JMMA Monday: Three Questions Before RIZIN ‘TRIGGER 2nd’

Kleber Koike and Ulka Sasaki pose at a RIZIN press conference.
Kleber Koike and Ulka Sasaki will headline RIZIN’s “TRIGGER 2nd” event on Wednesday (RIZIN FF)

Japan’s biggest MMA promotion, RIZIN, is back this week. They’ll be presenting their second “TRIGGER” event on Wednesday night, which is their smaller-level show that takes place in a cage. This series debuted late last year and is set to continue through 2022.

But wait, Wednesday? Yes, I can assure you there is no error in the printing. The event will be capitalizing on a Japanese national holiday, the 62nd birthday of Emperor Naruhito, to hold an event. For many in Japan, this means they’ll have time to attend the event or watch from home. For others around the world, it might be a little harder to find time.

This upcoming “TRIGGER” card has an interesting main event, as Kleber Koike will be matched against Ulka Sasaki. Lower on the card, numerous names will be making their promotional debut or returning in hopes of having a big performance. Before the promotion kicks off their new year with some mid-week action, here are three questions I have heading into the event.

1. Can Sasaki Make A Statement At Featherweight?

Ulka Sasaki made his featherweight debut last year in a fight against Yoshinori Horie. He lost this fight via decision, seemingly never getting going against the Pancrase alum.

In a recent interview with Knockdown News, Sasaki mentioned that his move to featherweight is to help his health, presumably due to weight cuts. So it’s safe to say he will have to find a way to make this division work no matter what. But where does he fit into this weight class? We might be able to figure this out a little better this week.

Sasaki has the chance to make a statement in Wednesday’s main event when facing the seemingly unstoppable Kleber Koike. A win for Sasaki would make him one of the best, if not the best, featherweight in RIZIN currently. But let’s be real, it’s a massive challenge for him. Koike has been scary in his RIZIN run thus far and has showed no signs of slowing down. I think this is going to be a tough test for Koike, but he is certainly the favorite going in. He has momentum and a home-court advantage of some sort via weight class in this fight.

Can Sasaki pull something off? Or will Koike continue his grappling-heavy dominance.

2. Who Can Have A Breakthrough Performance?

Besides the main event, there is somewhat of a trend on this card: every fighter on it has yet to have that big performance on the RIZIN stage thus far. So, that begs the question: which fighters will get that specific fight on this card?

High-up on the card, a name that pops out is Kazuma Kuramoto. He lost to Alan Yamaniha in the RIZIN Bantamweight Grand Prix last year, although the battle was quite a war that went to scorecards. He certainly deserved the call back to RIZIN after that fight, plus a stoppage win he scored previously as well.

Daisuke Endo, a proven veteran from DEEP Impact, will be making his RIZIN debut on this card. It will be quite interesting to see how he does when matched against Takumi Suzuki.

I can point out fighters all day. However, what’s great about this question is it is quite open-ended. There’s 26 fighters on this card and all of them are capable of having a big moment. This is their chance to make a name for themselves on a big stage. Let’s see who can do just that.

3. Any Changes To The Format?

One thing that felt like a nice surprise with the first “TRIGGER” event was how fast it went. Numbered RIZIN events usually take five-to-six hours in total and are quite a long ride start to finish. This format is tolerable since there are only six-or-so numbered RIZIN cards a year. But to do that same thing with “TRIGGER” shows might be pushing it for some viewers.

The first “TRIGGER” event was 14 fights in total but only lasted a few hours. The card flew from fight to fight and wasted no time. This was honestly pretty nice. Will we get that again with this card? If not, will we see any other changes on this show in comparison to the first “TRIGGER” show?

One thing worth looking out for on this show is the debut of the RIZIN cage. The prior “TRIGGER” show was also in a cage, but it wasn’t the official cage that RIZIN will be using for this series. Quick, give me a shape prediction: circular? Triangular? Square? Maybe I’m thinking too radical on its shape…

Don’t Forget: Knockdown News has you covered for RIZIN “TRIGGER” news this week. The site will have a preview article out on Tuesday evening, and live coverage of the event will take place throughout Wednesday morning.

Other Notes From The Week

  • Lots of news regarding RIZIN 34 broke this week. Eight fights were confirmed for the card, including a bout between Kyohei Hagiwara and Satoshi Yamasu. I’m interested to see what will get picked as the main event for this card. My report on the confirmed matchups can be read here.
  • Undefeated Shooto Japan standout Tatsuro Taira will make his UFC debut on April 30th against fellow promotional newcomer Carlos Candelario. More details here.
  • Shooto Japan announced five more fights for their March 21st event.
  • Pancrase has announced that undefeated flyweight prospect Rei Tsuruya will make his promotional debut on April 29th against Taiki Akiba.
  • I’ve started watching LDH Martial Arts’ “DREAMERS” show. It’s a reality TV show that is similar to UFC’s “The Ultimate Fighter,” with the prize of the show being a well-funded sponsorship to train. The show is run by LDH, a company that is best known for their ventures in the music industry.
    • Just two episodes in, I have a few observations: this show is a little unnecessarily violent at times and seemingly follows a very loose structure. With that being said, there’s some interesting names in the cast that have potential. I’ll keep an eye on this show and make note of it again in the future.
    • “DREAMERS” is made for Japanese streaming service AbemaTV, but you can watch on Youtube as well.
  • As you already know, RIZIN “TRIGGER 2nd” is on this weekend. Previous articles for “JMMA Monday” included interviews in the lead-up to the event. In case you missed it:

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