Hamasaki vs Yamamoto, Asakura vs Shimizu Set For Rizin FF 26One year after narrowly losing her title, Ayaka Hamasaki aims to recapture the Rizin FF Women’s Super Atomweight Championship on December 31st at Rizin Fighting Federation 26 in Saitama, Japan. Hamasaki will face off against promotional mainstay Miyuu Yamamoto for the vacant 49kg title.

Rizin FF officials announced the championship matchup earlier today. Also confirmed for the New Year’s Eve card is a bout that may serve as a title eliminator, as 2017 Rizin FF grand prix winner Kanna Asakura squares off against fast-rising prospect Ai Shimizu, who has won five straight fights.

 

Hamasaki (20-3-0), who previously held titles in Jewels and Invicta FC, captured the Rizin FF Women’s Super Atomweight Championship in her third fight for the promotion when she submitted Asakura at Rizin FF 14 two years ago. She next scored her second win over former Invicta FC rival Jinh Yu Frey at Rizin FF 16 in June 2019, then made a quick return to action when she submitted Suwanan “Amp The Rocket” Boonsorn at Rizin FF 18. This set up a trilogy bout with Seo Hee Ham, whom Hamasaki had twice bested under the Jewels banner, but Ham gained a measure of revenge and took Hamasaki’s title via Split Decision. In August, Hamasaki got back in the win column with a second-round submission victory over Deep Jewels champ Tomo Maesawa in a non-title bout at Rizin FF 22.

While there were initial thoughts that Hamasaki may face Ham for a fourth time, that was not meant to be and Ham relinquished her Rizin FF title earlier this year – following a public fallout with her Japanese management, whom she accused of embezzlement, and the expiration of her Road FC/Rizin FF deal – in order to sign with ONE Championship. As a result of Ham’s departure and title vacation, Hamasaki will instead face Yamamoto on the year-end card.

Yamamoto (6-4-0) struggled early in her MMA career and managed just one win in her first four Rizin FF bouts. The decorated wrestler rebounded in a big way in 2018, however, and she posted key victories over Saori Ishioka, Andy Nguyen and Mika Nagano to set up a contender’s bout with Asakura at Rizin FF 16. There, Yamamoto scored her biggest victory to date when she took a Unanimous Decision over the former grand prix champion, but her momentum came to a halt when she was stopped by Ham at Rizin FF 19. Yamamoto returned to her winning ways by defeating Boonsorn at Rizin FF 20, but she has not fought since then and will be competing for the first time in a full calendar year when she clashes with Hamasaki later this month.

 

Asakura (17-4-0) has experienced ups and downs since winning the inaugural Rizin FF Women’s Super Atomweight Grand Prix in 2017. Her eight-fight winning streak was snapped by Hamasaki in the pair’s championship bout at Rizin FF 14, but Asakura rebounded by defeating Deep Jewels titleholder Tomo Maesawa and future Invicta FC champ Alesha Zappitella in 2019, with a tough decision loss to the aforementioned Yamamoto sandwiched in between. Asakura has since extended her winning streak to three with stoppage victories over Jayme Hinshaw and Mizuki Furuse, and she now looks to get back into Rizin FF title contention on New Year’s Eve.

Shimizu (7-1-0) kicked off her Rizin FF career at the end of 2018, just four weeks after she had been eliminated by Furuse in the semi-finals of the 50kg Fighting Agent War women’s tournament. Her Rizin FF debut was a successful one, as Shimizu upset popular prospect Nanaka Kawamura via first-round TKO. She then made two appearances for Deep Jewels this past year, scoring stoppage victories over Sae Kokuho and Sayuri Yamaguchi, and subsequently defeated Tabatha Ann Watkins at Rizin FF 18. Shimizu’s most recent fight came on December 29, 2019 when she edged out former KOTC champ Andy Nguyen in a close fight at Bellator 237.

Rizin Fighting Federation 26 takes place on December 31st at Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan.

 

 

(Photo Credit: Rizin Fighting Federation)