Ayaka Hamasaki (R) (Jeff Vulgamore/Combat Press)

Rizin.27 Preview and Predictions

After a New Year’s Eve special full of notable names, the Rizin Fighting Federation has been quiet. That changes on Sunday, when the Japanese company returns for Rizin.27.

The spotlight shines on Rizin women’s atomweight champion Ayaka Hamasaki. The 38-year-old Invicta and Deep Jewels veteran is among the best 105-pound ladies to ever grace a ring or cage, and she has yet to slow down. Hamasaki is 21-3 in more than 11 years of action. Two of her losses came in strawweight affairs against Claudia Gadelha and Livinha Souza. Her third stumble came in a recent trilogy fight with perhaps the only woman that can be considered her equal, Seo Hee Ham. Now, Hamasaki puts her belt on the line in a rematch against Kanna Asakura.

Asakura has compiled quite the resume for a 23-year-old fighter. She is 18-4, and she has been at this since she was 17 years old. Asakura has topped the likes of Saori Ishioka, Rena Kubota (twice), Tomo Maesawa, Alesha Zappitella and Ai Shimizu. However, she also tasted defeat at the hands of Syuri Kondo, Alyssa Garcia and Miyuu Yamamoto in addition to Hamasaki. Now, Asakura has her first chance to redeem herself for a previous loss. As an added bonus, a win will result in a gold belt for her trophy case.


In the co-headliner, Roberto “Satoshi” de Souza, a decorated grappler, returns to MMA action. Satoshi seeks his 11th career MMA victory when he takes on veteran Kazuki Tokudome. The Brazilian’s only fight of 2020 ended in a finish of Yusuke Yachi in less than two minutes. Tokudome fits the profile of Satoshi’s recent opponents, and he’s enjoying a resurgence that includes two straight victories to snap a prior three-fight skid.

These two bouts top a bill that includes 12 additional fights, including four kickboxing affairs and eight MMA contests. The lineup features such notables as Kleber Koike Erbst, Shooto Watanabe, Takumi Tamaru and Taiga Kawabe. In addition, heavyweight Tsuyoshi Sudario, fresh off a December win over Ikuhisa Minowa, returns to action against Kazushi Miyamoto.

RIZIN.27 takes place on March 21 at Nippongaishi Hall in Nagoya, Aichi, Japan. The action kicks off at midnight ET. American fans can order the pay-per-view via the LiveNow streaming platform.

Ayaka Hamasaki reclaimed the Rizin atomweight title with a win over Miyuu Yamamoto. Now, Hamasaki is set to defend the belt against another woman she once defeated for the crown in Kanna Asakura. Will Hamasaki succeed a second time against Asakura?

The 38-year-old Hamasaki is still among the world’s best atomweight competitors. It’s highly unlikely that Asakura will dethrone her.

In their first encounter, Asakura was not able to demonstrate her superiority to Hamasaki in any area of the fight game. Hamasaki was able to outstrike her younger opponent, and any Asakura takedowns were short-lived or, in the case of the last such attempt, disastrous. Hamasaki was able to latch onto Asakura’s limb and eventually convert an armbar for the finish.

Asakura was just 21 when she lost to Hamasaki. She’s an evolving young fighter who has a bright future ahead of her atop the atomweight division. Unfortunately for her, Hamasaki isn’t quite done yet. The legendary veteran has gone on to post a number of strong performances since their first clash, including a decision nod over Invicta champ Jinh Yu Frey and finishes in her last two fights. Only fellow elite atomweight Seo Hee Ham has caused grief for Hamasaki.

There’s a chance Asakura could play it conservative in this affair to avoid another submission finish. The problem is that the youngster was getting outpointed on the feet as well. This means that Hamasaki might have to settle for a decision in the rematch unless she opts to get more aggressive with her own takedown attempts.

The co-headliner gives Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu stud Roberto “Satoshi” de Souza a chance to shine. How will he fare against Kazuki Tokudome?

Satoshi is a highly decorated BJJ black belt, but he’s already found plenty of success in the MMA realm as well. He’s suffered just one loss in 11 pro outings since making his debut in 2013. Under the Rizin banner, he notched wins over notables Satoru Kitaoka, Mizuto Hirota and Yusuke Yachi. His lone defeat came to UFC castoff Johnny Case via first-round knockout.

