World Victory Road recently announced the latest match-up for its next event, Sengoku 9, pitting former Pride FC and UFC veteran Akihiro Gono against Dan Hornbuckle at the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan, on Aug. 2.
Gono was recently released from his contract with the UFC after dropping two decisions, coming out on the losing side to top welterweight competitors Dan Hardy and Jon Fitch. The charismatic Gono is now set to return to his homeland where he should be welcomed with open arms.
And it's not just because he's a good fighter -- Gono's entertaining entrances and grand theatrics should resonate with the audience in Japan, which is something that a majority of North American fans sadly didn’t get to see with Gono toiling on the preliminary card of the UFC events.
His opponent, Hornbuckle, last competed under the World Victory Road banner at "Sengoku 2" in May of 2008, losing to current UFC fighter Mike Pyle. Since that hiccup Hornbuckle has had two impressive outings on the smaller circuits of North America.
During that span, he made short work of both opponents, firstly finishing Nabil Khatib early with a rear naked choke in June of 2008. And this February it took him only 46 seconds to score a knockout of Joe Alexander. The wins have earned a call up back to WVR and he’ll be able to get his name out there further to fans if he can have a good outing against a veteran such as Gono.
Elsewhere on the card, Satoru Kitaoka, is set to defend his Sengoku lightweight title for the first time against Mizuto Hirota. Kitaoka won the championship by making short work of former PRIDE FC poster boy, Takanori Gomi, at Sengoku: "Rebellion" back in January, dousing the flames of "The Fireball Kid" with a fight-ending Achilles lock just 1:41 into the opening stanza.
Hirota earned his shot at the gold by recently disposing of highly regarded lightweight standout, Mitsuhiro Ishida, ending the bout via technical knockout in the very first round earlier last month at Shooto: "Final Tradition."
The pairings for World Victory Road’s featherweight grand prix semifinals are also set to go down at Sengoku 9.
The often overlooked Michihiro Omigawa — who earned his spot in the semifinals by dominating and garnering a hard fought decision victory over L.C Davis and then firing off an impressive performance against Nam Phan — will have another tough test when he faces the always dangerous Marlon Sandro.
Sandro — the Featherweight King of Pancrase — has been impressive in his own right throughout the tournament, submitting Matt Jaggers at Sengoku 7 with a standing arm triangle. He then went on to defeat Nick Denis at his own game by knocking "The Ninja of Love" out with a well placed uppercut just 19 seconds into the first round at Sengoku 8.
Tournament favorite and promotion poster boy Hatsu Hioki will collide with Masanori Kanehara. Hioki has been a dominant force thus far in the tournament, submitting American Top Team (ATT) jiu-jitsu coach Chris Manuel by triangle armbar at Sengoku 7. He then went on to submit formidable grappler Ronnie Mann with a triangle lock earlier last month. Kanehara has garnered decision victories over Jong Man Kim also Chang Sung to earn his spot.
The winners from both semifinal matches will meet in the featherweight tournament finals, which will be held later in the same evening.
Here is the current line-up for Sengoku 9:
Sengoku lightweight title bout:
Satoru Kitaoka (24-8-9) vs. Mizuto Hirota (11-3-1)
Sengoku featherweight grand prix semifinals:
Hatsu Hioki (19-3-2) vs. Masanori Kanehara (13-5-5)
Marlon Sandro (14-0) vs. Michihiro Omigawa (6-7-1)
Sengoku featherweight grand prix final:
Hatsu Hioki (19-3-2) or Masanori Kanehara (13-5-5) vs. Marlon Sandro (14-0) or Michihiro Omigawa (6-7-1)
Sengoku Gold Cup Lightweight (154lbs) Final
Sengoku Gold Cup Featherweight (143lbs) Final
Sengoku Gold Cup Bantamweight (132 lbs) Final
Kazuo Misaki (21-9-2) vs. Kazuhiro Nakamura (13-9)
Blagoi Ivanov (0-0) vs. Kazuyuki Fujita (15-7)
Yoshihiro Nakao (7-2) vs. Choi Mu Bae (9-3)
Eiji Mitsuoka (15-6-2) vs. Clay French (16-5)
Akihiro Gono (29-14-7) vs. Dan Hornbuckle (17-2)
For more on Sengoku click here.