Knockdown Daily 1/21/22: Ulka Sasaki vs. Kleber Koike Set For February RIZIN Event
RIZIN's first event of 2022 leads the MMA headlines for Friday
Welcome to the Friday edition of the Knockdown Daily. Today’s issue is covering the top MMA stories from the past 24 hours, and also provides a preview for tonight’s LFA card.
Former UFC fighter Ulka Sasaki will return to action next month, facing Kleber Koike as part of RIZIN’s second “TRIGGER” event. The featherweight bout is set to headline a card that will take place on February 23rd from the Ecopa Arena in Fukuroi, Shizuoka, Japan.
Koike has been an unstoppable force since joining RIZIN, picking up three wins since late 2020. The Bonzai Jiu-Jitsu talent secured his last victory in June, applying a second-round triangle choke submission against Mikuru Asakura.
Sasaki lost to a fellow UFC alum in his last outing, dropping a unanimous decision in September to Yoshinori Horie. The fight was his third loss in his past five fights and was his first RIZIN appearance up at featherweight.
Sasaki’s last win was on New Year’s Eve 2020 when he beat Kenta Takizawa on scorecards. The fight was his return to competition after suffering a broken jaw in 2019.
Here’s the lineup:
Bout 3: Kleber Koike (28-5-1) vs. Ulka Sasaki (23-9-2) (145 lbs) (MMA Bout)
Bout 2: Suguru Nii (12-11) vs. Sora Yamamoto (12-6-2) (145 lbs) (MMA Bout)
Bout 1: Kenji Kato (13-7) vs. Kazuma Kuramoto (8-2) (134 lbs) (MMA Bout)
A lightweight fight between undefeated Mark O. Madsen and veteran Vinc Pichel won’t happen as soon as expected.
The fight has reportedly been removed from UFC’s February 12th pay-per-view event and has since been transferred to their April 9th show. News of the change was first reported by Nolan King and John Morgan of MMA Junkie on Wednesday.
The fight is set to be Madsen’s fourth appearance in the UFC. He scored his third victory for the promotion in August 2021, fighting to a split decision win over Clay Guida.
Pichel, a UFC fighter since 2012, is entering the booking on a strong three-fight winning streak that has been developing since 2019. He earned his third win of the streak in August, beating Austin Hubbard.
Bantamweights Gina Mazany and Shanna Young are the first fighters to be booked for UFC’s April 30th event. The new fight and date for a UFC event were first reported by Nolan King of MMA Junkie on Wednesday.
Mazany has made three appearances since returning to the UFC, picking up one win in that time. She is currently coming off a loss, having been finished in a May 2021 bout by Priscila Cachoeira.
Mazany’s sole UFC victory came in 2020 against Rachael Ostovich.
Young is still chasing her first victory in the UFC cage. She has come up short twice, losing her early 2020 debut to Macy Chiasson and recently getting stopped by Stephanie Egger.
UFC has entered the NFT game.
On Thursday, UFC announced their new “UFC Strike” series, which will provide video clips of fights in an NFT form.
UFC has launched the service in partnership with Dapper Labs, a company that most notably helped the “NBA Top Shot” series to take off in 2020. In 2017, Dapper Labs also created “CryptoKitties,” a game that is recognized by many as one of the first successful ventures into the commercial NFT market.
“UFC Strike” is set to kick off later this week, as 100,000 “Packs” will be sold at the price of $50 each.
Each customer who purchases a “Pack” will get three of the 35 “UFC Strike Moment NFTs,” which could vary in rarity. The rarest NFTs, called “Champion Tier Moments,” will have a 0.3 percent chance of being in a pack that people buy.
Limitations will be in place for the first wave of purchases. Customers will be limited to purchasing a maximum of 5 “Packs” and will have to re-enter the queue for each singular purchase.
NFTs, an acronym that stands for “Non-Fungible Token,” are online items that are given distinct codes to identify how they are all individual. This gives people the ability to claim ownership of their NFTs, place an economic value on them, and make transactions with them online.
