Kyoji Horiguchi to return to action with New Year's Eve fight vs. Kai Asakura

One of the best bantamweight fighters in the world is making his return at the end of the year.

Kyoji Horiguchi, the former Bellator and Rizin bantamweight champion, will fight current Rizin champ Kai Asakura in a rematch Dec. 31 at Rizin 26 in Saitama, Japan, the promotion announced Friday. Horiguchi has not fought since tearing an ACL late last year, an injury that required surgery. He relinquished both titles in November 2019 because of the injury.

Horiguchi vs. Asakura will be a featured fight on Rizin's annual New Year's Eve show. MMA on New Year's Eve is a tradition in Japan, though this year will be only a one-day event rather than a two- or three-day affair like previous years. Saitama Super Arena will have a cap of 5,000 fans Dec. 31 because of COVID-19 regulations, per the Rizin news release.

Asakura knocked Horiguchi out in August 2019 in a non-title bout. The two were supposed to fight on Dec. 31, 2019, before Horiguchi's injury.

"I got finished when we last fought so I plan to get him back," Horiguchi said in a statement. "I have been watching all of his fights and I do believe that he has evolved a lot. I feel obligated to deliver an exciting fight to the fans who waited for my return for a year."

Horiguchi (28-3) had won 13 in a row before dropping the bout to Asakura. The Japan native's last loss before that was to UFC flyweight champion and all-time great Demetrious Johnson at UFC 186 in April 2015. Horiguchi, 30, left the UFC on a three-fight winning streak in 2017 for Rizin as a free agent. He trains at American Top Team with the likes of Jorge Masvidal.

Asakura (16-2) has won two straight following a loss to current UFC fighter Manel Kape last December. The Japan native has won eight of nine overall, including wins over Horiguchi and Kape. Asakura, 27, has 13 finishes in 16 pro victories.