John Dodson made an emphatic return to Japan on New Year’s Eve. The American scored a highlight reel knockout against Hideo Tokoro at Rizin 40.

It was his first fight in the Land of the Rising Sun since 2004. But whole Dodson has to wait nearly a decade to return to Japan he didn’t waste any time once the bell sounded, finishing the experienced Tokoro in under two minutes.

It was the inaugural bout for the promotion’s newly formed flyweight division. Dodson’s first fight for Rizin looks unlikely to be his last and the UFC veteran hopes to be handed a shot at the promotion’s newly minted flyweight title.

Collision course

The other flyweight fight on the card featured Kyoji Horiguchi who beat Hiromasa Ougikubo for the third time. Dodson feels that the two 125lbers are on a collision course,

“I’ve been trying to fight Horiguchi for the last two years,” Dodson told reporters at the post-fight press conference.

Dodson, who was just starting out as a mixed martial artist when he first fought in Japan, says the fight would have happened years ago if it has not been for the pandemic,

“When I got released from the UFC, they gave me Horiguchi as a future opponent coming into Rizin, but then the borders were shut down and they wouldn’t let me come over here.”


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Back to back

Dodson has now racked up back-to-back victories in MMA, coupled with a 40-second knockout win at a bare knuckle boxing event. While Horiguchi has gone on to bigger and better things since leaving the UFC the American has had to take a more circuitous route back to the top.

But Dodson knows that Horiguchi is the poster boy for fighters who have gone on to thrive in their post UFC career. Both men have challenged unsuccessfully for the flyweight title, coming up short against Demetrious Johnson.

Dodson thought that the opportunity to fight Horiguchi had passed him by when the Japanese fighter signed with Bellator. But with both men now competing in Rizin’s flyweight division their paths could cross sooner rather than later,

“He got signed to Bellator, so it’s been like a back-and-forth thing. I’ve been waiting for my opportunity to really test my abilities against the former champion of Rizin. I want to be the champion, and he has to be my stepping stone to become it,” Dodson said.


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New country

Horiguchi was one of Rizin’s biggest stars when he decided to jump ship for Bellator. But the American promotion does not currently have a flyweight division so it seems that his Japanese fighter will be fighting on home soil for the time being.

By contrast Dodson is looking to make his name in a new country. He knows he won’t have the fans behind him if he faces Horiguchi in Japan but the American plans to silence the crowd by beating the local favourite,