It was a busy weekend for the Japanese MMA scene over the past few days. While regional promotions took the week off, RIZIN had the spotlight for two consecutive nights with events from Tokyo. These shows included many big fights and marked the full return of international fighters in the promotion.
Between the two cards there is a ton to discuss. In this week’s “JMMA Monday,” I’ve boiled it down to three talking points that I think are the biggest coming out of the weekend.
Souza Corrects His Sole Blunder
The biggest fight of the weekend was Roberto Satoshi Souza’s win over Johnny Case. The RIZIN Lightweight Champion avenged his sole pro loss in Sunday’s main event, catching Case in the opening round with a crafty triangle choke.
Sunday was a big test for Souza. The way I saw it, the fight looked to be a litmus test to see how much Souza has improved and adapted since he first met Case in 2019, when he was finished in the second minute of a bout. While Case looked comfortable on the feet, the grappling of Souza overwhelmed and stopped him on the ground.
Souza has become a force in RIZIN just over the course of a couple of years. He has challenged some big names at lightweight and prevailed in emphatic fashion each time – Tofiq Musayev, Yusuke Yachi, and now Case. Who could possibly challenge the champ next?
The depth of lightweight globally means there is no shortage of names that Souza can take on. I’m interested to see who they will throw his way next, and who could stylistically cause more trouble for him.
A New Era Begins
We witnessed the official beginning of a new era on Sunday night. Seika Izawa secured a unanimous decision win over Ayaka Hamasaki, beating her for the second time and earning the RIZIN Super Atomweight Championship.
It’s wild to think about the position that Izawa is in: She’s young, early in her MMA career (just six fights!) and is already the face of an entire division. We have a lot more of Izawa to see in the future.
Per the English broadcast of RIZIN 35, Izawa wants a tournament at super atomweight next. There’s certainly enough names right now in the scene for an incredibly interesting bracket: Kanna Asakura, Park Si-woo, Miyuu Yamamoto, Miki Motono, NISSE, the list goes on. Who knows, maybe some international talents from Invicta FC could get thrown in the mix.
Super atomweight has historically been one of the strongest divisions in RIZIN. While the crown has changed hands, some really interesting months/years are ahead for the weight class.
The Two Sides of Yachi vs. Lopez
Luiz Gustavo didn’t miss a beat in his first appearance since 2019. At RIZIN “TRIGGER” on Saturday, Gustavo beat Yusuke Yachi for the second time via finish.
I argued before that this fight was part of Yachi’s sequel, and that a win over Lopez would truly prove that he has improved. Yachi has been touting his “sequel” for more than a year, and this could have been part of it. I didn’t mention what a loss would do in this case, and quite honestly that is because I don’t know what to say.
What’s next for Yachi? What can he do in RIZIN now? I don’t have an answer for you.
As for Gustavo, he’s certainly returning to RIZIN. I bet we’ll see him again later this year.
All in all, this weekend proved to be two strong cards from RIZIN. I stand by the point I made before the events, saying that these are the strongest shows that RIZIN has done in the COVID-19 pandemic, excluding New Year’s Eve cards. Let’s see how they can follow this up with their next numbered event later this year – the bar has been set high.
Other Notes From The Week
- As you might expect, not all results from this weekend were touched on in the writing above.
- My full report on RIZIN’s “TRIGGER” card can be read here.
- I covered RIZIN 35 live on Sunday. The full report is here.
- During RIZIN 35, it was announced that the promotion’s next “LANDMARK” card will take place on May 5th.
- Rising featherweight Kleber Koike is booked to face Kyohei Hagiwara. To be quite honest, this matchup does not make much sense to me. Koike has yet to lose in RIZIN and has proven to be a dangerous grappler, but Hagiwara has yet to prove himself against any upper-class talent.
- Hot off his New Year’s Eve win, Kota Miura will return next month to face Felipe Masoni.
- I’m curious to see what the RIZIN schedule will look like for the next few months. Is this “LANDMARK” card going to be all they present in May? Or will there be another card later on?
- To this point, I’m interested what viewers want. Do some of you want a buffer in the schedule after five events in four months? Or would this pace of events be preferred to uphold throughout the entire year? Let me know on Twitter.
- Pancrase has announced the competitors for their 28th Neo Blood Tournament, which kicks off May 22nd. The tournament will include lightweight, featherweight, bantamweight, flyweight and strawweight brackets. More…
- Regional promotion THE OUTSIDER, which is best known for producing names like Kai Asakura, Mikuru Asakura and Kintaro, is back next month, per a Tweet from Akira Maeda. Their May 22nd show will be the first time the promotion hosts an event since 2019.
- Quick rundown of JMMA names fighting around the globe this week:
- ONE Championship is back on Friday morning with a busy 16-fight card. Jarred Brooks, Namiki Kawahara, Yosuke Saruta and Ayaka Miura are all booked to fight. Masakazu Imanari will also compete in a grappling exhibition against Mikey Musumeci.
- 2019 RIZIN Lightweight Grand Prix winner Tofiq Musayev will make his Bellator debut on Friday against Zach Zane.
- On the Saturday night for Bellator’s double-header, former RIZIN Bantamweight Champion Kyoji Horiguchi will face Patchy Mix in the opening round of the promotion’s bantamweight tournament.
- Continuing his UFC run, Manel Kape will meet Sumudaerji on the main card of a “Fight Night” on Saturday.