RIZIN’s latest venture at the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan this weekend had all the surprises, drama, and action that was expected.
The event will go down as RIZIN’s biggest event of the year, at least when judging exclusively off the notoriety that it received. This is almost entirely due to the presence of Floyd Mayweather, who came in to face Mikuru Asakura in an exhibition boxing match.
There’s a lot to unpack about this show, and even some stuff I won’t be able to get to today. Here are my top takeaways after watching RIZIN 38 and the “Super RIZIN” spectacle.
Mayweather Is A Better Boxer Than Asakura. Shocking, I Know…
Floyd Mayweather’s return to Japan felt sort of just like his first time around.
Mayweather’s first RIZIN bout was in 2018 against kickboxer Tenshin Nasukawa. With it came lots of media attention and a different overall vibe that is worth studying.
The mania surrounding Mayweather’s fights is interesting. His aura in general makes you feel like an event is a big deal. He does everything on his terms: arrives when he wants (in other words, late) and has a massive entourage with unexpected cameos, for example.
RIZIN also does its job to make the exhibitions seem like a big deal. They hosted press conferences in public, and they basically built an entire afternoon card around it. On the domestic feed last night, they even had a TV host trailing Mayweather as he went from the hotel to the arena.
Most of this buzz is basically manufactured. That word, “manufactured” sounds negative, but really isn’t. That’s what promoting is, basically. Attach all the bells and whistles to a product that you can, then sell it to as many people as possible. RIZIN go out of their way to present the spectacle of this fight to you, showing Mayweather’s larger-than-life look and holding these events outside of the ring.
I’m not saying you can get Mayweather-level public attention out of any fight if you do this type of promotion. However, when you focus this much on atmosphere, “vibe” if you will, you can draw more people in than you might expect. Stuff like this being done for other events and fights would be beneficial, I feel.
Okay, back to our comparisons here. The actual performance of Mayweather was much like his first trip to Japan as well.
Nasukawa was aggressive against Mayweather, coming out swinging in their three-round exhibition. Mayweather then locked in and scored three knockdowns within a round against Nasukawa to force a finish.
This week was sort of similar, maybe a little less dramatic. Asakura certainly was going hard against Mayweather. He scored solid to the body and got some stuff through. But by the end of the second round, a clean right cross from Mayweather sent Asakura to the mat. Dazed and confused, he wasn’t able to continue.
I don’t think you need me to tell you that Mayweather is a better boxer than Asakura. But anyway, there’s a visual aid out there now for that if you wanted it.
This fight served its purpose: get attention on RIZIN and on Asakura. He’s a big star in his own right and just had a ton of eyes on him. When you’re someone like him, who has found a way in fighting to market himself apart from the traditional way (that being: “I’m good at fighting and win”), it’s not the worst thing in the world that you lost here. This was “bad PR” for Asakura in the traditional sense, but in the world of influencers and Youtubers, I’m sure much of this “bad PR” can wrap back around to being “good PR.”
Park Continues Dark Horse Run With Win Over Hamasaki
Park Si-woo scored the biggest win of her career on Sunday night, going three rounds against former champion Ayaka Hamasaki for a unanimous decision win.
Park is now expected to face current titleholder Seika Izawa in the tournament grand finals on New Year’s Eve.
Months ago, I proclaimed that Park could be the dark horse of this tournament run. Many pundits that we spoke with in the lead-up to the quarter-finals basically said the same. She had produced good results in DEEP Jewels recently and has a style that could cause problems for many.
At that time, I did not expect that she would go as far as the finals. Nor did I feel that she would beat Hamasaki somewhere along the way.
Her performance this weekend was impressive, using her boxing skills to keep Hamasaki at bay for all three rounds.
Park against Izawa will be a very good matchup. It shows two names at a high level that have, quite frankly, only emerged over the past three years. It’s also a testament to the importance of regional promotion DEEP Jewels, where they both started their careers at.
But here’s the other side of the situation: we have to discuss what’s up with Hamasaki now. Before, it wasn’t as bad for her: she had two losses to Izawa, but at that time we were quickly learning that Izawa might be the best super atomweight of this current era.
No disrespect to Park, but this loss might be a rude awakening for Hamasaki. At 40, and with now 30 pro fights under her belt, Hamasaki might have to assess where she stands as a fighter.
This is no dramatic declaration that she is regressing greatly or that she should retire. But, it’s most certainly worth mentioning.
Kim Earns Big Win, But Don’t Take Much Away From Ougikubo
Kim Soo-chul scored a big win in his return to RIZIN, defeating Hiromasa Ougikubo via unanimous decision.
Kim handed Ougikubo a loss, snapping a fight-fight winning streak that he had previously attained. Ougikubo was aiming to follow up on a big 2021, where he won the promotion’s bantamweight grand prix and headlined their New Year’s Eve card.
I see this matchup less as a testament to Ougikubo possibly being overvalued, and more proof that Kim might be undervalued.
