A.J.
McKee
will face Rizin Fighting Federation lightweight king
Roberto de
Souza
in the main event of Bellator vs. Rizin-themed offering
on New Year’s Eve.

Four of the five main-card matchups for the event were announced
during a press conference on Wednesday. In the co-headliner,
reigning Bellator featherweight champion Patricio
Freire
will lock horns with Rizin 145-pound title holder
Kleber
Koike Erbst
. Additionally, former Bellator bantamweight king
Juan
Archuleta
will lock horns with two-division Road FC kingpin
Soo
Chul Kim
, while Kyoji
Horiguchi
returns to the flyweight division to take on Rizin
grand prix winner Hiromasa
Ougikubo
. A fifth main-card pairing will be announced at a
later date.

The event is officially entitled Rizin
40
and takes place on Dec. 31 at Saitama Super Arena in
Saitama, Japan. The fights will be contested in a ring under Rizin
rules, which allow soccer kicks and knees to a grounded opponent.
Rizin 40 will be broadcast live in Japan but airs via tape delay on
Showtime in the United States. No titles will be on the line.

A former featherweight champion, McKee made his 155-pound debut at
Bellator 286, where he defeated UFC veteran Spike
Carlyle
via unanimous decision on Oct. 1. The Team Bodyshop
standout has been victorious in 19 of 20 professional appearances β€”
with his lone setback coming in a five-round decision loss to
Freire this past April.

Souza, meanwhile, has finished five consecutive opponents under the
Rizin banner to run his professional mark to 14-1. Most recently,
β€œSatoshi” used a reverse triangle armbar to tap Johnny Case in the
opening round to retain his lightweight belt at Rizin 35.

Freire is regarded as one of the greatest fighters to ever compete
under the Bellator banner. He is in the midst of his third reign as
the promotion’s featherweight champion after regaining the belt
with a five-round verdict over McKee at Bellator 277. Most
recently, the 35-year-old Brazilian defended the crown with a
decision win against Adam Borics
in the Bellator 286 headliner.

Erbst captured the Rizin 145-pound strap with a second-round
submission of Juntaro
Ushiku
at Rizin 39 on Oct. 23. The former KSW champion enters
the matchup with Freire on a seven-bout winning streak in which he
has finished all of his opponents by way of submission.

Archuleta snapped a two-bout skid in his last outing, as he
outpointed UFC veteran Erique Barzola at Bellator 286. β€œThe
Spaniard” is 26-4 over the course of his professional tenure, with
titles in Bellator and King of the Cage to his credit.

South Korea’s Kim has been victorious in seven of his last eight
outings. Most recently, he earned a unanimous decision victory
against Ougikubo at Rizin 38. Prior to that, he regained the Road
FC featherweight crown by knocking out Hae
Jin
Park
in a rematch on May 14.

Horiguchi has competed primarily at bantamweight in recent years
but initially made his mark at 125 pounds, where he unsuccuessfully
challenged Demetrious
Johnson
for the UFC belt in April 2015. After winning seven of
eight appearances in the Octagon at flyweight, Horiguchi defeated
Yuki
Motoya
in a 128-pound catchweight in his Rizin debut but has
fought at bantamweight since then.

Ougikubo had a five-bout winning streak snapped in his loss to Kim
at Rizin 38. His triumph in the Rizin bantamweight grand prix
included a pair of wins over Naoki Inoue
and Kai
Asakura
last New Year’s Eve.





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A.J. McKee vs. Roberto Souza Tops Bellator vs. Rizin Lineup on New Year’s Eve

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