JMMA Monday: The Most Intriguing (And Underrated) Things We Know About The RIZIN Doubleheader

Emi Fujino and Ayaka Hamasaki standing in fighting poses in the RIZIN ring.
Thoughts on Ayaka Hamasaki’s next fight and more in this week’s “JMMA Monday” (RIZIN FF)

We’re quickly approaching what could be one of the busiest JMMA weeks of the year. Later this month, RIZIN will present a doubleheader of events. On the first night, they’ll hold one of their “TRIGGER” shows, including some of the lower-tier matchups they can make. Then a night later they will have three title fights at RIZIN 35.

Both shows currently have a single-digit number of bouts, meaning we’ll likely hear more about both events in the coming days. So before more fights get added to the card and give us many other fights to talk about, let’s reflect on the matchups that we know about already. Here are my biggest takeaways from the weekend that I have found thus far.

Hamasaki vs. Izawa Is The Biggest Fight of the Weekend

I am of the belief that the biggest fight of the weekend is the rematch between Ayaka Hamaski and Seika Izawa. To me, the matchup represents a potential shift in the history of the super atomweight division in RIZIN.

For years, Hamasaki has been nearly untouchable as the queen of the division. Her experience prior to RIZIN a fighter plus her dominance in the promotion makes her an all-time great. This was challenged briefly by Seo Hee Ham, but that storyline didn’t get to go on for too long due to Ham signing with ONE Championship.

For the first time since her 2019 fight with Ham, Hamasaki has a real challenge. Izawa already beat Hamasaki once in a non-title fight, but she has to beat her again on this card to seal the deal. I think a win for Izawa on this card would mark the beginning of a new era for the division. I recently spoke to CJ of Sogo-Kaku, and he described that he thinks a “new generation” of talent is rising through the division. Izawa is certainly part of that generation, and a win on this card would arguably make her the leader of it.

A Big Fight For Yachi Gets Its Deserving Spotlight

A big step in the current part of Yusuke Yachi’s career could be made on the Saturday night card, and it’s going to get the attention that I feel it deserves.

A lot was made last year of a possible reinvention of Yachi. As he described it, a “sequel” was happening before our eyes. By the looks of it, he showed real improvements with wins over Yuki Kawana and Koji Takeda. He eventually lost on New Year’s Eve, as dominant lightweight champ Roberto Satoshi Souza submitted him in the second round of their fight.

It could be argued that the loss Yachi took last year marked the end of his “sequel” era. However, I feel that this fight is a big part of it as well. Gustavo is the man who put an end to Yachi’s first successful run in RIZIN years ago. If you look at his record, that loss to Gustavo marked the beginning of a few really painful years for him. What better way to prove that you are a changed man than to avenge the loss that started it all?

We know and have seen that Yachi has changed. But another interesting thing is how, or if Gustavo has changed. The last time we saw him was now more than a couple years ago. Will this break work against him? Or will he enter with improvements?

There’s a strong storyline between Yachi and Gustavo heading into “TRIGGER,” and it is completely deserving of the spot it has right now.

What’s Wrong With Some Unknowns?

A lot of fights have complex storylines with prerequisite knowledge are needed for the doubleheader. But for others it’s nearly the opposite, and that’s completely fine. I say, what’s wrong with some fights where we don’t know what to expect.

I don’t know a single thing about Rihards Bigis. Where has this heavyweight been developing a flawless record of nine wins? Off my radar, I guess. How will he fare against Tsuyoshi Sudario? No clue.

How will Takuma Sudo, a strong Fighting NEXUS prospect, do against a big step-up challenge in Shooto Watanabe? I really cannot say. But there’s some intrigue in that unknown factor to things, and I think it has a place on these cards.

Other Notes From The Week

  • Two more fights have been confirmed for RIZIN’s upcoming doubleheader:
    • Bantamweights Yuki Motoya and Alan Yamaniha will meet at RIZIN 35. That’s a solid matchup.
    • Grappling ace Grant Bogdanove will return for a fight against Takeshi Izumi on the “TRIGGER” card.
  • This week in Tenshin Nasukawa…
    • Nasukawa had his last RISE kickboxing fight Saturday, defeating Kazane via majority decision. It looked to be a big event, I saw celebrities like fashion designer Verdy and hip-hop artist Awich were in attendance.
    • The elusive “Tenshin vs. Takeru” has a date and a location: June 19th, Tokyo Dome. No better setting for one of the largest kickboxing matches to happen in recent years.
  • Big title fight set for next month: DEEP Jewels Atomweight Champion Saori Oshima will look to defend her belt in a fight against Moeri Suda on May 8th.
  • Shooto Japan held an event this weekend in Tokyo. In the main event, Tomoya Hirakawa knocked out Yusuke Matsushita in just 38 seconds.
  • Lots of fights are being announced for that upcoming “POUND STORM” card. Lots of LDH and DREAMERS fighters involved, along with other names from the regional scene. More details.
  • Masakazu Imanari is returning to ONE Championship later this month for a grappling exhibition against Mikey Musumeci.
  • PFL announced their featherweight roster for the 2021 season last week, including Shooto Japan stand-out Ryoji Kudo. He’s set to face Brendan Loughnane on April 28th. More info here in my report.
  • A quick look at the more obscure corners of the scene…
    • Fighting NEXUS announced a show for May 8th. RIZIN alum Sora Yamamoto is scheduled to defend his belt in the main event.
    • Grachan is back on May 15th. More info here…
  • Episodes 93 and 94 of “RIZIN CONFESSIONS” are out. 93 includes English subtitles. Subtitles for the 94th episode are likely on the way.
  • DEEP Impact prospect Rei Tsuruya has reportedly signed with Iridium Sports Agency. Media reporting the story earlier this week made note that flyweight super-prospect Tatsuro Taira signed with Iridium earlier this year, then joined the UFC roster immediately after…
  • A fun one to end off this week: For April Fools, RIZIN CEO Nobuyuki Sakakibara teased his MMA debut. RIZIN posed an image of him donning MMA gloves and looking at the camera like “Bring it on!”

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