JMMA Monday: Can We See New Year’s Eve In September?

Kyoji Horiguchi stopped Kai Asakura within a round to become the RIZIN Bantamweight Champion (© RIZIN FF)
Kyoji Horiguchi is among the many names set to appear at the promising RIZIN 38 card (© RIZIN FF)

What is and isn’t worth your time? You might not notice it, but this is a question that you confront yourself with on numerous instances every day. It dictates whether you take that trip to the movie theatre versus staying at home or watching a two-and-a-half-hour movie instead of a TV show.

And if you watch MMA, you have to decide which shows you pass up on. If we’re being honest, almost nobody is able to catch every major MMA event. Between UFC, Bellator, PFL, RIZIN and many others, it can become a full-time job to watch the top stars compete.

So people must choose, and they certainly do. Like you do with all of the entertainment you consume in life, you confront yourself with what should be watched.

Quality of events has certainly been a relevant conversation in Japanese MMA circles for the past couple of years for varying reasons. In 2020, when Japan was mostly a closed-off country due to the COVID-19 pandemic, RIZIN were left to their own devices.

2021 saw the promotion continue to grapple with a limited roster. But on top of this, the unveiling of their “TRIGGER” and “LANDMARK” shows meant even more events were being put on. This put an even greater strain on the promotion, and the drop in quality of events was visible.

Some people cut RIZIN out of their MMA diet in recent months. On last week’s “JMMA Monday” podcast, guest BabaluJack made a mention of this: “With the step up in shows but not necessarily the step up in quality, I found myself not necessarily buying the shows as often,” he said.

Throughout 2022, the question for RIZIN has been if they could turn back the clock and revive the quality of events that they had going before. While a pandemic continues to affect the country, international talents are starting to get brought in. Many of the stars that people missed out on for the better part of two years are beginning to return. This year, RIZIN has a lot more to choose from all of the sudden.

Personally, I have been of the belief that an improvement is on the horizon eventually.

In March, I optimistically made the prediction that RIZIN 35 marked the beginning of positive changes, as it was a strong card that had three title fights and lots of big names. But then, due to “THE MATCH” being the focus of May and there being nothing for a month afterward, there wasn’t much to write about regarding RIZIN for a while.

We’re now coming off a solid lineup from Saitama Super Arena in late July, and the promotion is set to return to the venue next month with another card.

How good will RIZIN 38 be on September 25th? Well, the jury is still out on that, as just a few details are out there currently. But here’s what we know.

The event will be a homecoming party for bantamweight champion (yes, he still has that belt) Kyoji Horiguchi. It will be his first RIZIN fight in nearly two years.

The show will also have the return of Hiromasa Ougikubo, who is appearing for the first time since winning in the main event of the 2021 New Year’s Eve show. He’s got a pretty neat matchup ahead of him, facing Road FC Champion Kim Soo-chul (and a side note, it’s worth noting that Road FC has generously loaned over lots of high-profile talent to RIZIN lately).

The Super Atomweight Grand Prix will continue, showcasing many prolific names in the 108-pound division. Ren Hiramoto will return. Floyd Mayweather is going to box Mikuru Asakura. Yes, you read that right – Mayweather, again.

And we only know two fights so far.

RIZIN 38 is looking to be a very strong card – potentially the best one of the year thus far. The way things look timing-wise, this event will likely be the last big event before the annual New Year’s Eve card.

The quality of RIZIN 38 tells me that the promotion is aiming to put together numerous big events within a year again. It tells me that the product as a whole might be improving significantly compared to previous years.

I’m still hesitant to say that things have fully returned. I feel that part of my pause is because RIZIN has done just a few big shows since April, rolling at a somewhat slow pace. No one or two events will prove that things have changed, and I believe we need a few more shows to see where the product as a whole stands right now.

I won’t make a decision just yet, but I will say this: RIZIN 38 currently looks like the early stages of a New Year’s Eve show come early. If that’s not a sign that things might be improving, I don’t know what is.

Other News And Notes From The Week

  • I wrote a report earlier this week about the recent RIZIN 38 press conference. You can read it here if interested.
  • DEEP Impact takes the spotlight this week for holding the most notable event. They’ll be presenting a series of fights from Korakuen Hall on Sunday.
    • The promotion’s 16-man flyweight tournament will kick off on this card. Yuki Ito, Haruo Ochi and Tomohiro Adaniya are among the names set to appear in the four tournament bouts this weekend.
    • Ryuichiro Sumimura is also fighting on the card, facing Shingo Suzuki. In case you forgot, Sumimura has picked up five wins since early 2020.
    • Two fan favorites: “Mr. Megaton” Seigo Mizuguchi, and Masakazu Imanari are also set to appear on the card.
    • Tapology has the full lineup listed.
  • Shooto Japan also has a very small show Sunday from Niigata.
  • Mikuru Asakura’s famous amateur fighting series, “Breaking Down,” will return in November. Auditions (which will likely get uploaded to Youtube) are set to air in October.
    • It’s been a big year for Asakura even though he has yet to fight! That will change soon though…
  • You know what time it is. Here’s the international report:
    • Ryoji Kudo’s PFL playoff run begins this Saturday, facing Bubba Jenkins in a featherweight semi-final bout. A win will put Kudo in the $1 million grand final. Big fight!
    • Valentin Moldavsky’s fight against Steve Mowry at Bellator 284 ended in just 54 seconds due to an unintentional eye poke. No contest.
    • Yusaku Kinoshita’s “Dana White’s Contender Series” fight against Jose Henrique was officially announced this weekend. They’ll face off during the promotion’s August 30th show.
    • GONG is reporting that Yuya Wakamatsu will face Xie Wei at ONE Championship’s September 29th show.
  • Fun new one-off segment for this week: Crossovers you didn’t expect!
  • Ending the notes on a fun note. RIZIN talent Yusuke Yachi collaborated with Pro Wrestling NOAH GHC Heavyweight Champion Kenoh for a Youtube video. They sparred at the Kizuna Base Gym.

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