JMMA Monday: ‘LANDMARK’ Reactions, A Busy Weekend For DEEP, And More!

Kleber Koike speaks on a microphone while in a RIZIN ring.
Kleber Koike picked up another win last week (RIZIN FF)

Welcome to “JMMA Monday,” the weekly column that provides news and insight on the Japanese MMA scene.

Final Thoughts On ‘LANDMARK’

The MMA world goes so fast. Too fast? Maybe. RIZIN’s “LANDMARK” card from Thursday already feels like a distant memory, as numerous big events in the sport followed it in the days afterward.

But I haven’t forgotten how “LANDMARK” went, and I have a few thoughts as we reflect on the card one last time.

There’s Nowhere Else For Koike To Go Except A Title Fight

Kleber Koike’s fight against Kyohei Hagiwara went about as expected. The grappling ace caught Hagiwara in the second minute with a rear naked choke, causing their bout to end.

This fight showed how Koike is on a different level than most featherweigths in RIZIN. While Koike isn’t the most proficient striker, he has proven time after time that he is dangerous on the ground. He’s now at five consecutive submission wins in RIZIN.

It’s hard to justify giving him a fight that isn’t a title bout next. I mean, who else can he even face besides the champion anyway? I don’t know any other matchup for him currently that would be a marketable pairing and wouldn’t be a big step down in competition for him.

There was a lot of head scratching when this fight was initially made. Hagiwara was a great underdog heading into the bout. Personally, I have theories. My main guess is that this match could have been keeping Koike busy for the time being.

RIZIN just had their featherweight champ fight in April, so it would have to be a while before that fight between them and Koike would get booked. Maybe this was just a way to give Koike something so he doesn’t have to get benched for numerous months.

All I will say is this: if Koike doesn’t get a title fight next, then that simply does not make any sense. We’ll see what happens.

What About Another LANDMARK?

When the “LANDMARK” series first launched, one thing I found interesting about it was the idea that the events would be held at “landmark” locations. The event locations are always undisclosed until the fight week. How mysterious.

However, all three “LANDMARK” cards have taken place in the same venue, and it’s not neccesarily a “landmark” location. To give these shows a special flair, it would be cool to see a new location get put into play.

Besides that, I’ve previously had praise for the “LANDMARK” structure. It’s easy to overwhelm fans if you’re doing long shows all the time – the length of these “LANDMARK” events are a breathe of fresh air in the MMA world, when most cards are five or more hours at least.

DEEP Showcases Five Title Fights During Busy Weekend

MMA promotion DEEP Impact along with sibling promotion DEEP Jewels had a busy weekend. They presented a doubleheader of cards which included three title fights in total. Here are some of the top headlines coming out of the event.

Nakai Takes The Long Route

Rin Nakai became the inaugural DEEP Jewels Flyweight Champion on Sunday night, winning the eight-woman grand prix that kicked off earlier this year.

Nakai ended up having a tougher night than fellow finalist Shizuka Sugiyama. Here’s why: The original plan for the tournament was that the the semi-finals and finals would take place in the same night. That still happened, sort of.

Sugiyama only had to fight once that evening, as her semi-finals opponent missed weight and was disqualified from the tournament.

So, after Nakai beat Te-a in the semi-finals, she appeared just a few hours later to face a fresh Sugiyama. But it must be said, she didn’t fight like someone who had already competed earlier that night. She snatched the arm of Sugiyama late in the first round for an armbar submission, ending the fight early and crowning her champion.

Heading into this year, Nakai was quite inactive. Her last fight was in 2019, an she hadn’t faced any high-level opponents in a while. But now just five months in 2022 she already has three wins under her belt, and an especially impressive one against Sugiyama.

Shinryu Picks Up Another Big Win

Makoto Shinryu won in the main event of DEEP 107 Impact, submitting Yamato Fujita in the third round with a ninja choke. The win was in a title unification bout between the flyweight prospects.

That makes Shinryu’s record an impressive 13 wins, one draw and one loss. Previous wins on his record include performances against Seiichiro Ito, Yusaku Nakamura and Ryuya Fukuda.

This is another solid win for Shinryu and continues his run as a very strong prospect at flyweight.

Also worth noting, this fight was a long time coming. It was first scheduled for February, but later got moved to this past weekend.

Other Notes From The Week

  • CJ of Sogo-Kaku.com was on-site for DEEP Jewels 37 and wrote an in-depth report on the event. I reccomend giving it a read if you want more information on that show. Link is here.
  • The biggest RIZIN-related story this week is likely the fact that their next event was announced. RIZIN 36 is scheduled to take place on July 2nd from the Okinawa Arena in Okinawa.
    • That’s… Quite a while away. As I noted on Twitter earlier this week, one must wonder: is the rest of May and June going to be focused solely on promoting “THE MATCH?” It would certainly make sense since that’s going to likely be the biggest event this year overall.
  • It’s time for the international report…
    • Here we go again… Tatsuro Taira’s UFC debut, which was first booked for April 30th but was delayed, is set to happen this weekend. He’s being paired against fellow promotional newcomer Carlos Candelario.
      • Former Pancrase champ Vivane Araujo will meet Andrea Lee on the prelims of the card, too.
    • Kana Watanabe will attempt to bounce back from her sole pro loss on Friday, fighting Denise Kielholtz at Bellator’s on Friday card in London, England.
      • Lower on that card, one-time RIZIN vet Simon Biyong will also face Luke Trainer.
    • Former rival of RENA, Lindsey VanZant, is set to return Wednesday at Invicta FC 47. She’ll meet Jillian DeCoursey at atomweight.
    • RIZIN alum Yves Landu picked up a first-round finish win at Bellator’s event this past weekend, stopping Gavin Hughes.
  • Kai Asakura has been in Las Vegas for more than a week now. He’s gotten photos with some pretty big names: Floyd Mayweather, Dana White, Aljamain Sterling, and former rival Manel Kape!

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