A random drawing was held Friday in Japan to determine the match-ups for the opening round of the Rizin Fighting Federation lightweight grand prix, set for Oct. 12 in Osaka, Japan.
Bellator fighter Patricky Freire, who is one of the biggest names of the tournament, will take on Japanese veteran Tatsuya Kawajiri. The other bouts are Tofiq Musaev vs. Damien Brown, Johnny Case vs. Roberto Satoshi and Luiz Gustavo vs. Hiroto Uesako.
According to the promotion, another draw will determine the semifinals before the New Year’s Eve card.
“Pitbull” Freire (21-8) is coming off five straight wins under the Bellator banner, including names like Ben Henderson and Josh Thomson, while Kawajiri (37-13-2) secured a spot in the tournament with a win over Ali Abdulkhalikov in July.
“I respect Kawajiri a lot,” Freire said at a press conference. “I have been watching him fight from 10 years ago. I have always wanted to fight a top Pride fighter. This is a great fight for me and for my career.”
“I made my professional debut at 21, and in my 20’s entered the Pride GP thinking that I was the best in the world, and got my butt kicked by (Takanori) Gomi,” Kawajiri said. “In my 30’s, I entered the Dream GP with a vision, and got my butt kicked by Eddie Alvarez. I’ve traveled to world and fought in almost every major promotion except Bellator. Now I am in my 40’s and I will challenge the Rizin GP and my first opponent will be a Bellator fighter.
“I am very motivated to be encountering a Bellator fighter, and am motivated to win this GP. I know he said he respects me and all, but in the ring he is going to try to take my head off. I’m looking forward to a battle and to survive to make it to NYE.”
Brown (19-12) won two in a row inside the Rizin ring after leaving the UFC in 2018. Musaev (15-3) is riding a 11-fight winning streak that includes 10 knockout victories followed by a decision over Daron Cruickshank at Rizin 16.
Case (26-6-1) hasn’t lost since parting ways with the UFC in 2017, stopping Yusuke Yachi and Satoru Kitaoka in his Rizin appearances. His opponent on Oct. 12, Satoshi (9-0), is a multiple-time jiu-jitsu champion who knocked out Kitaoka and Mizuto Hirota earlier this year in Japan.
The final match-up pairs Gustavo (9-1), who will attempt to get back on track after having his undefeated MMA record snapped by Mikuru Asakura in April, up against Uesako (16-7), a former DEEP featherweight champion who knocked out Yves Landu in his Rizin debut last month.
Jiri Prochazka vs. Fabio Maldonado
Seo Hee Ham vs. Miyuu Yamamoto
Marcos de Souza vs. Keita Nakamura
Rena Kubota vs. Shawna Ram
Tofiq Musaev vs. Damien Brown
Johnny Case vs. Roberto Satoshi
Patricky Freire vs. Tatsuya Kawajiri
Luiz Gustavo vs. Hiroto Uesako