Kim has been highly successful in Korea in recent years. He earned a belt in his last fight there, stopping Park Hae-jin with strikes. He has lost only twice over the past decade! He’s a name that should certainly come back to RIZIN when possible because he’s a slept-on bantamweight as it stands. One would assume this performance has secured him an invite back soon.
Gustavo Should Be Next!
RIZIN 38 kicked off with a matchup that went about as expected. When you match Luiz Gustavo against Juri Ohara, don’t be surprised if a finish comes early. And it did.
Gustavo put away Ohara in the second minute of their bout, storming him with left and right hooks that caused a knockdown. He called for a title shot afterward, and I can’t really disagree with that.
Sure, he has only scored two wins since returning, but he just beat someone who had a streak of eight wins heading into the weekend. Gustavo might have not been knocking on the door of a title fight before Sunday, but Ohara undeniably was.
I theorized last week that lightweight champ Roberto Satoshi Souza is likely going to return on New Year’s Eve. This would line up for Gustavo, considering that’s three months away and he presumably didn’t take much damage in this bout. That sounds like a good idea to me.
Other Notes From The Week
- Those were my bigger takeaways from Sunday. Here’s a lightning round of other takes after the event.
- The main event saw Kyoji Horiguchi submit Kintaro via arm triangle choke. I don’t really have much to say about this, honestly. This was Horiguchi’s fight to win, and well he did that! I’m just curious about what’s next for him now. What does he do in Bellator? Do you throw him against another big name immediately?
- Seika Izawa is so good. Like, I know this is sort of point that has been done to death by now, but she’s just unreal to watch. She struggled in the first round against Anastasiya Svetkivska, but just turned into a grappling machine in the second. She was determined to look for a countless number of submissions until one eventually caused the win.
- There was a massive controversy surrounding the Mayweather fight. Let me explain: As RIZIN does with a lot of fights, flowers were given to each fighter before the bout started. The sponsor that was in charge of Mayweather’s flowers brought lots of eyes onto himself, intentionally dropping the bouquet on the floor in front of him.
- RIZIN was incredibly apologetic about this and social media was stirring. My sort of lame take is that this isn’t really a big deal? Most sponsors are Youtubers, or club hosts, or some sort of personality-driven job. This was likely just a clout chase that had no further commentary behind it. To get worked up about this is almost giving credit to the action – which could explain why, well, Mayweather didn’t seem to really care when it happened.
- If you want to check out my live coverage reporting on Sunday’s card, click this link.
- RIZIN’s “LANDMARK” series will return on November 6th in Nagoya. It was announced Sunday that Satoshi Yamasu will face Ren Hiramoto on the card.
- So once again, Hiramoto is in a fight that does not look favorable to him. I don’t know what you can do if his record drops to 1-3 after this.
- Promotion-wise I guess this is a decent matchup though. Hiramoto has a pretty solid following, so if this headlines the card it could generate some attention.
- Also, I’d guess this is likely the last event we get before RIZIN starts their New Year’s Eve festivities. Maybe one more numbered event later in November? But I doubt it. I would imagine most people who have recently competed are being shelved until December, like super atomweights or Robert Satoshi Souza. Wilder things have happened though…
- Delivering on my promise: Shooto Japan did a show seven days ago from Korakuen Hall. The timing didn’t line up for me to put the results in last week’s column, so here we go now.
- Title Change! Jo Arai scored a first-round finish win over Junji Ito to become the new strawweight champion. This continues a career revival he has had in recent years, going from having a negative record to attaining seven consecutive wins and a title.
- Big Upset! Yuto Sekiguchi handed Takeru Uchida a loss last week with a first-round armbar. Uchida seemed UFC bound prior to this defeat – he recently scored a quick submission victory in a showcase bout during a “Road To UFC” card in June. His five-fight winning streak has now come to an end.
- Veteran Hisae Watanabe took a loss lower on the card, getting submitted by Yuki Ono.
- If you want more information: GONG’s report is here. Tapology has more info as well.
- DEEP Impact has announced fights for their November 12th show at Korakuen Hall. There’s quite a few big matchups on here.
- Interim bantamweight champion CORO will look to defend his belt for the first time when he faces Koichi Ishizuka. Ishizuka’s most recent win came just last month, defeating Seigo Yamamoto.
- DEEP Jewels will be represented, as Saori Oshima will put her microweight title on the line against Mizuki Furuse.
- Oshima is a two-division champion currently, holding belts at microweight (97 lbs) and atomweight (105 lbs). She’s also coming off a RIZIN win against Miyuu Yamamoto from July!
- Interim title fight at heavyweight- sorry, megaton: Ryo Sakai and Yukinori Akazawa will meet. Akazawa has a negative record, but he’s riding a two-fight winning streak in DEEP.
- Daisuke Nakamura, Satoru Kitaoka, Kimihiro Eto are among other names currently set for the card. GONG has the full lineup here.
- A few quick programming notes: The podcast will likely return next week, chatting with someone and just further reflecting on RIZIN 38. I’m currently working on lining up some more interviews for the column as well.
- Thanks again to those who continually support the column! See you next week.