It’s Easter weekend, and two Asian promotions have very promising cards lined up for Saturday and Sunday morning. Road FC 38 happens from Korea on Saturday, while Rizin 2017: Sakura goes down in Japan on Sunday. Both cards bring familiar names and division relevancy, and perhaps more importantly, they also likely provide insanely fun bouts for MMA fans to wake up to.
Here’s what you can expect from each of the cards:
ROAD FC 38 — Free Stream — Saturday, 4 a.m. ET prelims, 7 a.m. ET main card.
Best Asian Bantamweight?
Headlining the card is a bantamweight title bout between Soo Chul Kim (15-5-1), and Min Woo Kim (8-1). The former ONE FC champ in Soo Chul has already torn through 8 UFC veterans in his career, and even if he’s just 25-years old, he has long been considered as one of the best bantamweights outside the UFC.
While multiple champions from the promotion have gone on to fight in the UFC, Soo Chul never held the Road FC belt. On this card, he finally gets that chance, as he takes on a fellow talented Korean youngster on a nice win streak. Min Woo is 21-years old, and has blossomed into one of the most promising prospects in Korea. He has beaten seasoned veterans such as Shooto champ Yuta Nezu and Shoko Sato en route to this title bout.
This title bout not only determines which of the two talented fighters are the best in Korea, it also likely cements the champion as the best bantamweight from Asia.
The bantamweight title was last held by Yun Jun Lee, who unfortunately suffered a stroke last year and had to put his career on hold. Prior to that, the belt was with Kyung Ho Kang, who moved on to the UFC.
$1 Million lightweight tournament trials, Huggy Bear in co-main
Other notable bouts in the card, include four bouts that will determine seeding for Road FC’s $1 Million lightweight tournament. Among those tournament bouts, keep an eye out for UFC veteran and former Road FC champ Yui Chul Nam, former M-1 and BAMMA champ Mansour Barnaoui, and Brazilian prospect Bruno Miranda.
The co-main event for the card features the charismatic super heavyweight in ‘Huggy Bear’ Chris Barnett (15-3), who weighed in at almost 300 lbs. He takes on Korean heavyweight Hyun Man Myung, who recently dropped bouts to Mirko Cro Cop and Mighty Mo.
RIZIN 2017: Sakura — PPV Stream ($15) — Sunday 3 a.m. ET
Top 3 flyweight in the world returns to Japan
While Road FC’s Saturday event brings divisional relevance at bantamweight and lightweight, this Rizin card the following day has the same for flyweight. This is anchored on Kyoji Horiguchi (18-2) returning to Japan, after the UFC surprisingly let their former title contender walk.
Horiguchi, who at the time of his free agency was ranked as #3 in the world, is still just 26-years old. Since his loss to the top pound-for-pound fighter in Demetrious Johnson in 2015, Horiguchi won three straight bouts and upped his UFC record to 7-1, before his contract expired.
UFC’s loss is Rizin’s gain as Horiguchi returns to his home country on his new deal with the promotion. He faces DEEP champion Yuki Montoya (18-4), who is unbeaten in 10 bouts since 2013.
Long time MMA Veterans and young prospects fill the card
A couple of other bouts in the Rizin card feature popular, albeit aging, veterans of the sport in Japan. Headlining the event is JMMA star Tatsuya Kawajiri facing off against fellow UFC vet Anthony Birchak. The 38-year-old ‘Crusher’ has seen better days, but he is still a huge star in the region, and will look to rebound from a stinging defeat against Kron Gracie on New Year’s Eve.
Heavyweights will also collide with 39-year-old PRIDE and UFC vet Heath Herring facing off against Olympic Judoka Satoshi Ishii. UFC vet Daron Cruickshank will also continue his stint in Japan, as he faces off against former PXC champ Yusuke Yachi.
Apart from these familiar names, there are also a few prospects on the card. Greco-Roman wrestling world champion Amir Aliakbari (5-1) will co-headline the card after his impressive run to the finals of the Rizin openweight grand prix. He faces well traveled vet Geronimo Dos Santos, who was once signed with the UFC but never got medical clearance to compete.
25-year-old Rena Kubota (3-0) continues her atomweight MMA career, as the popular Shootboxing champ will have her 4th professional bout on the card as well.
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