JMMA Monday: Three Questions Heading Into RIZIN 34, Thoughts on DEEP Jewels and More!

Kyohei Hagiwara hugs Hiroaki Suzuki after the end of a fight in the RIZIN ring.
Kyohei Hagiwara is one half of the RIZIN 34 main event (RIZIN FF)

Welcome to another issue of JMMA Monday.” Today’s an incredibly busy one. To preview RIZIN 34, I wrote up three questions I have heading into the event. Also, I have a short piece later in the article discussing how DEEP Jewels went this weekend. All of that plus the usual smaller notes and thoughts from the week as well. Let’s begin!

Can Hagiwara Get His Big Moment?

I could be completely alone in this thought, but this is simply how I feel: I don’t think Kyohei Hagiwara has had that big moment in his career thus far. Let’s look back. He opened his RIZIN run with a few slick stoppage wins. Those were good performances that allowed him to make a name for himself, but they weren’t big by any means.

In his first big fight, Hagiwara lost to Mikuru Asakura in 2021. His next fight was a strong performance against Shoji, although it ended in a doctor stoppage and Hagiwara didn’t get to showcase as much as possible, arguably. Then in his most recent fight, Hagiwara picked up a somewhat sleepy win over Hiroaki Suzuki on New Year’s Eve.

I’m not saying Hagiwara hasn’t had a good run so far. I’d actually argue the opposite. He has a small MMA record but has produced pretty good results However, I feel like he still needs that big moment. Can he attain that this weekend, facing Satoshi Yamasu in the main event?

Who Will Shine: Akira or Ohara?

It’s easy for a fight to get buried in the pack when there’s 17 bouts in total. So, I must proclaim: Do not sleep on Akira versus Juri Ohara.

These are two names which have long winning streaks that honestly feel like they’re going under the radar of many.

The first time we saw Ohara in RIZIN was in 2020, where he beat Yusuke Yachi. This might surprise you, but he hasn’t lost since then. He has won six consecutive fights, including a win he scored over Kohei Tokeshi in November.

Akira has quickly attained four consecutive wins. He won his RIZIN debut last year with a submission, catching Daichi Abe with a north-south choke. Just last month, he beat Takumi Suzuki via decision.

This is easily one of the biggest fights to look out for on this card.

How Long of a Show Are We In For?

17. That’s how many fights are currently slated for RIZIN 34 at the time of writing this. That is a lot. Sure, some of them are kickboxing bouts, which tend to take less time than MMA fights. However, this really is a long show. Part of me wonders how long the event will last.

I always feel like cards of this length come with a certain level of risk. There could be absolutely no problems, as we could get a solid amount of finishes and the show could truck along. But, there’s also the possibility that we will get a ton of decision outcomes, making this a long and drawn out card. I don’t mean to alarm you, but it is entirely possible. Let’s see on Sunday how it goes.

For anyone like me who will be watching the show live when it starts at 1AM EDT, I pray for you.

A Grand Prix Has An Unfortunate Start, Plus Other Thoughts on DEEP Jewels

DEEP Jewels held an event this weekend which included the start of their flyweight grand prix. To recap, this is an eight-woman tournament at flyweight. The plan is that an inaugural 125-pound champion will be crowned by the end of the bracket. I briefly previewed this GP in a discussion with Charlie Jewett last week.

In a frustrating outcome, half of the bracket was already decided before the event took place on Saturday. One was due to COVID-19: Kano Kagaya tested positive for the virus, forcing her out of a fight against Te-a. Also, Hanako was pulled from a tourney bout against Aoi Kuriyama after missing weight.

Both Kuriyama and Te-a advanced in the bracket without competing this weekend. Not the most ideal way to start the tournament.

The other half of the bracket played out as planned. Veterans Shizuka Sugiyama and Rin Nakai picked up wins. I’m personally interested to see if they get matched in the semi-finals, or if they’ll get different opponents in the next round.