As long as Satoshi can get the fight to the mat, he can use his grappling skills to set up submissions — he has scored six in his MMA career — or ground-and-pound stoppages. He used his fists to finish the aforementioned trio of Kitaoka, Hirota and Yachi. While he’s favored his striking arsenal lately, he always has those submission holds in his back pocket.

He’ll find an adequate challenge in Tokudome, though. The Japanese veteran has 31 fights under his belt and has only suffered two losses via tapout. Tokudome is a threat to score a knockout as well. The 34-year-old has had his ups and downs since his 2007 pro debut. His highlights include victories over JJ Ambrose, the aforementioned Kitaoka, Akbarh Arreola and Adrian Pang. However, he has also come up short against Case, Isao Kobayashi, Norman Parke and Christian Lee, among others.

Tokudome is a UFC veteran, which makes this an important fight for Satoshi as he tries to further establish himself as an elite lightweight prospect. Given the black belt’s run of victories over similar veteran competition, his chances are high for another victory here. He’ll want to fall back onto his grappling skills to keep Tokudome in check while he works for a finish.

Are there any truly significant bouts among the kickboxing offerings?

Well, none of the four kickboxing contests feature top-10 fighters. In terms of name recognition, the biggest clash features former top-10 bantamweight Taiga Kawabe. The 24-year-old battles Kanta Motoyama, a promising fighter who has already made appearances with ONE Championship and Shooto.

Taiga’s had a rough few years. He’s just 2-8-1 over his last 11 appearances, and he’s been stopped several times. Motoyama suffered a loss in December against Ryusho Ito, but he does have fight-finishing power. Taiga badly needs the win here to get his career back on track.

Which fight is the sleeper match-up on this card?

Shooto Watanabe and Takumi Tamaru are buried far down the card, but they should combine for a solid clash of prospects.

Watanabe brings a 21-5-6 mark into this contest. The 32-year-old has been competing at the professional level since 2012, but he has padded his record with wins over low-level competition. In his attempts to step up to the next levels, he’s suffered two setbacks to Go Kashiwazaki and one loss to Naoki Inoue. When he has a more favorable match-up, Watanabe has been able to find the submission on 12 occasions, while also tallying six decision nods and two knockouts.

The 25-year-old Tamaru is 12-2-1. He has a far better strength of schedule since his 2015 debut. Tamaru steadily climbed the Shooto ladder with seven victories before running into Hayato Ishii, who fought him to a draw. He then lost to Rilley Dutro in his next outing. Tamaru recovered with four straight wins, including a split verdict over Mamoru Uoi. He came up short again in a title bid against Tatsuya Ando, but rebounded with a submission finish of Daiki Tsubota in late 2020.

Tamaru, who has six submission victories and three knockout finishes, has a chance to shine while adding another significant name to his list of victims. While they sport similar records, this should be a showcase for Tamaru.

Fight Pick
Main Card
Women’s AtomW Championship: Ayaka Hamasaki vs. Kanna Asakura Hamasaki
LW: Roberto “Satoshi” de Souza vs. Kazuki Tokudome Satoshi
LW: Koji Takeda vs. Takasuke Kume Takeda
FW: Kleber Koike Erbst vs. Kazumasa Majima Erbst
HW: Tsuyoshi Sudario vs. Kazushi Miyamoto Sudario
BW (Kickboxing): Taiga Kawabe vs. Kanta Motoyama Kawabe
FW: Tetsuya Seki vs. Yoshinori Horie Seki
BW: Kazuma Sone vs. Hiroki Yamashita Sone
BW: Shooto Watanabe vs. Takumi Tamaru Tamaru
FlyW: Yutaro Muramoto vs. Seigo Yamamoto Muramoto
StrawW (Kickboxing): Shuto Sato vs. Masayoshi Kunimoto Sato
141 pounds (Kickboxing): Riki Sakurai vs. Riku Yoshida Yoshida
121 pounds (Kickboxing): Ryota Naito vs. Hiroki Kinjo Naito
FlyW: Kohei Sugiyama vs. Yuki Ito Sugiyama