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RIZIN 20 preview: Here’s what to watch for on NYE

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Bellator 39 Photo by Henry S. Dziekan III/Getty Images

The Japanese tradition of stacked year-end shows continues tomorrow morning (Tues., Dec. 31, 2019) at 1 a.m. ET Eastern with RIZIN 20, which hits the hallowed halls of Saitama Super Arena with three title fights and the conclusion of its Lightweight Grand Prix in store. It’s a beast of a card, featuring 13 mixed martial arts (MMA) bouts and two kickboxing matches, so let’s take a look at the highlights for convenience’s sake.

Kai Asakura vs. Manel Kape

Unsurprisingly, the main event is one of the best fights on the card.

Kai Asakura established himself as perhaps Rizin’s strongest homegrown talent earlier this year with his shocking upset knockout of Kyoji Horiguchi. The two were supposed to rematch for the title, but with the 26-year-old instead faces another former foe in Manel Kape, whom Asakura defeated by split decision last year. Though the Portuguese bruiser has had some tough losses, he’s dynamite on the feet and should produce fireworks against a fellow striker.

The Lightweight Grand Prix

The two semifinal bouts open the show, with the winners meeting seven fights later in the final match before intermission. Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) veteran Johnny Case, who forced unbeaten ground ace Roberto “Satoshi” to tap to strikes in the quarters, takes on Tofiq Musaev, who followed up his decision over Daron Cruickshank by stopping Damien Brown to get here. In the other semifinal, Bellator veteran Patricky “Pitbull” Freire faces fellow Brazilian finisher Luiz “Killer” Gustavo. Freire smashed Japanese legend Tatsuya Kawajiri in the quarters, while Gustavo stopped Hiroto Uesako.

Jiri Prochazka vs. C.B. Dollaway

While Dollaway’s only wins since 2014 were a decision over Ed Herman and a disqualification win over Hector Lombard, this could still be entertaining. Prochazka — Rizin’s Light Heavyweight king — is must-watch TV, an insanely aggressive striker with a seemingly bottomless gas tank. What makes this interesting, though, is that he’s also prone to winding up in rough positions on the mat before eventually scrambling his way free. That could prove costly against a grappler of Dollaway’s caliber.

Shintaro Ishiwatari vs. Hiromasa Ogikubo

This one’s a bit under the radar and is stuck in the middle of the Prelims, but there’s an argument to be made that this is a fight between Japan’s No. 2- and No. 3-ranked Bantamweights. Ishiwatari is 8-1 in his last nine, losing only to Kyoji Horiguchi, and The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) finalist Ogikubo has lost only to Horiguchi in the professional ranks since 2010. While neither is a prolific finisher, this is still a great match up.

Ayaka Hamasaki vs. Seo Hee Ham

This is a fight to decide the best Atomweight on the planet. Hamasaki has never lost at the weight, falling only to Claudia Gadelha and Livinha Souza in 115-pound efforts, and “Hamderlei Silva” has knocked out four of five since a bogus decision loss to Danielle Taylor bounced her from the UFC. The two have met twice before, Hamasaki winning both times. I anticipate serious action.

Remember, too, that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE coverage of RIZIN 20 right here, starting with the FITE.TV broadcast at 1 a.m. ET.