Former UFC fighter Impa Kasaganay is the latest notable name to come aboard the Eagle FC roster.
The four-fight middleweight UFC vet has recently signed with Khabib Nurmagomedov’s Eagle FC and is expected to make his promotional debut at their March 11th event, per Damon Martin of MMA Fighting.
Kasanganay fought on the UFC roster from 2020 to 2021, attaining two wins and two losses in that time. His last fight came in September 2021, when Carlston Harris scored a first-round finish win against him.
Before then, Kasanganay scored his sole finish win in the promotion, submitting Sasha Palatnikov in the second round of a fight.
It was reported last month that the UFC had let Kasanganay go after his fourth fight with them.
On the same card as Kasanganay’s expected Eagle FC debut will also be the first promotional appearance of former ranked UFC lightweight Kevin Lee.
Shooto Japan Bantamweight Champion Ryo Okada will return to the promotion on March 21st when he faces Tatsuya Ando in a title fight. The bout has joined a card that is expected to take place at Korakuen Hall in Tokyo, Japan in two months.
Okada’s last appearance was in RIZIN, where he lost a unanimous decision to Yuki Motoya. The bout was part of the opening round in RIZIN’s Bantamweight Grand Prix, which just wrapped up last month.
Okada will be fighting to defend his belt when returning to the promotion. His last title fight was in March 2021, when he beat veteran Takafumi Otsuka via unanimous decision.
Ando was previously Shooto Japan’s Pacific Rim Bantamweight Champion. His most recent fight was in September when he scored a second-round submission win over Hayato Ishii in a title fight.
Ando recently vacated his Pacific Rim belt so he could earn a fight against Okada.
Rocky Kawamura will get the chance to become a three-time Middleweight King of Pancrase Champion on March 21st, facing undefeated prospect Yura Naito for the promotion’s vacant belt.
The title fight was recently announced for Pancrase 326, which will take place Belle Salle Takadanobaba in Tokyo, Japan.
Kawamura, an MMA veteran of over a decade, has celebrated two title reigns much earlier in his career.
He is now back in the title picture after scoring a finish victory over Yuji Arai in September. That fight was his return to MMA, as he had been previously absent from competing in the sport for nearly four years.
The upcoming title fight is set to be the biggest of Naito’s short career thus far. He has earned four wins since turning pro in 2020, with three of the victories coming within a round.
Naito went the distance for the first time in his career last month, defeating Fernando Matsuki via unanimous decision.
Just one night before UFC will present a trilogy championship fight in their flyweight division, LFA will showcase the best 125-pound fighters on their roster.
In the main event of LFA 122, Charles Johnson will look to defend his LFA Flyweight Championship for the first time when facing undefeated prospect Carlos Mota. The title bout headlines a card that will take place at The Factory at the District in St. Louis, Missouri, USA.
Here’s the lineup:
Bout 1: Jared Medley (1-0) vs. Zac Moore (5-4) (Amateur Catchweight 150 lbs)
Bout 2: Jacob Highly (2-0) vs. Arvin Mills (2-11) (Amateur Welterweight)
Bout 3: Will Monroe (10-2-1) vs. Avery Wilson (5-0) (Amateur Heavyweight)
Bout 4: Elmar Umarov (3-1) vs. Turner Williams (0-1) (Welterweight)
Bout 5: Brittney Cloudy (3-3) vs. Annette Nichols (2-0) (Bantamweight)
Main Card (9:00PM EST / 8:00PM CST) (UFC Fight Pass)
Bout 6: Dan Moriarty (1-0) vs. Jett Shell (2-1) (Catchweight 130 lbs)
Bout 7: Jeremiah Curtright (4-2) vs. Sarek Shields (1-0) (Welterweight)
Bout 8: William Starks (7-2) vs. Glaucio Eliziario (9-7) (Lightweight)
Bout 9: Brant Moore (9-1) vs. Arthur Estrazulas (12-5) (Catchweight 165 lbs)
Bout 10: Charles Johnson (10-2) vs. Carlos Mota (6-0) (LFA Flyweight Championship)
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