Sengoku 'Tenth Battle' preview for Sept. 23 HDNet event

Sengoku 10

World Victory Road returns with its decennial event, "Tenth Battle" at the Saitama Community Arena in Saitama, Japan on Sept. 23, airing live stateside at 3:00 AM ET on HDNet. Featuring numerous rising prospects as well as a pair of MMA debutantes, the "Tenth Battle" offers a glimpse into Sengoku's ever-expanding talent pool.

In the light heavyweight showdown between two MMA newcomers, 2004 Olympic judo silver medalist, Hiroshi Izumi (0-0) squares off with WKBF two-division champ, Antz "Notorious" Nansen (0-0). A gritty street fighter turned kickboxer from New Zealand, Nansen looks to school his opponent in the art of slugfest.

Izumi, on the other hand, has cited Wanderlei Silva as one of his favorite fighters, and voiced the intent to mold his fighting style around striking. His seeming eagerness to oblige Nansen in a hostile realm is a risky proposition, but it will be interesting to see how he reacts when he gets hit and utilizes other weapons in his arsenal. Keep your eyes peeled as a world class judoka and hard scrabble kickboxers venture into an unfamiliar territory.

Antonio "The artist formerly known as Bigfoot" Silva (12-1) returns to the ring after an eight-month layoff to take on Jim York (11-2). "Junior," a former EliteXC heavyweight champion, last fought in Sengoku's New Year show. Fighting Yoshihiro "Kiss" Nakao, Silva saw the bout come to an anticlimactic end when Nakao injured his knees less than two minutes into the first round.

Barring another freak accident, Silva will enjoy tough challenge against an aggressive New Zealander, York. "Big" comes off a KO victory over James Thompson in March and has never gone the distance in his 13-fight career. If he can time and unload his counter-punch on the button, he may hand Silva the second loss of his career.

A 2000 Olympic judo gold medalist, Makoto Takimoto (5-5) makes his second welterweight appearance against the Spirit MC veteran, Jae Sun Lee (5-4). Prior to his last bout against Michael Costa, Takimoto hinted at retirement in the case of defeat. Alas, he made a successful drop to welterweight and earned a submission victory over Costa via heel hook.

Despite his less-than-stellar record, Takimoto has proven his durability by going the distance against Kiyoshi Tamura, Sanae Kikuta, Murilo Bustamante, and Frank Trigg in PRIDE and Sengoku. Now fighting in an appropriate weight class, he seeks to build on the tenacity and fight acumen that have earned him a split-decision victory over Murilo Bustamante and come-from-behind submission victory over Zelg Galesic.

Light heavyweight King of Pancrase, Ryo Kawamura (10-4-2) looks to avenge his loss to Fabio Silva (11-5) in a rematch. The two last met in Pancrase in 2007 and Silva scored a KO victory, snapping Kawamura's undefeated streak. Both fighters have recently fell victim to the meteoric rise of Muhammed "King Mo" Lawal in Sengoku.

To eradicate the bitter memory of his first professional loss, Kawamura will have to crack Silva's Chute Boxe-bred arsenal of destructive punches and knees. He is a competent striker who can piece together crisp combinations with strikes to up-and downstairs. Also, given Silva's porous takedown defense, he may sneak a takedown or two without eating knee strikes to work some ground-and-pound.

A fast-rising talent under Sengoku's fighter development program, Maximo Blanco (3-2-1), comes fresh off his victorious run at lightweight King of Pancrase as he takes on a young MMA upstart, Tetsuya Yamada (3-1). Blanco, a Venezuelan expat who trains at Yoshida dojo, has represented his home country in international freestyle wrestling tournaments.

After an erratic start to his MMA career that blemished his record with a no-contest, draw, and loss via DQ, he made a quantum leap with his most recent victory over Katsuya Inoue: A TKO win over Inoue, who has defeated the former Sengoku lightweight champion, Satoru Kitaoka, twice and fought the newly minted champ, Mizuto Hirota to a draw, has launched Blanco into a list of possible title contenders.

Yamada entered Sengoku's featherweight grand prix in March a few weeks after his high school graduation. He fought valiantly against a far more experienced opponent, Ronnie Mann, in an action-packed, three-round tussle. He now makes his return at a higher but more suitable weight class as a lightweight. Thus far in his nascent career, he has two submission and one TKO victories.

Yamada has displayed the potential to develop into legitimate talent, but taking on Blanco will be a stiff challenge for the eighteen year-old. Unless he can display his submission prowess to catch Blanco off guard, it will be a matter of time before his underdeveloped game proves fragile under Blanco's explosive assault.

Lightweights Kazunori Yokota (9-2-3) and Ryan Schultz (20-11-1) square off to make their case for title contention. Yokota, a Grabaka prospect, has quietly built a quality resume. He possesses a heavy hip and powerful throws thanks to his judo background, as well as solid striking that has earned him respectable wins in shoot boxing bouts.

