RIZIN 37 is right around the corner, and it’s one of the better cards that Japan’s top promotion has put on as of late. The event marks their return to the Saitama Super Arena, the venue where most marquee shows take place every year. This time they brought with them the beginning of a tournament and a selection of old and new faces to the promotion.
The show is a lengthy 15 bouts in total, so there’s a lot to discuss. Here are a few quick things I say we should watch for on Sunday.
Atomweights: Where To Start?
If you are a frequent reader of this column, I have talked your head off about the Super Atomweight Grand Prix at this point. But how could I not? It’s a really interesting tournament that has so much going on.
For years, Ayaka Hamasaki didn’t have to prove herself. But now on a two-fight skid for the first time in her one-and-a-half decade-long career, she has to put together some wins to regain champion status.
In a rapidly changing division, where does a name like Kanna Asakura stand? She won a grand prix in 2017, but it’s a whole different landscape now. And where does RENA, someone who is returning to the weight class for the first time since 2018, fit in?
Who can make a splash as a first-round upset? Will DEEP Jewels talent Park Si-woo do that? Will unknowns like Anastasiya Svetkivska or Laura Fontoura quickly steal the spotlight?
What can this tournament do for current champ Seika Izawa? If successful throughout, will she be considered one of the biggest breakout stars in the sport recently?
So many questions. No answers just yet. But soon enough, we’ll know everything.
Sudario’s Final Boss Moment?
Since the very start, sumo wrestler turned MMA fighter Tsuyoshi Sudario has been an experiment. The idea of “hey, let’s see how a sumo wrestler will do in MMA” certainly isn’t foreign, but it remains intriguing enough that it is done once every few years.
I personally believe the Sudario experiment is reaching an important crossroads this weekend. When he was given Shoma Shibisai at the Tokyo Dome last year, that was a big test – and it didn’t work out for him. Sudario was finished for the first time in that fight. Now more than a year later, Sudario is being given an even bigger test!
Hideki Sekine is one of the most experienced heavyweights on the Japanese scene. He’s currently on a strong run, having scored four wins since early 2021. When looking strictly inside the Japanese heavyweight scene (which, to be fair, is small), Sekine is on top currently. Just like they did last year, RIZIN is throwing Sudario into the deep end (no pun intended. Get it? DEEP?) to see if he can swim.
The heavyweight scene in Japan is small. It’s hard to tell, win or loss, what’s next for Sudario after this fight. But nonetheless, this feels like a big moment in his career.
Another Look At A Potential Star
RIZIN must look at Kora Miura and see dollar signs… Or at least I’d imagine they do.
There are so many reasons why Miura is marketable. For one, he’s the son of famous footballer Kazuyoshi Miura. That in itself made him an interesting name for his pro debut on New Year’s Eve.
But something has happened since then – he has become a big name by himself. On TikTok, a platform that skews quite young, there are more than a dozen videos of him that have garnered millions of views each.
Two videos have more than two million likes each. There is a clear interest in him as a character. The question going forward is this: Can RIZIN translate that interest into business?
They certainly can, but two things must work for that to happen. Firstly, they have to find a way to reach these young and hip audiences that care about him. Does this mean more social media work? A more accessible way to watch events that caters to these crowds? Possibly. These are long term questions for them.
Also: Miura must actually be good as a fighter. We saw him fight once in a very brief appearance, so the jury is still out regarding how far RIZIN can take him.
But we’ll get another look at him this weekend, as he returns for his second pro bout. In a fight that was first scheduled to happen months ago, he’ll take on Felipe Masoni. A new chapter in the Miura story will get written this week, and maybe it will give TikTok something new to generate millions of views with.
Other Notes From The Week
- JMMA Monday Audio is back! This week, guest co-host Christopher Aguiar joined us to talk RIZIN 37, Tofiq Musayev and more!
- DEEP Impact announced the 16-man lineup for their flyweight grand prix this week.
- The opening round of the bracket will start at the promotion’s August 21st show with four matchups. The other half will take place on September 11th. No date is known currently for the later parts of the bracket.
- The August show: Yuki Ito vs. Kotetsu Hara, Ryosuke Honda vs. Haruo Ochi, Tomohiro Adaniya vs. Toru Ogawa, and Kazuki Shibuya vs. Byun Jae-woong.
- September: Ryuya Fukuda vs. Kohei Sugiyama, Yutaro Muramoto vs. Fuga Izawa, Takahiro Komakine vs. Takashi Matsuba, and Chikara Shimabukuro vs. an opponent that has yet to be named.
- Still surprised that a 16-man bracket is being pulled off by DEEP. This is one of the most notable things to happen on the regional scene this year, I feel.
- Pancrase returned on Monday last week for a card at the Bellesalle Takadanobaba in Tokyo.
- Tokitaka Nakanishi became interim featherweight champ in the main event, taking Shinsuke Kamei into deep waters to pick up a rear naked choke submission.
- Also worth noting: RIZIN alum Suguru Nii scored a win. And, a bout between Nori Date and Aoi Kuriyama ended in a draw! That was Kuriyama’s promotional debut after a run in DEEP Jewels.
- Sogo-Kaku.com wrote a report on the show here. Tapology also has the quick results.
- DEEP Jewels announced a load of fights for their September 11th show. This includes a fight between Aya Murakami and Moeri Suda, plus the return of RIZIN alum Eru Takebayashi.
- Kickboxer Kouzi has found his latest venture. He’s expected to face Hiroking in an exhibition boxing bout on August 14th. It will be part of Abema’s “3150 FIGHT” event.
- Time for The International Report:
- Tofiq Musayev. That’s it. Actually no, let me say more. Musayev won his Bellator debut last weekend in 32 seconds. He stopped Sidney Outlaw early with punches, setting him up for a rematch against current lightweight champion Patricky Pitbull. Musayev is skyrocketing his way to the top of the division!
- Hiroba Minowa was supposed to face Bokang Masunyane at ONE last weekend, but that bout didn’t happen.
- Teruto Ishihara won on Saturday night, defeating Westin Wilson in the first round with strikes! Ishihara is turning things around: he had a five-fight losing streak before but has now won two straight.
- This upcoming week is a little quiet on the international front. Don’t get me wrong – lots of events, just not a lot of JMMA talent going around.
- Tenshin Nasukawa and Takeru are on the September 2022 cover of GONG. This is the second consecutive cover that they have graced.
- We Are RIZIN had two podcasts this week:
- CJ of Sogo-Kaku wrote about the history between Ayaka Hamasaki and Jessica Aguilar, who face off this weekend. CJ pulls out the history books for this one – it’s worth a read.
- Ending the week on a positive note, as usual!
- Kota Miura appeared on GQ Japan’s Youtube page earlier this month to do their famous “10 Essentials” series. You can enjoy it in its entirety, as it has English subtitles added to it! The link is here.