Sengoku X Preview: A Pandemic of Judo!

After an explosive week and weekend of MMA with both UFC Fight Night 19 and UFC 103 taking place and Adrenaline MMA IV feeding your fix on Friday, fans won't get much rest come early Wednesday morning as World Victory Road will present Sengoku X from Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan. The event will feature a main event battle between newcomers Hiroshi Izumi and Antz Nansen at light heavyweight while heavyweights Antonio Silva and Big Jim York will square off in a co-headliner bout. The event will air LIVE on HDNet at 3:00 AM EST.

The card isn't filled with the quality of fights that many fans are looking for, but this is probably the equivalent of a UFN card for World Victory Road. One interesting note, however, is that the card is stacked full of Judo athletes turned MMA fighters. Who said there weren't a lot of Judo fighters in MMA? 

Izumi vs NansenHiroshi Izumi (0-0) is the 2004 Athens Olympics Judo Silver Medalist, 2005 World Judo Championships gold medalist, and the 2008 Asian Championships gold medalist; all at 90kg. Like many other Japanese judokas, Izumi is hoping his background can transition well to MMA, and he can become a success. Izumi has been training with 39-year-old Yoji Anjoh, a professional wrestler and MMA fighter, in preparation for that bout, and he's also worked with some recognizable names such as Kazuo Misaki and Yushin Okami.

Izumi faces a very stiff test in his first professional bout in New Zealand kickboxer and Muay Thai champion Antz "Notorious" Nansen (0-0). Nansen is a three-time WKBF Muay Thai champion (heavyweight, super heavyweight, and super cruiserweight). He's young and explosive, sporting a 14-1-1 record in Muay Thai with 5 KO's. He trains with K-1 fighters Jason Suitte and Roger Earp,so don't expect too much ground experience from Nansen although he states that he has been training in MMA since the beginning of 2009.

A lot of Izumi's training footage has shown his progression in transitioning to MMA, but his striking will obviously be a tremendous weakness against such a seasoned puncher in Nansen. Izumi will likely have the conditioning to press the action though, and if he can avoid the power punching of Nansen -- he should be able to win on the floor. It's still a very tough call without seeing Izumi in the ring, so it actually makes for a somewhat interesting bout to end the evening. Izumi also stated he wouldn't mind standing with Nansen as he believes he wants to be like Wanderlei Silva in style, which I think is a baiting tactic.

Silva vs YorkIn the co-headliner, Brazilian heavyweight Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva (12-1) will take on "Big" Jim York (11-2) in a match-up that really doesn't help Silva's stock. While York has submitted and knocked out a number of heavyweights, he doesn't offer a whole lot of upside for a Silva win with the exception of keeping Silva active. Silva is also likely heading back to the U.S. following this match-up.

Silva comes into this bout riding a five-fight win streak with four wins during his reign in EliteXC and a win over Yoshihiro "Kiss" Nakao at Sengoku - No Ran 2009. Silva should have the striking and ground game to give York a lot of trouble. York probably has a puncher's chance in this fight with his heavy hands, but Silva is way more dynamic. It's possible he could give Silva problems in the striking game, but I wouldn't hold my breath.

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Makoto_takimoto_vs_jae_sun_lee_mediumIn welterweight action,2000 Summer Olympic Judo gold medalist Makoto Takimoto (5-5) will take on South Korean Jae Sun Lee (5-4). Takimoto is coming off an impressive performance at Sengoku VIII in which he submitted Brazilian jiu-jitsu brown belt Michael Costa. While Takimoto's record isn't eye-popping, he has fought stiff competition in Frank Trigg, Gegard Mousasi, Evangelista "Cyborg" Santos, Sanae Kikuta, and Kiyoshi Tamura. He did manage to defeat Dong Sik Yoon, Zelg Galesic, and Murilo Bustamante over the course of his five year career.

Jae Sun Lee is a bit of a mystery. He's slugged it out in Spirit MC for most of his career, but he did fight Koji Takagi at Moosin I (kickboxing) recently winning via decision. It should be a judo vs. kickboxing battle, but Lee apparently has some judo in his background as well. I'd bank on the more experienced Takimoto however. On a side note, Takimoto did defeat Lee's Judo instructor, In Chul Cho, at the 2000 Olympics, so Lee has taken it upon himself to avenge the loss for his master. Takimoto has stated that he's interested in taking on Satoshi Ishii if he manages to defeat Yoshida, open weight or not. 

Yokota vs SchultzKazunori Yokota (9-2-3) will meet Team Quest fighter and IFL veteran Ryan Schultz (20-11-1) in a lightweight grappling showdown. Yokota is definitely a tough fight for Schultz as he has defeated current Sengoku lightweight champion Mizuto Hirota and Leonardo Santos during his stint in Sengoku. He also managed to take Satoru Kitaoka to a decision at Sengoku VI. Training out of Grabaka, Yokota isn't much of a finisher with seven of his nine wins coming by way of decision, but he has faced better competition recently.

Schultz is riding a two-fight losing streak in Sengoku with a knockout loss to Mizuto Hirota at Sengoku IV and a first round TKO loss to Jorge Masvidal at Sengoku V. Schultz has fought some of the best fighters in the world in past years, but he's recently been in a funk. He's probably most well-known by casual fans for his first round beatdown of IFL veteran Chris Horodecki at the IFL World Grand Prix finals in which he trapped Horodecki's arm and punched him into unconsciousness.

This won't be the easiest fight for Yokota as Schultz is a very game opponent. He isn't much of a finisher unless he gains position on the floor, but he is a solid wrestler who can put Yokota in some positional trouble. Yokota is, however, aggressive and relentless in his style, and he managed to stave off BJJ expert Leonardo Santos. He's also got a heavy background in judo with nearly 18 years of competitive experience. He's definitely one of the rising stars in the Japanese lightweight scene. I'd bank on Yokota winning this one, but I don't know if he can actually finish Schultz as he's been clamoring about doing in the media.

