We last saw the 33-year-old in action at Rizin 23 when he stepped through the ropes to battle Kai Asakura for the vacant bantamweight title. He found himself on the wrong end of a knockout win courtesy of an uppercut, some follow-up ground-and-pound and a soccer kick to the dome.
After that disastrous night at the office, which he considers his worst to date, Ougikubo’s appetite for victory is more ravenous than ever,
“That loss was the biggest loss in my career. It sucked,” he said.
Ougikubo is relieved that he didn’t have to wait too long for a shot at redemption,
“I am very grateful that I got the opportunity to redeem myself so soon. I really needed it.”
Takizawa comes into this contest with two impressive wins in the rear-view mirror, including a split decision triumph over Yuto Hokamura at Rizin 24. Ougikubo knows his opponent will be feeling confident with these wins behind him,
“My opponent is young, and he’s on a roll. He’s got that momentum where he feels like nothing can stop him.”
But Ougikubo feels well prepared for the challenge. Come fight night, he’ll be looking to steer clear of his rival’s kicks and anticipates his own experience could be key,
“My focus for this fight is to avoid his kicks. Anything can happen in a fight and experience definitely helps but nothing is certain in our sport.”
This will be his second fight in the space of four months but Ougikubo says that his preparation has been perfect,
“I feel great. Fight camp (has been) working out good for me.”
If Ougikubo is able to defeat Takizawa on Saturday he will reassert himself as one of the top bantamweight fighters on the roster. With fighters from outside of Japan still unable to compete that could put him back in contention for a crack at the promotion’s bantamweight title.
That is his ultimate goal but Ougikibo isn’t looking to take any short cuts,
“I’m thinking of winning five in a row to earn my shot back at the title. Right now I don’t deserve to even mention about the title. I’m not thinking about it at the moment.
However he would like another crack at Asakura who is set to defend his title for the first time at Rizin 26 next month,
“I am confident I can win (a rematch with Asakura) if I follow my instinct and believe in my abilities.”
Regardless of whether Asakura retains his title Ougikubo will need to get by Takizawa if he wants to have any hope of landing that rematch. He is so confident of doing so that he offers a very specific prediction,
“I will finish the fight in the first round with a choke.”