Rena Kubota seeks redemption in Lindsay VanZandt rematch at RIZIN 20

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Rena Kubota had her US debut spoiled in June of this year. Now, she’ll get a chance to right the wrongs back on home soil at RIZIN 20.

Throughout 2019, we’ve seen a very successful collaborative effort between Bellator MMA and RIZIN FF to bring fans cross-promotional fights that they never could have imagined becoming realities. To close out the year, they’re setting up their biggest fights yet.

Earlier in the year, Bellator went back to Madison Square Garden which played host to Bellator 222, therefore, presenting us with a couple of title fights. One of which included a RIZIN vs. Bellator champions matchup. Before that fight went down, however, there was another notable RIZIN vs. Bellator showdown.

In Japan, Shootboxing sensation Rena Kubota (8-3) is a superstar for not only RIZIN but her country. And in the 105-pound atomweight division (108 in RIZIN) she has established herself as a top 15 talent. Although, her days making the weight are seemingly numbered after she failed to hit the mark at the end of last year for a bout with Samantha Jean-Francois. In Kubota’s three fights that have since followed, she’s fought no lower than 111-pounds.

After Kubota’s fight cancelation for her failure to even get on the scales for the Jean-Francois fight, the fight would be rebooked four months later for RIZIN 15. The Osaka native would end up getting the unanimous decision nod.

At this point, Kubota’s lone pair of MMA losses belonged to perennial top atomweight Kanna Asakura. That was until June 2019 when she made her US debut at Bellator 222.

Welcoming Kubota to the cage was Invicta FC standout Lindsey VanZandt (7-2) who was a proven legitimate prospect at 105-pounds. Fighting in a 112-pound catchweight, VanZandt would play spoiler and score the upset over Kubota in relatively easy fashion as she found a first-round rear-naked choke submission. Thus catapulting herself into the top ranks of her division.

Since then, the 26-year-old “Damsel” has gone 1-1 and dropped a close split decision to Jessica Delboni before rebounding with a quick 39-second TKO via leg kicks against Shino VanHoose in October. Meanwhile, Kubota also scored a staggeringly quick TKO win over Alexandre Alvare at RIZIN 19. The fight only lasted 20 seconds. Kubota’s original opponent, Shawna Ram, was forced out of the bout on a few weeks notice due to a concussion.

Fast-forward to now as we anticipate the big year-end MMA conclusion and RIZIN announced on Tuesday that Kubota vs VanZandt 2 will go down at RIZIN 20 on Dec. 31. The fight will be another catchweight of 111-pounds.

“I wanted to visit Japan someday, but I never thought I could go to Japan in this way,” VanZandt said via a RIZIN press release. “I am thrilled to have a match in Japan. I treat all opponents with respect, but I wonder if Rena can rematch with me. The only difference between the fight in New York and this one is the audience at the venue listening to my winner call.”

It will be from the cage to the ring for VanZandt when she meets her familiar foe once again. This will be the case for a lot of fighters participating in the cross-promotional bouts at Bellator Japan and RIZIN 20. As for the latter event, the card’s current lineup can be seen below. Expect some final fights to be announced tomorrow at the second RIZIN 20 pre-fight press conference.

  • Bantamweight – 134lbs: Kai Asakura vs. TBA
  • Super Atomweight – 108lbs: (C)Ayaka Hamasaki vs. Seo Hee Ham
  • Lightweight – 156lbs: Patricky “Pitbull” Freire vs. Luiz Gustavo – [Lightweight Grand Prix semifinals]
  • Lightweight: Tofiq Musayev vs. Johnny Case – [Lightweight Grand Prix semifinals]
  • Bantamweight: Yuki Motoya vs. Patrick Mix
  • Featherweight – 145lbs: Mikuru Asakura vs. John Teixeira
  • Light heavyweight – 205lbs: Cameroon Simon Biyong vs. TBA
  • Catchweight – 111lbs: Rena Kubota vs. Lindsey VanZandt

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The Scrap’s Drake Riggs is an MMA writer and YouTuber based out of Brush Prairie, Washington who specializes in feature pieces, the women’s fight scene, lists, news coverage, and rankings. Riggs has been a passionate MMA fan since 2009 and has written for various news sources. You can follow him on Twitter (@Dre_Kriggs).



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