Kawamura vs SilvaPancrase veteran Ryo Kawamura (10-4-2) will battle heavy-handed Chute Box product Fabio Silva (11-5) in a light heavyweight battle that'll surely end via knockout. Kawamura is coming off six consecutive fights that went to decision with losses to Muhammed "King Mo" Lawal, Kevin Randleman, and Keiichiro Yamamiya during the streak. He'll likely be looking to battle in the striking department in this match-up as he wasn't able to stay on his feet very long against both Lawal and Randleman. This fight is also a rematch of a Pancrase bout that took place back in May of 2007 in which Silva knocked out Kawamura.

 

Silva trains out of Chute Box Academy in Brazil, and he fits the mold perfectly. He's a fairly aggressive striker with a Muay Thai base and some grappling ability. You're more than likely to see him swinging for the fences than actually trying to submit opponents though. He went on a 8-fight win streak before being punched out by Melvin Manhoef in one minute at K-1 HERO's in September of 2007, and he lost to Dong Sik Yoon via "Dongbar" a little over a month later. His most recent loss came at the hands of Muhammed "King Mo" Lawal at Sengoku VI.

This should be a flat out brawl, and that's probably what Sengoku is looking for in this rematch. Ryo wants to make a statement, and Silva wants to shut him up. Plain and simple.

In a somewhat intriguing match-up, MMA fighter/lawyer Nick "The Goat" Thompson (38-11-1) will take on Gono-killer Dan "The Handler" Hornbuckle (18-2) in a welterweight bout that should be another chance for Hornbuckle to prove he's a legitimate contender. Thompson comes into the bout following a lackluster loss to Tim Kennedy at Strikeforce Challenger Series II. He did manage to defeat UFC newcomer Paul Daley at MFC 20 four months before his loss to Kennedy. He trains out of Minnesota Martial Arts Academy with the likes of Sean Sherk, Brock Larson, Brock Lesnar, and Chris Tuchscherer.

Hornbuckle has been on a hot streak as of late. While he's amassed an impressive record, the question as to whether or not the level of competition he's faced hasn't truly tested him is beginning to be answered. In his last four fights, he lost to current UFC fighter Mike Pyle while defeating Nabil Khatib via RNC and PRIDE veteran Akihiro Gono with a brutal head kick. He'll be looking to continue his impressive performances with a solid win against a veteran like Thompson.

Interestingly enough, central Illinois doesn't have much in terms of MMA training. I live in an area void of an American Top Team or Xtreme Couture franchise. Peoria to my west, Champaign to my east... there isn't the highest level of training out here as there is in Vegas or Florida. Hornbuckle seems to be the anomaly. While a guy like Jason Reinhardt (Decatur, IL) amassed a ridiculous record against nothing but "can" opponents, Hornbuckle has legitimately worked his way into tougher competition and succeeded. He didn't "luckily" catch Gono, but rather dominate him for two rounds and subsequently blast him with a solid head kick. This should be a real test for Hornbuckle, and Thompson has all the tools to counter him. Both men are rather lengthy, so this should be a great fight to look forward to watching.

Joe "El Dirte" Doerksen (42-12) will make his sophomore debut with Sengoku against Takenori Sato (9-6-4) in a middleweight clash. Doerksen is currently riding a three-fight win streak following a three-fight losing streak under the Zuffa banner. He defeated Izuru Takeuchi at Sengoku VI via a third round TKO during his current streak. While Doerksen has obviously had a dropoff in his skills, he's still fairly dangerous on the ground.

Sato is a GCM and Pancrase veteran with a background in both judo and sumo. He's been labeled as a protege of Kazushi Sakuraba, but his skills in the cage are mainly reliant on his clinch work rather than his ground game. Doerksen has the skills on the ground to win this fight decisively, but Sato could be a dangerous pick here.

And finally, the overly-hyped Venezuelan wrestler Maximo Blanco (3-2-1) will take on Tetsuya Yamada (3-1) in a lightweight battle between up-and-comers. Blanco is coming off a stunning upset victory over Katsuya Inoue at Pancrase Changing Tour 4 in which Blanco used aggressive wrestling and wrecking power to overwhelm Inoue. It was the first time we've seen Blanco live up to his potential, and it could be a sign of things to come from him. Yamada is coming off a loss to Ronnie Mann during the Featherweight Grand Prix opening round at Sengoku VII. While Yamada lost the match, he showed some good signs of a potential future for himself in MMA.

This should be a very revealing battle for both fighters. Yamada has graduated from high school and can now focus a bit more on training. If his cardio is a bit better than it was late in the Ronnie Mann fight, he could potentially be a threat on the ground against Blanco. Yamada is going to have his work cut out for him however. Blanco was not only a representative for Venezuela in international wrestling competitions, but the man has huge power and devastating punching. If he manages to sprawl and keep this fight standing, Yamada could suffer a crushing knockout.

That rounds out the main card bouts. The opening fights are as follows:

Opening Fights (2×5):
-1. LW: Ikuo Usuda vs. Baek Woo Hyun
-2. FW: Shigeki Osawa vs. Kim Ki Hyun
-3. BW: Ryosuke Komori vs. So Jee Hyun

While the card isn't filled with match-ups that make you want to sit on the edge of your seat, there are some interesting up-and-comer bouts in the mix. Most notably, Maximo Blanco vs. Tetsuya Yamada and Hiroshi Izumi vs. Antz Nansen should be revealing fights for all figthers involved. Stay up late with us on Tuesday night as the event will be liveblogged here at BloodyElbow.com. It will be LIVE on HDNet at 3 AM EST.

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