With the penultimate month of the year under way, World Victory Road (WVR) hosts Sengoku: "Eleventh Battle" on Nov. 7 at the famed Sumo Hall, Ryogoku Kokugikan, in Tokyo, Japan.
This will be the final event before WVR inaugurates the new, "Sengoku Raiden Championship" banner on NYE.
Sengoku 11 will air live on Nov. 7 via HDNet beginning at 2:00 AM ET (Friday night into Saturday).
Besides boasting several marquee names, the fight card also serves as a prelude to the NYE event: With at least three title contests scheduled on NYE, several fighters on the card will enter the ring for high-stake battles to earn the title shots.
Let's get to it:
Ronnie Mann vs. Shigeki Osawa: British prospect vs. Sengoku-poster-boy-in-training
Ronnie Mann (16-2-1), a veteran of Cage Rage and Cage Gladiators, returns to Sengoku after his stint in the promotion’s featherweight tournament was curtailed by Hatsu Hioki. Despite his impressive record, he remains a bit of an unknown quantity, having defeated the then 3-0 Tetsuya Yamada at Sengoku 7 but falling to the top-ranked Hioki in less than a round. With a background in boxing and wrestling and ten submission victories under his belt, the 23 year-old displays promise; however, he has yet to transcend the confine of his home country to make an impact on an international stage.
Shigeki Osawa (4-0), a fighter under Sengoku’s Fighter Development program, makes the first big leap in his nascent career with a move up to the main card. While fitting snugly in the collegiate-wrestler-turned-MMA fighter mold, Osawa boasts no ordinary achievement: Billed as a "gem that surfaces once every twenty years" during his prodigious collegiate wrestling career, he capped off a long list of accolades in the sport with a gold medal in the World Collegiate Freestyle Wrestling tournament in Greece. In his three previous Sengoku appearances, he triumphed in the opening bouts. Now facing a step-up in competition, the ambitious 24 year-old is ready to showcase his developing striking ability and of course, his bread-and-butter takedown.
Slugfest alert: Dave "Pee-Wee" Herman vs. "Big" Jim York
Dave "Pee-Wee" Herman (15-1), who has yet to see a judge’s score card in his career, faces an equally decision-proof "Big" Jim York (11-3) in the lone heavyweight contest of the night.
Herman looks to atone for his lone career loss to Mu Bae Choi in his Japanese debut at Sengoku’s New Year show ten months ago. He most recently recorded a 60-second TKO victory over Don Frye at Shark Fights 6. Now dedicated to training full-time, Herman has been working to evolve from a raw talent with abundant athleticism to a full-fledged MMA fighter.
York’s Sengoku record stands at 1-2 with a KO victory over James Thompson and losses to Yoshihiro Nakao and Antonio Silva. York possesses power in his hands but his plodding stand-up and limited grappling bodes ill against the explosive and relentless Herman. If he indeed suffers his third loss in Sengoku, he most likely does so in a fantastic manner – better to light up a fistic firework and go out with a bang than fizzle out in a snoozefest.
Potential sleeper of the night: Marlon Sandro vs. Yuji Hoshino
Sengoku featherweight tournament semi-finalist, Marlon Sandro (14-1) and Cage Force featherweight champion, Yuji Hoshino (16-6-7) lock horns to establish themselves at the top echelon of the division.
Sandro is visibly aggravated over getting the short end of the stick in a controversial split decision verdict against Michihiro Omigawa in the semi-final round of the featherweight tournament. When willing to let his hands go, he demonstrates good power that gives him a decisive advantage on the feet against Hoshino.
If the fight hits the mat, expect a clash of styles between a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu ace and strong wrestler who thrives on top control. Hoshino, an accomplished collegiate Greco-Roman wrestler, has been undefeated since June, 2005. He has been able to capitalize on his takedown, fluid guard passing, and top control since settling in the current weight class. In the Cage Force featherweight tournament in 2008, he triumphed over current DREAM fighter, Akiyo Nishiura, and highly touted Shooto veteran, Antonio Carvalho.
Do-or-die for "Japanese Sensation": Akihiro Gono vs. Yoon Young Kim
Currently on a three-fight skid, PRIDE and UFC veteran, Akihiro Gono (29-15-7) risks fading into the twilight of his career against Yoon Young Kim (12-4). In his last fight, he ended up on a wrong side of the highlight-reel head kick KO courtesy of Dan Hornbuckle.
In his 51 career bouts, he has faced opponents of every stylistic stripe; Kim, long-limbed submission specialist, poses no novel threat to him. Despite the cataclysmic ending to his last fight, he looked sharp with his strikes and more than held his own in the grappling department. Kim, a Spirit MC and DEEP veteran, holds eight submission victories and is no "gimme" opponent for Gono. Expect Gono to fight with a sense of urgency and restore himself to the winning column.
"Monster" returns to Japan: Kevin Randleman vs. Stanislav Nedkov
Kevin Randleman (17-13) returns to action after a lackluster decision loss to Mike Whitehead in Strikeforce in June. The "Monster" meets the undefeated Bulgarian prospect, Stanislav Nedkov (7-0). Randleman, a former UFC heavyweight champion, remains a threat with his takedown but his offense runs its course once the fight hits the mat.
Nedkov made his Sengoku debut at Sengoku 8 and managed to eke out a TKO victory over grizzled veteran, Travis Wiuff, after being penalized for low blows. He has proven to be a capable grappler, and as long as he stays composed after being put on his back, he should have no problem scrambling back to his feet, reversing position, or submitting Randleman.
