As is tradition, on December 31st, Japanese fans flocked to Saitama in order to watch the final fights of the year. While the fights were scheduled to start at 2:00 PM, people started to show up at 9:00 AM to attend the fan expo, where 50 exclusive lucky bags sold out almost immediately, hundreds lined up to buy goods, and fun grappling matches like Emi Fujino versus Akipi, a round girl, went down. After the expo, the event started, an event that can be easily divided into two portions, the purely Rizin portion and the Rizin versus Bellator portion.
Finishes, Finishes, and more Finishes
The purely Rizin portion of the card delivered 7 finishes in 9 fights, with 5 ending in the first round. As a result, the show actually moved along pretty quickly, ending earlier than New Year’s events in the past. Outside of the fights, several announcements were made; that former K-1 fighter Ryusei Ashizawa had signed with Rizin and was set to face Kouzi in his debut, that Manny Pacquio will fight a Japanese fighter in Rizin, that Ren Hiromoto will face Saito, and that Mikuru Asakura will face Ushiku.
Tafa, Inoue, and Suzuki impress
With so many finishes, it makes it hard to pick which fighters stood out. However, Tafa, Inoue, and Suzuki clearly stood out. Suzuki for his part, knocked Nakahara out in an exciting bout that so him and his opponent land. However, what really makes him stand out, is that despite being allegedly involved with the CEO of Potential and therefore her arrest, Suzuki went 4-0 in 2022, against fighters with names.
While he may not be able to speak very well outside of the ring, Naoki made a pretty big statement in it on NYE. Pitted against Takizawa, who knocked out Motoya last year and took Kai the distance, Inoue used his speed to avoid Takizawa’s power, peppered him with jabs and punches, then ultimately took him down and submitted him with a double-wrist lock. With this win, Inoue got back into the win column, after not competing since last year’s NYE show. Hopefully now healthy, we can only hope to see more of Inoue this year.
In the sole heavyweight bout of the night, Junior Tafa, who trains with Mark Hunt, landed first in his bout with Sudario and this proved to be decisive, as despite Sudario’s best attempts to get up and keep fighting, Tafa kept landing until the referee finally stopped it. With this win, Tafa, who made his pro-debut in 2022, improved to 4-0 in MMA, with all 4 wins coming via KO/TKO, and all 4 wins coming in the same year. If Rizin is looking to build up their heavyweight division, Tafa would be a solid addition.
Izawa narrowly defeats Park, again
In a rematch from 2021, Izawa defeated Park again, this time in the Rizin Super Atomweight Tournament finals. Just like in their first fight, Izawa had a hard time getting Park down and as a result, she wasn’t able to effectively utilize her grappling. Despite this, Izawa tried to go for submissions, but they weren’t really close to ending the fight. In the first round, for example, Izawa spent nearly the entire round clinging onto Park’s back going for a RNC, while Park used the corner to rest.
The biggest moment of the fight came in the final round, when Park landed a stomp and some hammer fists to the champion. It is hard to tell what happened exactly, but some have questioned whether Izawa lost consciousness for a second during this barrage. Despite this sudden onslaught, Izawa recovered and went for an ankle lock. In the end, all three judges found that Izawa controlled the fight, while one thought that Park did enough to be deemed the aggressor, giving Izawa a split-decision victory.
Bellator goes 5-0
While some of the bouts were close, Bellator ended up winning every bout on the Bellator vs Rizin portion of the card. Despite there not being any finishes, most of the fights were exciting, with the Gadzhi/Takeda and McKee/Souza fights sticking out.
In the opening fight, Gadzhi dropped and nearly knocked Takeda out in the first round, but Takeda showed his toughness, survived, and got back into the fight, cutting and landing shots on the Russian. While he lost the decision, the crowd got fully behind Takeda, with people screaming his name.
In the following bout, the closest bout of the night, Kim got repeatedly taken down by Archuleta. Despite this, he landed some good shots on the feet, including a body hook that landed time and time again. He also went for a couple submissions, with a particularly nice front choke attempt in the final round. While he ended up losing a split-decision, one can only hope that Kim’s wife finally lets him by a Switch.
In the final bout of the night, McKee and Souza fought all over the place, on the feet and the ground, in a truly entertaining bout. McKee showed no fear of Souza’s high-level grappling game and repeatedly survived dangerous situations. All in all, McKee controlled the fight, choosing where it took place, and in the end, this is why he won the fight, as all 3 judges awarded him the points for generalship, enough to win the fight.
A look at the scoring
For those unfamiliar with Rizin’s unique scoring system, Combat Cat wrote a detailed description on her site, The Fighter, that I highly recommend. Essentially, fights are scored on a whole, over three categories: Damage, Aggression, and Generalship. Damage is scored highest at 50 points, followed by aggression at 30 points, and finally generalship is worth 20 points. However, while damage and aggression points do not have to be awarded, the judges are required to award generalship points.  Interestingly, this scoring system makes draws only arise in rare situations where a fighter is awarded 50 points for damage and their opponent is worth 50 points for aggression and generalship.
A look at the scores, reveals that the judges only awarded damage points to two fighters, Horiguchi and Gadhzi. Both of whom came close to finishing their opponents, with Gadzhi nearly knocking Takeda out in the first and Horiguchi repeatedly putting Ougikubo in danger. While generalship is worth the least amount of points, since it has to be awarded, it proved to be important. In fact, 3 fights were decided on generalship alone.
The fans came out
The official attendance for Rizin 40 is 23,661, making this event the third most attended NYE show in the promotion’s history. It also narrowly edges out Super Rizin & Rizin 38, which had 23,105, making it Rizin’s most attended event of 2022. However, with the ticket price increase, this might be the biggest NYE gate in the promotion’s history.
A look at the Twitter trends over the past 4 Rizin NYE events reveals something interesting that happened this year. Like years in the past, Rizin burst into the top 50 trending topics in Japan at around 2:00-3:00 PM. As the night went on, Rizin related topics like Yushi, Bey Noah, Chihiro Suzuki, Mikuru Asakura, Shibatar, Motoya, Naoki Inoue, and Si Woo Park also trended. However, sometime between 7:00-8:00 PM, Rizin ceased trending and never really recovered, except for a brief bump at 9:00 PM. In the past, the event has trended till at least 11:00PM, with the event trending till midnight last year.
A variety of factors could explain the drop off, including Rizin no longer being aired on Fuji TV, other popular NYE shows getting more attention, or a lack of popular fighters like Mikuru and Tenshin. Whatever the cause, it is interesting that the promotion skyrocketed to the number 1 trending topic for several hours, then completely fell off.
- AJ McKee defeated Robero de Souza via UD
- Patricio Pitbull defeated Kleber Koike via UD
- Kyoji Horiguchi defeated Ougikubo via UD
- Juan Archuleta defeated Soo Chul Kim via SD
- Gadzhi Rabadanov defeated Koji Takeda via UD
- Seika Izawa defeated Si Woo Park via SD
- Naoki Inoue defeated Kenta Takizawa via Armbar in RD 2
- Junior Tafa defeated Sudario via TKO in RD 1
- John Dodson defeated Hideo Tokoro via TKO in RD 1
- Ren Hiromoto fought Genji Umeno to a Draw in a boxing exhibition
- Yuki Motoya defeated Rogerio Bontorin via KO in RD 2
- Johnny Case defeated Nobumitsu Osawa via TKO in RD 1
- Chihiro Suzuki defeated Yoshiki Nakahara via KO in RD 1
- Patrick Usami defeated Bey Noah via KO in RD 1
- Yushi defeated Tatsuya Nakazawa via UD