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Kai Asakura vs. Kyoji Horiguchi 2 set for RIZIN New Year’s Eve show

Kai Asakura (pictured) defends his bantamweight title against Kyoji Horiguchi at RIZIN 26 on Dec. 31 in Saitama, Japan | Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Two of the world’s best bantamweights are facing off again on New Year’s Eve.

RIZIN announced Friday that Kai Asakura (16-2) will defend his 135-pound title in a rematch against Kyoji Horiguchi (28-3) at RIZIN 26 on Dec. 31 at Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan.

The two first fought in a non-title bout at RIZIN 18 in August of last year. Asakura shocked the then-champion, finishing him with strikes in just 67 seconds. A rematch was expected to take place the following December, but Horiguchi was forced to the sidelines with a knee injury that also led to him relinquishing the Bellator bantamweight championship that he had won from Darrion Caldwell.

This will be Asakura’s first title defense since winning a vacant belt with a first-round knockout of Hiromasa Ougikubo in August. He most recently defeated Shoji Maruyama by first-round TKO in a non-title bout.

Due to his injury, Horiguchi has not competed since his loss to Asakura. That setback snapped a 13-fight, four-year unbeaten streak. Since March 2012, Horiguchi has won 22 of 24 fights, with his only other loss occurring at UFC 186 where he challenged Demetrious Johnson for the UFC flyweight championship. He also holds notable wins over UFC veterans Ben Nguyen, Ian McCall, and Ali Bagautinov, among others.

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