JMMA Monday: LANDMARK Vol. 4 Quick Takeaways

Ren Hiramoto speaks after earning a decision win.
Ren Hiramoto is on a roll (RIZIN FF)

RIZIN returned this weekend with their b-tier of events, “LANDMARK.”

After the “TRIGGER” series folded this year, “LANDMARK” is now the sole secondary show that RIZIN hosts.

The evening included more than a dozen MMA bouts in a fast-paced presentation from the Dolphins Arena in Nagoya, Japan. And, to the delight of some and the disgust of others, it marked the return of the RIZIN cage, which is now exclusively used in the “LANDMARK” series.

The show delivered many surprises for me personally, which made it almost a 180-degree change from the predictable RIZIN 39 that we witnessed last month. Just hours removed from the card, we’re going to go through some notable moments.

Hiramoto Improved But Still Has A Long Way To Go

Ren Hiramoto stares down Satoshi Yamasu in the RIZIN cage.
Ren Hiramoto earned his second pro win in the main event of Sunday’s RIZIN card (RIZIN FF)

Ren Hiramoto picked up the biggest win of his MMA career this weekend. That’s not saying much though, as he has only fought four times as a pro and won just once before.

Okay, on a serious note: I was sold on the idea that Hiramoto’s fight this weekend against Satoshi Yamasu was an incredibly tough matchup for him. I came out with a bold prediction last week and said Hiramoto would lose. I was wrong.

Hiramoto used his sharp striking to drop the tough Yamasu numerous times in the fight. And more importantly, he used his takedown defense to keep the bout where he wanted it. The latter part of his performance that was mentioned here is the most crucial – we know he can kickbox, but how well can be mix the martial arts?

Now I want to get something straight: I don’t think this fight proved that Hiramoto is some type of leveled-up fighter that can get shot into the top levels of the division. However, I thought that someone with the experience of Yamasu would be able to put together a game plan and pick up the win.

In other words, Hiramoto exceeded expectations, but there’s still a lot of work for him to do to become a more complete MMA fighter.

Here’s the good news and bad news. Hiramoto is still 24. There’s still a load of time for him to improve and reach his peak as an MMA fighter. I truly believe that we don’t know his ceiling as a fighter just yet, and he has loads of potential.

But, RIZIN doesn’t often wait for people. Their divisions aren’t massive, and the big challenges sometimes get thrown at people after just a couple of wins. Will RIZIN be willing to build Hiramoto up and give him gradually more challenging tests, especially now that he has shown he is making improvements in MMA? In my opinion, whether or not that happens will dictate how the rest of his career will go. Matchmaking will be the key.

Motoya, Kuramoto Impress In Three-Round Battle

Yuki Motoya picked up a win late in the evening against Kazuma Kuramoto. I wrote last week that this was almost a “People’s Main Event” of sorts, as it was two high-quality bantamweights being paired up.

The fight most definitely delivered on that label. Motoya prevailed in a fast-paced primarily striking battle against Kuramoto, taking the decision nod after three rounds.

This was a contest that Motoya got the better of, but it was certainly a good look for both of them. This was another case of Kuramoto taking a loss, but doing so in a real tough battle that he was a part of until the very end. His 2021 fight with Alan Yamaniha felt much like this.

One fighter took a win and the other took a loss, but their stocks both increased with this bout.

Soya’s Winning Streak Ends

Yusaku Nakamura snapped a losing streak this weekend, putting an end to Takaki Soya’s momentum at flyweight. Nakamura’s win came after a three-round striking battle.

I was personally high on Soya heading into this card. He earned three consecutive finish wins in RIZIN, and from a storytelling perspective, his comeback after being sidelined from Crohn’s Disease was interesting to share.

Sunday’s outcome was not what I was expecting. It wasn’t a fight where Nakamura caught Soya and earned a win, but instead one where he got the best of him for the whole 15 minutes. Soya pressed forward on the feet, but Nakamura was effective on the counter and had a clear advantage in the fight.

I also must say: Nakamura getting a win of this level underscores his skill level. He has lost quite a bit in RIZIN, but many defeats have come against very respectable names in the promotion. While he was most definitely an underdog in this fight, I believe he is somewhat of an underrated gatekeeper talent for RIZIN.

The Leftovers

Here are some more quick thoughts:

Yang Ji-yong looked really solid in his stoppage victory against Uoi Fullswing. This matchup was, obviously, one that favored Yang greatly. Fullswing has been struggling greatly in recent years, having won just one of his last eight bouts. But this fight made me want to see Yang get a bigger challenge. He said he wants in on New Year’s Eve, why doesn’t he get paired up against another strong bantamweight prospect on that show? Or in early 2023 if that doesn’t work?

Minowaman Z suffered a brutal and almost outright sad first-round finish to Samurai Mark Hunt. As much as I respect Minowaman Z and what he has done in the sport, respectfully I would never like to see that 46-year-old man fight again. I am sure that I am not alone in this statement. If anything, I’m probably echoing a take that many have had for years.

Takakenshin got put away early by Callyu Gibrainn in what was one of the more one-sided fights of the evening. Takakenshin has been given rough opponents in both of his MMA fights, but man, he does not look ready to compete in the sport right now. I’m interested to see if RIZIN will keep him around. As for Gibrainn, I wouldn’t be shocked if they gave him more RIZIN fights.

Chihiro Suzuki’s fight against Masakazu Imanari went… about as expected. Suzuki inched his way toward a decision victory, avoiding Imanari’s predictable strategy. My tired, all-nighter-pulling brain was briefly woken up for a second when Imanari grabbed a leg in the second round. Other than that, this was par for the course.

My live coverage piece on Sunday’s card can be read here.

Other Notes From The Week

  • There are some regional shows set for this week.
    • Most notable is DEEP Impact 110 on Saturday, which will have three title fights and numerous veterans as well. Bantamweight champion CORO will take on Koichi Ishizuka in the main event. Tapology has the lineup here.
    • Monday, or, well, today, Fighting NEXUS has a card. RIZIN alum Sora Yamamoto will look to defend his featherweight belt in the main event against undefeated three-fight pro Takeji Yokoyama.
  • The International Report:
    • Two JMMA talents have been booked for UFC’s February 4th event in Seoul, Korea.
      • Undefeated flyweight Tatsuro Taira will take on “Dana White’s Contender Series” alum Jesus Santos Aguilar. Taira will be searching for his third UFC win.
      • Yusaku Kinoshita’s UFC debut will come against Adam Fugitt. RIZIN alum Kinoshita joined the UFC roster this year after a finish win on the “Contender Series.
    • Two JMMA names will be competing at CFFC this Thursday in Florida!
      • Makoto Takahashi (also known as Makoto Shinryu) will look to claim the promotion’s vacant flyweight belt when he faces Diego Paiva in the co-main event.
      • DEEP prospect Naoki Hirata will aim to bounce back from his sole pro loss when he meets Hunter Starner earlier in the night as well.
  • In kickboxing news, Takeru has announced that his contract with K-1 Japan has come to an end. What he will do next is yet to be known.
  • Missed this last week: DEEP had a card in Okinawa. Kohei Tokeshi scored a stoppage win in the main event against winless pro Deogracias Lebana. Results can be read here.

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