Victor Henry is aiming to trump one of the most revered names in the well-entrenched Japanese MMA scene on his way to the apex of Rizin’s bantamweight division.

This Saturday he will be back in action against UFC veteran Masanori Kanehara in the co-main event of Rizin 21 at Hamamatsu Arena.

Henry is the reigning Deep bantamweight champion and beat Trent Girdham at Rizin 18. The 32-year-old is excited about the prospect of adding another big Japanese name to his resume,

“Obviously, I’ve been fighting good guys ever since I started fighting in Japan. I’ve never taken a step back in competition. Everyone I faced was either a champion or an ex-champion. I also faced up-and-coming fighters. That made me step up my game. It’s going to be the same thing this weekend,” he said.

Kanehara is no stranger to Henry as both men fought each in an exhibition grappling match under the banner of Kazushi Sakuraba’s Quintet. The American lost by submission, courtesy of the Japanese’s straight foot lock.

Trent Girdham and Victor Henry

New rules

Now squaring off with Kanehara in four-ounce MMA gloves, Henry believes that the outcome will be different this time around.

“This is something that is going to be totally different. He will be able to punch me in the face, and I am going to be able to do that to him as well. The Quintet match was fun, but this is a fight I’ve been training for,” he stated.

“I expect myself to go out there and perform. I want to go out there and move. Keep my head movement and my feet moving. It’s important to keep my combos busy and put my knuckles in his face. And If I catch his arm, I will take his arm home,” Henry added.

Kanehara has not competed in the sport for nearly two years. In his last outing, he submitted Jomhod Chuwattana with a head and arm choke in the first round.

Victor Henry and Trent Girdham 4

Ring rust

Henry knows it has been a while since his opponent last fought. But he believes experience is the best possible antidote for ring rust,

“To a certain extent, yes, I believe ring rust will be a factor. But not for him. He is a seasoned veteran of fighting, and I know that he knows to get in there and fight. He has trained around the world, has fought the who’s who, and has been in the UFC. He knows what it takes to compete at the highest level,” he explained.

Despite his opponent’s lengthy hiatus Henry is expecting to have his hands full in Hamamatsu,

“I already expected that they (Rizin) would toss me someone who is tough and experienced, and who is going to come out for me. I’ve never expected anybody to toss me a tomato can or somebody whom I can easily walk through,” he said.

Henry knows that if he can take out Kanehara, then he would be in a prime position to vie for the Rizin bantamweight championship, currently held by Manel Kape following his recent knockout victory over Kai Asakura.

“I definitely see myself as a title contender. If I get through this fight unscathed and healthy, I hope I am next for a title shot. I think Kape and I will put on a great fight. I am looking forward to move towards the title.”