Redemption for bantamweight standout, Kyoji ‘The Typhoon’ Horiguchi. Returning from a debilitating knee injury which forced him to vacant his Bellator MMA bantamweight crown, the 30-year-old headlined RIZIN FF 26 this morning in Saitama, Japan — stopping two-time foe, Kai Asakura to reclaim the promotion’s world championship.

Horiguchi, a former UFC flyweight title challenger suffered a nasty knee injury in October of last year, ultimately forcing him to vacate the Bellator title he lifted via a unanimous decision win over Darrion ‘The Wolf’ Caldwell, the following month.

Unbeaten in his next thirteen outings since dropping a buzzer-beating armbar loss to ONE Championship tournament victor, Demetrious ‘Mighty Mouse’ Johnson, Horiguchi battled with the above mentioned, Asakura in a non-title matchup, dropping a stunning first-round knockout defeat. 

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Sixteen months later, Horiguchi returned to action against two-time foe, Asakura, and after expertly finding his mark with calf kicks over and over again in the opening exchanges, Horiguchi countered a jumping knee from his compatriot to stun and subsequently drop him with a barrage before continued ground-and-pound strikes before the three-minute mark ended Asakura’s reign

Rounding off a sixteen fight card, the promotion also fielded former PRIDE FC great, Takanori Gomi who claimed a majority decision win over Koji Tanaka. In a kickboxing bout, renowned striker, Tenshin Nasukawa managed to grab a unanimous judging victory over Kumandoi Petcharoenvit. Opening the card, Ayaka Hamasaki was crowned the super atomweight champion via a stunning head-scissors submission victory over Miyuu Yamamoto in a vacant title matchup. 

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With Horiguchi’s win, the American Top Team trainee now improves to 29-3 professionally, adding Asakura to a staggering list of talent already featured on his win column. Prior to this morning’s win, Horiguchi had twice bested the above mentioned, Caldwell, as well as grabbing victories over Ben Nyugen, Hiromasa Ougikubo (x2), Ian McCall, Manel Kape, Ali Baugautinov, Neil Seery, and Louis Gaudinot to name a few. 

Speculation has already begun to mount as to what’s next for Horiguchi, with a bantamweight title challenge against recently minted Bellator best, Juan Archuleta already floated, as well as a potential return to the UFC to tackle either flyweight champion, Deiveson Figueiredo, or a bantamweight siege against Petr Yan

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Aspiring mixed martial arts reporter based in Ireland. Follow along at @Ross_Markey on Twitter for all the latest news, fight announcements, opinion, and feature pieces.