With half of the tournament going as planned and the other half not even taking place in the cage, it wasn’t that interesting. It could be argued that the biggest headlines coming out of DEEP Jewels this weekend were on the undercard.

In a massive upset, HIME picked up a decision win over Saori Oshima. For those who don’t remember, Oshima made big waves in RIZIN last year by picking up a win against Kanna Asakura. She was the first of many women that made an impact last year in their RIZIN debut. Others include Park Si-woo and Seika Izawa.

Another surprising result was 17-year-old Moeri Suda scoring a first-round armbar submission against Hikaru Aono. Suda is on an incredibly dominant run over the past 12 months: in that time she has scored five wins, with three of them being submission victories. This alone makes her one of the best prospects at atomweight, in my opinion.

I personally didn’t catch DEEP Jewels this weekend. Between all of the events happening in North America this week, I was way too busy. Luckily, there are some great reports out there regarding the event. I suggest reading Charlie Jewett’s write-up for along with a story from Robert Sargent and Go Yamamoto of MMA Rising.

Other Notes From The Week

  • RIZIN rolled out information regarding a doubleheader weekend in April. Between April 16th and 17th, we’ll be getting “TRIGGER 3rd” and RIZIN 35.
    • The biggest headline coming out of this announcement is that a batch of foreign fighters will be entering the country. This is big, as the promotion has spent the greater portion of two years without them.
    • Another theme to follow: a triple-header of title fights were announced, and they’re all rematches. Most notably is Johnny Case versus Roberto Satoshi Souza at lightweight, and Ayaka Hamasaki and Seika Izawa at super atomweight.
    • On “TRIGGER 3rd,” we’ll see the return of Luiz Gustavo when he faces Yusuke Yachi for the second time. Gustavo infamously derailed the hype train of Yachi in 2018, ending his six-fight winning streak with a brutal knockout at RIZIN 12.
    • My report on all of the announcements can be read here.
  • DEEP Impact had two other shows this weekend…
    • In the main event of DEEP Impact’s Saturday show, Koichi Ishizuka picked up a first-round doctor stoppage victory over Wataru Mimura. That moves him to three consecutive victories. Details here.
    • Yoichiro Sato wasn’t able to snap his losing streak on Sunday. He suffered a 79-second loss to Ezechiel Lebana, who entered the card with just one win and three losses on his record. RIZIN kickboxing alum Ryo Sakai won in the co-main event with a decision over Taisei Sekino. More details here from GONG (you will need Google Translate).
  • Next Monday (March 21st) is a holiday in Japan. It’s Vernal Equinox Day. To capitalize on this, both Shooto Japan and Pancrase will have cards on that date.
    • Three title fights will go down at Pancrase 326. This includes the return of strawweight champ Emi Fujino, who will face undefeated prospect Karen.
    • Over at Shooto Japan, they have an incredible bantamweight matchup between Ryo Okada and Tatsuya Ando. That could be a really interesting matchup.
  • Some Pancrase news: The promotion’s Neo Blood Tournament will kick off on May 22nd. A couple more fights have also been tacked onto their April 29th show. Source. 
  • A series of fights have joined Shooto Japan’s April 3rd event. The card now looks like this…
  • Two-time RIZIN Bantamweight Champion Kyoji Horiguchi has been booked to face Patchy Mix at Bellator 279 on April 23rd. It’s part of the Bellator Bantamweight Grand Prix – a tournament that, if successful, could start Horiguchi’s second reign as champ in the promotion. He’s got a few hard battles to prevail in before he can get there though… My report.
  • Former Pancrase fighter Takashi Sato is back… This weekend! He’s stepping in on short notice to face Gunnar Nelson at UFC’s “Fight Night” card in London. This marks his first appearance since 2020. More details here…
  • Pancrase has underwent some structural changes. There’s now an executive committee and council. The two groups make up 10 people in total. The executive director is Hidetaka Fukui.

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