Rizin FF 26: Kyoji Horiguchi exacts revenge, TKOs Kai Asakura to reclaim bantamweight title

Kyoji Horiguchi exacted sweet revenge on his nemesis with a stunning first-round TKO to dethrone Kai Asakura and mark his return to action by reclaiming the Rizin FF bantamweight title.

Horiguchi (29-3) faced off against Asakura (16-3) in the main event of Rizin FF 26, which took place at the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan, and the former UFC title challenger showed no signs of ring rust as he made his return from a one-year injury hiatus to stun the champion and reclaim the title he never lost in the ring.

Horiguchi was shocked in 68 seconds by Asakura in a non-title fight at Rizin FF 18 in August 2019. The rematch for the title was scrapped when Horiguchi sustained a torn ACL that required surgery and forced him out of action for more than a year. As a result, he also relinquished his Rizin and Bellator bantamweight titles.

After an unsuccessful first attempt to claim the vacant belt against Manel Kape, Asakura eventually won the belt during Horiguchi’s absence to set up an eagerly anticipated rematch upon Horiguchi’s return, and the 30-year-old rose to the occasion to finish Asakura in the first round and return to the bantamweight throne once again.

Perhaps a little wary of Asakura’s power after their first meeting, Horiguchi stayed largely on the outside and looked to pick off the champion as he attempted to close the distance. Asakura, meanwhile, looked to load up with powerful punches from the very start.

The 10,000-strong crowd inside the Saitama Super Arena gasped as a Horiguchi low kick appeared to briefly trouble the champion, and that gasp turned into a roar when he connected perfectly with a counter right hand as Asakura leaped in with a flying knee attempt.

Horiguchi then grabbed the back of the stunned champion’s neck and connected with two more hard rights to the temple that sent Asakura down to the canvas. A couple of ground strikes were all the referee needed to see before he dived in to wave off the bout at the 2:48 mark of the opening round.

It means that Horiguchi has now reclaimed one of the two titles he relinquished due to his injury, and it’s likely he’ll be keen to arrange a return to the Bellator cage to challenge Juan Archuleta for the Bellator crown in 2021.

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