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Sengoku: Eighth Battle preview

HDNet will broadcast “Sengoku: Eighth Battle” live from Japan at 3:00 AM ET/12:00 AM PT this Saturday morning, May 2nd. The card contains the quarterfinals of their Featherweight Grand Prix, as well as several interesting non-tournament bouts. As always PRO MMA (promma.info) has a full preview for you.

Tournament Bouts

Hatsu Hioki (18-3-2) vs. Ronnie Mann (16-1-1)
The promotion’s poster boy, Hatsu Hioki did his part in the first round of the tournament, by knocking off American Top Team’s Chris Manuel. Unlike in the past, Hioki stuck with his ground game and was able to finish the fight with little trouble. Hioki has the skills to beat anyone in the world, like Jeff Curran, Hideki Kadowaki, and Mark Hominick if he fights with a proper game plan. At the same time, without one, he can find himself on the losing end of a fight against a lower level fight, like say Jong Man Kim.

Ronnie Mann was able to win his first round fight against the “super high school student” Tetsuya Yamada, and experienced played a huge roll in that fight. Mann, who fights out of Team Trojan, relies on his ground game, and has finished 8 of his 17 fights by submission. His lone defeat came against former Cage Rage champion Robbie Olivier.

Prediction
Ronnie Mann showed in his last performance that despite his gaudy record, he still has a great deal of improvement to make. Hioki, on the other hand, took care of business in a way that showed he is serious about bringing home the tournament championship. To make matters worse for Mann, his strength is ground fighting, but in this fight he is going up against a much more sophisticated grappler. Look for Hatsu Hioki to finish this fight with a first round submission.

Nam Phan (15-5) vs. Michihiro Omigawa (5-7-1)
For the longest time fans were left to wonder what Nam Phan could be if he dropped down to featherweight. After spending much of his career as an undersized lightweight, he absorbed losses against Gesias Cavalcante, Josh Thompson, and Rob McCullough. In the first round of this tournament, he looked outstanding taking out Hideki Kadowaki in the first round with punches. Many see Phan going far in this tournament, and it being a chance for Phan to invigorate his career.

In the biggest upset of the first round, Michihiro Omigawa put a stop on the rise of featherweight prospect LC Davis. Very few people expected Omigawa, who still sports a losing record, to come out on top of such a hot fighter, but that is what happened. Michihiro Omigawa is a former judo player who trains with Japanese legend Hidehiko Yoshida. During his judo career he took silver at the 2001 Asian games and bronze the next year. Omigawa has also fought in the UFC, going 0-2 in the promotion.

Prediction
The pressure will certainly be on Omigawa to have a repeat upset performance, but it doesn’t appear like one is in the cards. If Omigawa can control the wrestling, he may be able to eek out a top control decision, but Phan is a seasonable grappler himself and he will have a serious advantage in the striking game. Look for Phan to land big shots on Omigawa late in the fight and bring home a TKO victory.

Marlon Sandro (13-0) vs. Nick Denis (7-0)
Despite continual accusations of dullness from American commentators Bas Rutten and Kenny Rice, Sandro was able to lock in a standing arm triangle and choke out Matt Jaggers in the first round of the tournament. Another strong performance in this tournament will go a long way in solidifying Sandro’s status as a top featherweight prospect. The Nova Uniao product is the current featherweight King of Pancrase, and he holds victories over Miki Shida and Daiki “DJ Taiki” Hata.

“The Ninja of Love” was able to remain undefeated, as he knocked out heavy striking 20 year old Seiya Kawahara in the first round. In the fight, Denis was able to show that his striking is up to par with the big show, after never really being tested outside of King of the Cage. Now, the Ottawa, Ontario native with step up to the biggest test of his career.

Prediction
Nick Denis is a serious brawler. He is the type of fighter who will throw down with anyone. In this fight Marlon Sandro will have a technical superiority in every aspect of the fight. If Sandro is able to avoid an early rush from Denis, he should be able to submit his opponent late in the fight.

Chan Sung Jung (6-0) vs. Masanori Kanehara (12-5-5)
Chan Sung Jung stayed true his streak of impressive performance against Shintaro Ishiwatari in the first round. He continues to live up to his nickname of “The Korean Zombie” as he is able to walk right through his opponents punches without being phased. In this fight, the former Korean reality TV star will try to defeat his fourth straight Japanese opponent.

After serving as a ZST representative in both DEEP and Pancrase, Masanori Kanehara decided to continue the job in Sengoku. In the first round he took a decision over Korean slugger Jong Man Kim, which raised his record outside of ZST to 4-3. Since dropping a split decision to Takafumi Otsuka in October of 2008, Kanehara has won back to back fights for the first time 2007.

Prediction
Chan Sung Jung does have an uncanny power to simply power through an opponents strikes, but in this fight Kanehara will not be throwing many. Kanehara should be able to avoid the wild free swinging of Chan, and get take downs when necessary. After a relatively uneventful fight, with Kanehara on top for most of it, the judges will decide he is the winner.

Non Tournament Bouts

Travis Wiuff (54-12) vs. Stanislav Nedkov (5-0)
Travis Wiuff returns to the ring for the first time since losing to a debuting Muhammed Lawal. Over the course of his long MMA career, Wiuff has fought for the UFC, Pride, and the IFL. Fighting out of the Miletich team, he is a strong wrestler, who is looking to get top position and rain down strikes. Despite owning 54 career victories, he has never really broken through against a top name.

