Kanna Asakura will be looking for her fourth straight win at Rizin 26 on New Year’s Eve. The 23 year old faces Ai Shimizu in a bout that has all the makings of a title eliminator.

Boasting a record of 17-4, Asakura has long been regarded as one of the most exciting prospects in women’s MMA. She can consider herself unfortunate to have been overlooked for a shot at the vacant super atomweight title but is in confident mode,

“I feel great. There were times where I couldn’t train outside, but things are getting better and I have been able to get in great training sessions consistently. I am not satisfied with my performances, so I look forward to winning this fight in an even better way than my past three fights.”

Undefeated opponent

Opponent Shimizu boasts an undefeated 5-0 record but has been out of action for a year. She is coming off a split decision victory over Andy Nguyen at Bellator Japan in December, 2019.

Asakura was also in action at that event and knows exactly what her opponent brings to the table,

“She is a strong wrestler and has a very strong heart. Whoever gets to dictate (the pace) will have the bigger advantage in winning the fight.”

Asakura has plenty of experience competing in Japan’s top MMA promotions having turned out for Pancrase, Shooto and Deep. This will be her 12th Rizin bout and fighting on the New Year’s Eve card is something that gives her extra motivation,

“It’s very special that I am given the opportunity to compete on the stage. I used to watch as a kid and New Year’s Eve has always been a special day for fighters so that gives an extra boost in motivation.”

Fond memories 

Asakura certainly has fond memories competing on the fabled end of year card. Back in 2017, she secured two submission wins to claim the super atomweight grand prix.

To this day, it remains the pinnacle of Asakura’s career,

“Winning the Grand Prix against Rena in the finals was a very special moment that I will not forget for the rest of my life.”

With  Seo Hee Ham having signed with ONE Championship many thought Asakura was a contender to compete for the vacant super atomweight crown. Instead it is former opponents Ayaka Hamasaki and Miyuu Yamamoto who have been handed the opportunity to fight for the belt at Rizin 26.

If Asakura is upset about that she is not letting it show although she admits a title shot is very much on her mind,

“I’m not too sure on how many fights until a title shot but I hope a win in this fight with a good performance gets me closer to that title shot,” she said.

Extremely humble

Asakura has already challenged for the belt once but came up short against Hamasaki in 2014. She believes that that the former champion is currently the best in the world at this weight and remains extremely humble when assessing her own abilities,

“I’m not worthy of considering myself matching up with the best in the world. I know I have much more to grow.”

Despite playing down her pedigree, Asakura emphasized that ‘to put that super atomweight championship belt around my waist’ is her biggest goal for 2021. A win against Shimuzu would put her on the cusp of competing for that elusive title.