Most recently, he edged out Brazilian Jiu Jitsu phenom, Leonardo Santos, at Sengoku 8. Against Santos, he obliged his opponent in a ground battle; despite giving up his back to a long-limbed BJJ expert at one point, he fought his way to a split decision victory.

Also, in the semifinal of Lightweight Grand Prix last year, he outworked Mizuto Hirota, with crisp combinations on the feet and takedowns from the clinch. For his accomplishment and versatility, however, recognition and title shot have eluded Yokota due to his inability to finish fights (seven of his nine career victories via decision). Now, the pressure is on to earn a decisive finish and stake his claim to the next title shot.

Former IFL lightweight champion, Ryan Schultz, is on a two-fight skid with consecutive TKO losses to Mizuto Hirota and Jorge Masvidal. A Team Quest prototype, Schultz is a big, strong wrestler with solid takedown, ground-and-pound, and effective clinch work.

Though he possesses some power in his hands and strikes effectively from clinch, he has been susceptible to knock out when his opponents find their rhythm and distance: Like Masvidal said, "his chin ain't suspect; it's a convicted criminal." With both fighters under pressure to earn an emphatic victory, Schultz and Yokota may deliver a fight-of-the-night caliber action -- we can only hope that they will not stall while vying for a takedown.

Two American welterweight stalwarts will meet more than 8,000 miles away from their home states of Minnesota and Illinois. In a division devoid of talent, Sengoku offers a real treat with Nick Thompson (38-11-1) vs. Dan Hornbuckle (18-2). Thompson returns to Sengoku for the first time in more than a year.

During his time away, he has fallen short against Jake Shields and Tim Kennedy but successfully defeated British bruiser, Paul Daley, and passed his bar exam. Hornbuckle, on the other hand, has reeled off a brutal head kick victory over Akihiro Gono at Sengoku 9; the victory has successfully vaulted him from the regional circuits to the world stage. A win over Thompson will consummate his climb into the Top 15-20 ranking.

Both Thompson and Hornbuckle are aggressive finishers who boast numerous wins via (T)KO and submission. Given that they stand at 6'1" and 6'2" respectively, their usual reach advantage will likely be a non-factor in this fight. Expect a fast-paced, back-and-forth tussle on the feet and on the ground between two evenly matched fighters.

While Thompson has only gone to the decision six times in his 50-fight career, Hornbuckle has fought past the second round only twice. Thompson's training with Minnesota Martial Arts Academy should equip him with top notch conditioning, and if he can push the pace non-stop, he may be able to outlast Hornbuckle en route to victory via decision or late stoppage.

In the sole middleweight contest of the card, Canadian MMA veteran, Joe Doerksen (42-12) takes on Kazushi Sakuraba protege, Takenori Sato (9-6-4). This will be Doerksen's second appearance in Sengoku after scoring a hard-fought TKO victory over Izuru Takeuchi at Sengoku 6.

After suffering three consecutive TKO losses to Paulo Filho, Ed Herman, and Jason MacDonald in WEC and UFC, "El Dirte" is back on a winning track, currently riding a three-fight winning streak. With over 50 fights in his career, he has a clear advantage in experience over his younger foe. Sato has cut his teeth in the indie circuits such as Pancrase, DEEP, and Cage Force.

While his sub-par defense in stand-up has made him susceptible to knockouts, he does his best work from the clinch -- he utilizes his judo and sumo background to execute throws while nullifying the offense of his opponent. In his recent bout, he fought a tough veteran, Izuru Takeuchi to a draw. Against Doerksen, however, he is overmatched. Doerksen should have no trouble controlling the stand-up and assuming dominant position on the ground.

Here is the Sengoku "Tenth Battle" complete line up:

Main card:
205 lbs.: Hiroshi Izumi (0-0) vs. Antz Nansen (0-0)
265 lbs.: Antonio "Junior" Silva (12-1) vs. "Big" Jim York (11-2)
155 lbs.: Ryan "The Lion" Schultz (20-11-1) vs. Kazunori Yokota (9-2-3)
185 lbs.: Joe "El Dirte" Doerksen (42-12) vs. Takenori Sato (9-6-4)
185 lbs.: Makoto Takimoto (5-5) vs. Jae Sun Lee (5-4)
170 lbs.: Maximo "Makishi" Blanco (3-2-1) vs. Tetsuya Yamada (3-1)
170 lbs.: Nick "The Goat" Thompson (38-11-1) vs. Dan Hornbuckle (18-2)
205 lbs.: Ryo Kawamura (10-4-2) vs. Fabio "Fabinho" Silva (11-5)

Sengoku Gold Cup Lightweight bout:
Ikuo Usuda (5-0) vs. Woo Hyun Baek (1-0)

Sengoku Gold Cup Featherweight bout:
Shigeki Osawa (3-0) vs. Ki Hyun Kim (2-0)

Sengoku Gold Cup Bantamweight bout:
Ryosuke Komori (4-1) vs. Jae Hyun So (2-6)

For more on the upcoming "Tenth Battle" check out our archive here.

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