RIZIN FF, the combat sports promotion led by former PRIDE FC head Nobuyuki Sakakibara, announced that famed women’s amateur wrestling champion Kanako Murata (0-0) will make her highly-anticipated, professional Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) debut against rising star Natalya Denisova (2-1) in a 116-pound catchweight affair at the “Top Presents RIZIN Fighting Federation I” extravaganza at Nippon Gaishi Hall in Nagoya, Japan on Sunday, April 17.
The 5-foot-1, 22-year-old Murata of Ehime, Japan will compete under MMA rules for the first time after amassing a collection of accolades as an amateur wrestler, including three junior Olympic medals.
Murata’s most impressive achievement came in 2011 when she nearly defeated three-time Olympic gold medalist Saori Yoshida during the All-Japan championships.
An MMA student since 2015, Murata has been training under the command of DEEP Featherweight Champion Kazunori Yokota and former DREAM competitor Takeshi Yamazaki, and has been sparring predominantly with male fighters.
Denisova of Cheboksary, Russia will seek her third consecutive win in what will mark her first appearance under the RIZIN FF banner. In her last start on September 26, she utilized her sharp, aggressive striking arsenal to finish Marina Lvova in the second round (:32) of battle with a barrage of punches.
The 25-year-old Denisova gained worldwide recognition for the first time four years ago after video surfaced of her defeating a male opponent in an MMA bout.
Priced from 100,000 yen, tickets for “Top Presents RIZIN Fighting Federation I” are on sale and can be purchased online at Ticketbis.com.
In the main event, former PRIDE FC middleweight champion and prolific superstar Wanderlei “The Axe Murderer” Silva (35-12-1, 1 NC) will team up with a fighter to be announced soon, in a special grappling “tag match,” and battle a duo consisting of fellow legend, Kazushi Sakuraba, (26-17-1, 2 NC) and Hideo Tokoro (33-28-2).
Prolific striker and 13-fight UFC veteran Daron Cruickshank (16-8, 1 NC) will collide with submission expert Shinji “Torao Supernova” Sasaki (16-8-3) in a lightweight (155 pounds) matchup.
Hard-hitting knockout artists Chris “Huggy Bear” Barnett (14-2) and Kirill Sidelnikov (8-4) will go to war in a heavyweight battle.
In women’s open weight action, decorated Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu world champion and women’s MMA heavyweight prospect Gabi Garcia (1-0) will collide with two-time Pankration champion Anna Malyukova (1-0).
Recent RIZIN FF Grand Prix tournament semifinalist Teodoras Aukstuolis (8-3) will square off with former K-1 champion Jaideep “Heart” Singh (2-1 MMA; 40-10, 13 KO’s kickboxing) in a 216- pound catchweight fight.
Sambo world champion Vadim Nemkov (5-1) will take on undefeated, aggressive-minded striker and top Nordic prospect “King” Karl Albrektsson (4-0) in a light heavyweight (205 pounds) tilt.
In a 180-pound MMA rules catchweight contest, devastating power puncher Hisaki Kato (5-2) will take on fellow finisher Yuta “Andre” Watanabe (19-6-4).
Returning to action for the first time in five years, beloved heavyweight Kazuyuki “Ol’ Ironhead” Fujita (15-10), will face recent RIZIN FF Grand Prix tournament runner-up and dangerous knockout artist Jiri “Denisa” Prochazka (16-3-1).
In flyweight (125 pounds) action, submission ace Allan “Puro Osso” Nascimento (14-3) will lock horns with red-hot champion Yuki Motoya (15-4, 1 NC).