Kai Asakura hasn’t fought since 2021. He is one of Rizin’s biggest stars but the former bantamweight champion has taken time off after injuring his hand during the Grand Prix.

At Rizin 42 this weekend he faces Yuji Motoya in a title eliminator. The winner will challenge for the vacant bantamweight belt and Asakura expects to be a far superior fighter to the one who lost to Hiromasa Ougikubo last time out,

“During the Yamaniha fight I broke my hand but I had to fight before I recovered because it was a tournament. I was fighting with a broken hand so I couldn’t commit fully,” he explained.

Major upset

Asakura’s loss to Ougikubo in the final of the bantamweight Grand Prix was a major upset. But the 29 year old was fighting with an injury to his hand that was so serious it would rule him out for an entire calendar year,

“My injury had me out of action for a long time. But now I’m all good, I can fully commit to my strikes and train fully,” he told Rizin Confessions.

His opponent, Yuki Motoya, was also in action at Rizin 33. But whereas Asakura suffered a defeat that night he registered the first of five straight Rizin wins.

While Asakura has been sitting in the sidelines Motoya has been winning almost every other month. The former champion sounds motivated to face an opponent who is on such a good run of form,

“Motoya is on a five fight winning streak. He’s a top fighter in Rizin without a doubt and I’m happy to face him, its motivating.”

Extenuating circumstances

We definitely didn’t see the best Kai Asakura in the final of the bantamweight Grand Prix but there were extenuating circumstances. He was clearly hindered by that hand injury and is excited to finally be completely healthy ahead of his return,

“I’ve been doing what I need to do and I think I can show it in this fight. A lot has been building up inside me (and) I have no personal feelings on Motoya but I am going to unload everything on him.”

During his time away from the Rizin ring Asakura made two training trips to the US. He believes he has improved dramatically and thinks Motoya is in for an unpleasant surprise at the Ariake Arena this weekend,

“My opponents can’t analyze me because I have been out of action, they have no idea what I have been working on. There are so many things I learned.”

Better striker

Having spent so long away from the ring Asakura sounds hungry to return,

“I’m really excited to be fighting again. Many people are excited about my fight but no-one is more excited than me.”

A win would secure him a shot at the vacant bantamweight title and Asakura feels he has some clear advantages over Motoya,

“I think I’m quicker. I’m the better striker.”

He has had an extended break. It has given Asakura time to improve and reflect and