invaded the ring after Garcia won at Rizin 14. The bad blood between the two, paired up with absurdity of the matchup makes this fight a must watch for us.