JMMA Monday: And We’re Back

Kleber Koike, Nobuyuki Sakakibara and Ulka Sasaki pose at a press conference.
Things will get busy next month, starting with RIZIN (RIZIN FF)

Welcome to another issue of JMMA Monday. This is a weekly blog series that discusses the big and small stories around Japanese MMA.

Things have been a little quiet around here, but that won’t be the case for much longer.

A series of recent announcements from Japanese MMA promotions over the past week, including RIZIN, showed that the scene is getting ready to start its 2022 schedule.

It’s not unusual for Japanese MMA to have a bit of a slow start to a year. This is likely because the scene is at its most hectic in the final month of a year, with New Year’s Eve and all.

Apart from the Shooto Japan card we saw last week, not much has happened this year. And not much will happen for a few more weeks unless you follow the kickboxing scene in the country. While that may be the case, it’s now true that things will get quite busy in late February, as all the big promotions will get back to work.

RIZIN announced their first event of 2022 last week, revealing that their second “TRIGGER” card will take place on February 23rd. That’s a Wednesday, which is a holiday in Japan.

A pretty solid matchup between Kleber Koike and Ulka Sasaki was announced for the main event. Koike is a clear favorite for that fight, as his run in RIZIN has been incredible thus far. What’s more, Sasaki is only making his second appearance at featherweight, with his prior fight being a loss. But the UFC alum has the chance to play spoiler.

It’s a strong fight to headline the “TRIGGER” show. We’re still feeling out what level of fights we’re going to get at these events. I see these events as something similar to UFC “Fight Night” cards in contrast to their numbered events. When using that type of comparison, the Koike and Sasaki fight seems like an adequate headliner. Going forward, two things interest me: how will the quality of undercard fights vary, and how long will this show be? The first “TRIGGER” card was much shorter than most RIZIN cards and offered a quicker presentation style.

The event will see the debut of the RIZIN cage, which will be used at all “TRIGGER” events. I’m pretty sure they borrowed DEEP Impact’s cage for the first card.

RIZIN wasn’t the only one to unveil fights this week.

Pancrase announced their return for March 21st, presenting three title fights at that date. The promotion has said goodbye to their former home, USEN Studio COAST, and will be presenting the card from Belle Salle Takadanobaba in Tokyo. This change came due to USEN Studio COAST’s closure this month.

Shooto Japan will be going head-to-head with Pancrase, as their second show of the year will also take place on March 21st! A strong lightweight matchup between Tatsuya Ando and Ryo Okada has been booked for that date.

We’re in for a few busy weeks of JMMA from late February to March. Along with the aforementioned announcements, DEEP Impact has a card planned for February 26th, and DEEP Jewels will be running a card on March 12th as well. Soon, the scene will be operating in full force.

Other Notes From This Week

  • Pancrase announced three title fights for their first event of the year on March 21st:
    • Returning after her recent RIZIN fight against Ayaka Hamasaki, Emi Fujino will face undefeated KAREN in a title fight.
    • In another battle between a veteran and an undefeated prospect, Rocky Kawamura will meet Yura Naito in a fight for the vacant middleweight belt. It’s a chance for Kawamura to become a three-time champ!
    • Just announced Sunday, Toru Ogawa will meet Satoru Enomoto for the flyweight belt. Ogawa was recently promoted to the main champion after former titleholder Senzo Ikeda vacated the belt. Ikeda is busy over at ONE Championship these days.
  • Shooto Japan will be at Korakuen Hall on March 21st. Former Pacific Rim Champion Tatsuya Ando will challenge main lightweight champion Ryo Okada at the card. That’s one of the better matchups the promotion can make right now.
  • ONE Championship is back this weekend with “Only The Brave.” Notable JMMA names like Hiroba Minowa, Tatsumitsu Wada, and Jarred Brooks are set to compete on the card.
  • DEEP Impact and RIZIN alum Victor Henry had a successful UFC debut on Saturday, pulling off an upset victory over Raoni Barcelos.
  • Drake Riggs’ “BROADENED HORIZIN” show aired its 12th episode on Sunday. This week included interviews with Takanori Gomi, Seika Izawa, Park Si-woo, and Damien Brown. You can watch it here.
  • Here’s something that I mentioned on my music blog first, funny enough: Entertainment company LDH has announced a half-music half-MMA event for April titled “POUND STORM.” We mentioned LDH last week after their two sponsored fighters won at Shooto Japan. I’m interested to see what this could look like.

JMMA Articles From This Week

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