RIZIN FF announced at a press conference today, two star-studded matchups – a featherweight (145 pounds) contest between undefeated Kron Gracie (3-0) and veteran star Tatsuya “Crusher” Kawajiri (35-10-2), and a much-anticipated rematch between Charles “Krazy Horse” Bennett (30-30-2) and Minoru “Philip” Kimura (MMA: 0-1, Kickboxing: 21-6-1, 15 KO’s) at a catchweight of 147.7 pounds – both of which will take place on the Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) federation’s stacked fight card on New Year’s Eve, Saturday, Dec. 31 at Saitama Super Arena in Tokyo.
In addition, RIZIN FF Chairman Nobuyuki Sakakibara stated that quarterfinal matchups for the remaining fighters in the open weight tournament will be announced next week, followed by weekly announcements of new fights for both the December 29 and December 31 fight cards that comprise the RIZIN FF New Year’s extravaganza.
Fighting out of Los Angeles, Calif., the 28-year-old Gracie, the son of legendary master Rickson and grandson of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu founder Helio, is coming off a spectacular, first round (9:40) submission (rear-naked choke) of battle-tested K-1 and DREAM veteran Hideo Tokoro at the stacked RIZIN FF card on September 25.
A longtime Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu competitor and black belt, as well as a former ADCC Submission Wrestling Championships tournament winner, Gracie has yet to be pushed past the first round of battle in any of his MMA starts.
Kawajiri of Inashiki, Ibaraki, Japan is a 38-year-old, established star and former Shooto lightweight (155 pounds) world champion whose signing to a promotional agreement with RIZIN FF was announced last week, shortly after he parted ways with his previous promoter, the UFC.
During his storied, 16-year professional career that has included stints nearly every major Japanese fight franchise, including PRIDE Fighting Championships, DREAM and Dynamite!!, Kawajiri has faced and defeated a collection of rival champions and other standout competitors, including Yves Edwards, Vitor “Shaolin” Ribeiro and Josh Thomson.
The second meeting between Bennett of Ocala, Fla. and Kimura of Japan via Curitiba, Brazil will occur just three months after the two faced off in the RIZIN FF ring where Bennett scored a thunderous, highlight reel knockout on Kimura in a mere seven seconds with a flying right hand to the temple, followed by a barrage of finishing punches to the downed Kimura.
For the 36-year-old Bennett, a 17-year MMA veteran, the win was arguably his most explosive and shocking since he scored a first round (3:43) knockout on a heavily favored K.J. Noons with a single punch on February 10, 2007.
One fight prior to the victory over Kimura, Bennett notched another speedy, first round (:43) conquest, submitting Paul Rodriguez with a heel hook on May 14.
A 2012 Japan super lightweight kickboxing champion, the 23-year-old Kimura who was born in Curitiba, but relocated to Japan at age three, has been ranked as high as number two in the world in kickboxing’s featherweight division.
Kimura has climbed his way up the rankings by defeating several notable opponents, including Kaew Fairtex of Thailand and Hideaki Yamazaki and Masaaki Noiri of Japan.
Last week, RIZIN FF announced the signing of heavyweight superstar Shane Carwin (12-2) who will make his federation debut as a wild card entrant in the open weight tournament that kicked off on September 25, and continues on December 29.
(Photo Courtesy of RIZIN FF)