Top lightweight contender match 1: Kazunori Yokota vs. Eiji Mitsuoka
In a fight billed as the "collision of speed and power," Yokota (10-2-3) and Mitsuoka (16-6-2) vie to punch their tickets for a title shot against Mizuto Hirota on NYE.
Yokota has been quietly making his name as a versatile contender: He out-struck and out-grappled the current lightweight champion, Hirota, in Sengoku’s lightweight grand prix last year and fought Brazilian Jiu Jitsu phenom, Leonardo Santos, to a split decision victory. In his last fight, he knocked out Ryan Schultz to win his first stoppage victory in Sengoku. In addition to a repertoire of throws from the clinch thanks to his judo background, he boasts crisp striking, agility, and relentless pace on the feet. As he has stated in recent interviews, his speed and control of the striking exchange will be the key to his victory in this fight.
Mitsuoka has been on a tear since making his Sengoku debut last year. In his five Sengoku bouts, he has recorded four victories – all via submission in the first round. A strong wrestler and wily technician on the ground, he has made his name in Japan for thriving in caged promotions. His best bet against Yokota would be to utilize his wrestling to seize control on the ground; however, taking down Yokota is no easy task due to his heavy hips.
While Yokota is the more fleet-footed and possesses the faster hands of the two, he has displayed a detrimental habit of dropping his hands and carrying his chin too high: If Mitsuoka can fire off a perfectly-timed counter as he did against Rodrigo Damm, he will not only pick up his first KO victory in Sengoku but also make a strong case for the title shot.
Top lightweight contender match 2: Satoru Kitaoka vs. Jorge Masvidal
The former lightweight champion, Kitaoka (25-9-9), takes his first step back toward reclaiming the belt as he takes on the American Top Team prospect, Jorge Masvidal (18-4).
A hyper-aggressive grappler combining brute muscularity with slick submission skills, Kitaoka makes no secret of his plan: Take the fight to the mat and finish Masvidal with his patented leg locks, guillotine choke, or some other tricks up his sleeve. As long as his gas tank lasts three rounds, he will be able to overwhelm Masvidal with relentless takedown and submission threat.
A caveat in the above scenario is that, while capable of putting away world class fighters like Carlos Condit and Paul Daley, he has piled up losses and draws against journeyman opponents due to his inconsistency. Unfortunately, Masvidal is a dangerous enough opponent to potentially throw a wrench in Kitaoka’s plan for victory.
Masvidal also pulls no punches regarding his strategy: Swarm Kitaoka with strikes at 100 mph and score a knockout. His challenge, of course, is to avoid being forced into defensive by Kitaoka’s bulldozing style. While his maturation from an entertaining brawler to versatile fighter looked remarkable against lesser opponents in Bellator FC, it is doubtful whether his takedown and submission defense will hold up against Kitaoka.
Do not expect this one to go the distance: Whoever ends the fight with his hand raised will make a strong case for the title shot.
Sengoku middleweight champ vs. Beast from Eastern Europe: Jorge Santiago vs. Mamed Khalidov
Jorge Santiago (21-7) returns to Sengoku after capturing the title with his victory over Kazuo Misaki in January. He takes on Mamed Khalidov (19-3-1), a fighter out of Poland with four-year undefeated streak in a non-title affair.
Both fighters are proven finishers, and if they carry on their business as usual in the ring, they likely will put on a fight-of-the-night-caliber performance. Khalidov, who possesses a background in full-contact karate and wrestling, has torn through his competition in his native Poland with a notable victory over PRIDE veteran, Daniel Acacio. He has proven to have heavy hands that could be a potent weapon against Santiago, whose chin has failed him against Chris Leben and Alan Belcher.
Santiago has struggled against competent strikers like Belcher and Misaki, but his versatility and experience against higher-caliber opponents should help him chart a route to victory against Khalidov. Khalidov is an aggressive striker with proven submission savvy against lower-caliber opponents in European promotions; however, Santiago is the more polished fighter who is capable of countering everything Khalidov throws at him and seizing control of the fight.
Expect Santiago to finish Khalidov with a submission and await his title defense on NYE.
Featherweight title challenger match: Hatsu Hioki vs. Michihiro Omigawa
Hatsu Hioki (20-3-2) and Michihiro Omigawa (7-8-1) square off for a title shot against Masanori Kanehara.
Hioki defeated Kanehara in the semi-final match of the featherweight grand prix but was forced to withdraw due to injury. Omigawa became the tournament surprise as he edged past three tournament favorites – LC Davis, Nam Phan, and Marlon Sandro – to reach the final.
Hioki boasts the most fluid and dangerous grappling game in the featherweight division. Known for his top control, ground-and-pound, and active guard-passing, he is equally dangerous off his back. Omigawa is simply no match for Hioki on the ground.
In the grand prix, Omigawa showcased not only his newly found strength at featherweight division that accentuates his judo but vastly improved hands. He has always been relentless on his feet – whereas he was once a reckless brawler, he has now equipped himself with footwork, head movement, and better all-around techniques to threaten his opponents with his power. If he can control the pace and pressure Hioki on the feet, a victory is within his reach, as Hioki’s downfall in the past has been his tendency to become overconfident in his reach advantage in the striking exchange: Hioki does not possess the technical proficiency to capitalize on his reach and pick apart his opponent with strikes.
If Hioki stays smart and takes the fight to his domain, it is a matter of time before he locks in a submission or time runs out and he receives the judge’s nod.
That's a wrap. Be sure to check us out on Fight Night for the best Sengoku discussion on the Net. In the meantime, get up to speed with our Sengoku 11 archive here.