Stanislav Nedkov made his debut on Japanese soil back in December. The Bulgarian wrestlers and Brazilian jiu jitsu black belt made short work of Masayuki Kono as he finished the fight with punches less than two minutes into the fight round. Prior to that fight all of his previous bouts had taken place in his home country.

Prediction
Nedkov appears to be a rather exciting foreign prospect, but Wiuff has been around the block more than once. Wiuff may not be a world beater, but he is still a strong gate keeper who only lets the top prospects through. Nedkov will have trouble implementing his wrestling, and end up on the wrong side of a decision.

Kazunori Yokota (8-2-3) vs. Leonardo Santos (6-2)
Kazunori Yokota, the former judo player, earned himself a birth in Sengoku’s lightweight tournament by going 6-1-3 and earning the DEEP lightweight title. In his last fight before the tournament, he was suffered his first defeat, as he was knocked out by Seung Hwan Bang. In the Grand Prix, he surprised basically everyone by making it all the way to the finals before being stopped by current champion Satoru Kitoka.

Leonardo Santos is probably known best for his flying armbar submission of UFC welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre. Over the course of his grappling career he won his weight class at the CBJJO twice, and finished second twice. In MMA he has built himself a 6-2 record. He started off his career in the deep end of the pool, dropping a majority decision to former Pride lightweight champion Takanori Gomi. Recently, he has fought on the last four Shooto Brazil cards and finished each one of his fights by first round stoppage.

Prediction
Santos should have an edge in the grappling department, but Yokota has fought quality grapplers in the past. Look for Yokota to find a way to avoid Santos on the ground and land the meaningful strikes as he earns himself a decision victory.

Xande Ribeiro (1-0) vs. Keiichiro Yamamiya (34-23-9)
Xande Ribeiro is easily one of the best grapplers of this generation. He is an Abu Dhabi champion, a five time Mundials champion, and a two time absolute Mundials champion. Ribeiro, along with his brother Saulo Ribeiro, are the lead instructors at University of Jiu Jitsu, which houses UFC fighter Diego Sanchez. In his first MMA fight, Xande defeated pro wrestler Takashi Suguiura with strikes after encounter some mild set backs implementing his game on the ground.

Keiichiro Yamamiya is a former light heavyweight King of Pancrase, and a true veteran of the sport. Yamamiya has been fighting since 1996, and actually competed at UFC 23 dropping a fight to Eugene Jackson. Ryo Kawamura stopped his momentum in their rematch, Yamamiya had been in the midst of a career renaissance with three straight victories over Hiromitsu Kanehara, Yuki Kondo, and Ryo Kawamura.

Prediction
Ribeiro showed in his first MMA fight that he has worked extensively at making himself a well rounded fighter. In this fight he might be best served to simply stick to his ground game. Yamamiya is mostly a brawler, and Ribeiro should be able to catch him with a submission if he can survive an early barrage of strikes.

Michael Costa (9-4) vs. Makoto Takimoto (4-5)
Michael Costa clearly was not playing around when he came up with his nickname. “The Pimp” trains out of Chute Boxe, and in their mold he is a brawling muay thai striker with an aggressive Jiu Jitsu game. In his Sengoku debut, he crack Nick Thompson early, but ended up submitting to a Kimura lock.

Makoto Takimoto is a 2004 Olympic gold medalist in Judo from Japan. Despite the accomplishment, his transition into MMA has not been as fruitful. Jordan Breen, of Sherdog.com, has referred to him as “the most disappointing” Olympic medalist to fight MMA. Often times in his MMA career he has fought as if he were completely uninterested in fighting, but he does hold a meaningful win over Murilo Bustamante.

Prediction
Michael Costa is going to stay after Takimoto until the fight is over. Takimoto will not have the drive to keep up with Costa’s pace and he will be finished in the second round. It could be either a submission or a knockout, with a knockout being more likely.

Maximo Blanco (2-1-1) vs. Akihiko Mori (6-6-1)
Maximo Blanco is one of Sengoku’s “training players,” which means that the promotion sponsors him and pays from his training at Yoshida Dojo. The Venezuelan national is a former freestyle wrestler who placed as high as third in the Pan-American games. He is only 24 years old, and has only had five fights, but he has shown a great deal of potential and explosive power so far in his career. In his last fight he took a huge step up in competition, and fought to a draw with veteran Koji Oishi.

Akihiko Mori is a K-1 Hero’s and DEEP veteran. He is currently riding a two fight losing streak, and he also started his career with two straight losses. In his last fight he dropped a decision to Korean Tae Kyun Kim.

Prediction
This fight will be short and sweet. Maximo Blanco will come out swinging and slamming, and he will finish the fight less than two minutes into the first round.

Shigeki Osawa (2-0) vs. Kota Ishibashi (0-3)
Shigeki Osawa is the second of Sengoku’s “training players,” he also trains with Hidehiko Yoshida at Yoshida Dojo. Over the course of his career as a wrestler for Yamanashi Gakuin University, Osawa was an All-Japan intercollegiate champion and a world intercollegiate champion. So far in his career he has taken victories in both of his career bouts.

Kota Ishibashi trains out of Dobuita gym. Despite the fact that Ishibashi was once a participant in DEEP’s Future King tournament, he has yet to taste victory in his professional career.

Prediction
Shigeki Osawa should easily win this fight, but so far in his career he has not been as impressive as his fellow training player. Hopefully in this fight, on the Sengoku stage, Osawa can deliver a performance that gets the Japanese fans excited about his participation in MMA

By: Richard Mann

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