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Riki Fukuda heading into M-1 Challenge after April 5 upset win over 'Ninja' Rua

Tapped to replace Dong Sik Yoon to fight former EliteXC middleweight champion Murilo "Ninja" Rua on just days notice, Riki Fukuda was considered a sizable underdog heading into their face off during DREAM.8 this past Saturday.

In spite of the long odds, Fukuda delivered in the clutch and won his fourth consecutive fight following a unanimous decision victory over Rua at Japan's Saitama Super Arena.

New admirers of Fukuda's hard-nosed, well-rounded fight style won't have to wait long to see him in action again. That's because the Japan native is set to lead Team Japan against the United Kingdom during the next installment of the "M-1 Challenge Presented by Affliction" scheduled for Wednesday, April 29 in Tokyo at the Shin Juku.

Subtitled "Third Edition," the April 29 M-1 Challenge event will feature teams from six different countries going head-to-head in three best-of-five matchups.

The 27-year old Fukuda formerly trained under Norifumi "Kid" Yamamoto with Team Killer Bee in Japan and has fought for promotions such as EliteXC, Shooto, K-1, Pancrase and DEEP. A veteran of 18 fights, Fukuda holds notable victories in his career over current M-1 light heavyweight competitor Jason Jones as well as current UFC welterweight Brandon Wolff.

While the five-man squad for the United Kingdom is still being finalized, M-1 Global officials can reveal that Fukuda will take on Matt "12 Gauge" Thorpe in a middleweight matchup (184.8 lbs./-84 kg). Thorpe, 10-7, is a long-time veteran of Britain's Cage Warriors promotion.

Fukuda will be joined on Team Japan by lightweight Luiz Andrade, welterweight Hidehiko Hasegawa, light heavyweight Tatsuya Mizuno, and heavyweight Yusuke Kawaguchi.

Andrade is a veteran of DEEP who is undefeated in his last three fights. He last competed at DEEP 39 this past December, where he recorded a majority decision victory over Shinobu Miura. The bout served as a rematch from their two-round draw at DEEP 37 this past August.

In addition to being a veteran of DEEP and Pancrase, Hasegawa is a returnee to the M-1 Challenge. Representing Team Japan against Team Spain in Kansas City, MO this past October, Hasegawa recorded a three-round unanimous decision victory over Javier Martinez. His last fight was another unanimous decision victory over Makoto Ishikawa at DEEP 40 this past February.

The 27-year old Mizuno was 2-1 in the M-1 Challenge last year with wins over Yoshiyuki Nakanishi in a superfight against Jose Beltran while representing Team Japan vs. Team Spain this past October. Mizuno might be best known for his March 2008 fight vs. Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic during DREAM's first-ever event. He also met current UFC light heavyweight Thiago Silva during a 2007 bout while competing under the Pancrase banner.

Rounding out Team Japan's impressive five-man squad is one of its best heavyweight prospects, the 8-0 Kawaguchi. Kawaguchi won DEEP's 2008 Megaton Grand Prix Champion with wins over Nobuyoshi Takahara, Yoichi Babaguchi, Shunji Kosaka, and Shunsuke Inoue. He claimed the championship on Aug. 2 last year after defeating Kosaka and Inoue in the same night.

Complete lineups for "M-1 Challenge: Third Edition" in Tokyo are currently being finalized and will be made available on

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