For those of the BloodyElbow.com Night Crew that managed to stay awake into the early morning hours today, they were treated to what has been deemed by much of the MMA blogosphere as a subpar event from the beginning. Fortunately for those of us who are intrigued by Japanese MMA, Sengoku X delivered on all cylinders with a number of meaningful bouts that included potential lightweight contenders matches, a must-see welterweight battle, and the debut of an Olympic judo medalist.
While Antonio Silva vs. Jim York and Hirota Izumi vs. Antz Nansen were dubbed the more important bouts of the evening, the battle that many fans were clamoring to check out was the welterweight battle between UFC, BodogFIGHT and Strikeforce veteran Nick "The Goat" Thompson and Sengoku standout Dan Hornbuckle. In a somewhat unexpected performance, Hornbuckle, much like his fight with Akihiro Gono, absolutely dominated Thompson in nearly every aspect of the fight. Thompson is known for being a fairly competent grappler in his own right, and he has managed to display a quick straight jab that gave problems to current UFC fighter Paul Daley at their MFC 20 showdown. He wasn't able to do either in this match-up.
Hornbuckle used his reach and range to pepper Thompson with lunging jabs, reminiscent of Vladimir Matyushenko's performance at UFC 103 vs. Igor Pokrajac. Jab after jab connected with Thompson's head, and he was sent retreating late in the first round after an initial battle on the ground in which Hornbuckle threatened with a rear naked choke. The second round didn't offer much more hope for Thompson. Hornbuckle showed a much more dynamic striking game during the later round by mixing his jabs with front kicks and body blows. A straight left followed by a right to the temple put Thompson in a daze, and Hornbuckle ended it with a barrage of blows.
Very impressive performance by one of the most improved fighters in the welterweight division worldwide. What's next? Interestingly enough, he's already spoke of potentially fighting on November 7th or possibly New Year's Eve, but he's more than likely going to get a shot at the welterweight title by NYE. With Sengoku going head to head with DREAM on NYE, don't be surprised if there is a mix-up of match-ups. Hornbuckle may end up taking on a very solid opponent, further increasing his stock. I wouldn't be surprised at a title fight for November 7th though, considering the competition doesn't seem to be too difficult for Hornbuckle.
The two other bouts with title implications involved Maximo Blanco vs. Tetsuya Yamada and Kazunori Yokota vs. Ryan Schultz. Both fights had the possibility of having the winner take on newly-crowned champion Mizuto Hirota. As Jordan Breen tweeted last night, Maximo Blanco brought the "violence" in this match-up. Yamada was unable to catch Blanco is any submissions as Blanco's power and strength played a huge role in the ground tactics of this fight. Blanco was stuck multiple times by armbar attempts, but easily lifted and dropped Yamada to the mat. Blanco beat up Yamada at nearly every instance of the fight, thrashing Yamada with punches from the top, and eventually busting up his ribs against the turnbuckle to cause an eerily silent stoppage with a lot of fans looking on in surprise.
Yokota vs. Schultz was a tough bout to pick considering Schultz's background as being a wrestler who has the top control skills to slow down fights. Unfortunately for him, Yokota's right hand did the talking. After a "feeling out" period and a warning to Yokota for grabbing the ropes on a takedown attempt, Yokota dropped Schultz into a ragdoll state with a mean overhand right. The secondary barrage of shots ended this one quickly, and it may have cemented Yokota's opportunity at a rematch with Mizuto Hirota.
Yokota will likely get his chance at the title since Maximo Blanco is still a work in progress. The real story here is that Blanco is truly coming into his own finally after his in-ring incidents and wild style. Most fans believed he'd be at the mercy of Yamada's submission game, and he showed a composed effort in this one. You'll be hearing his name more down the road as he's a real dark horse in the landscape of the lightweight division. Yokota vs. Hirota II is probably in the mix for NYE, but Eiji Mitsuoka lingers in the background. I'd much rather see that fight happen for a solid #1 contender, but I doubt Sengoku pushes that fight before a rematch.
The evening's main event went as expected with Antz Nansen pummeling Hirota Izumi to a knockout victory, but Izumi did show that he can take some vicious blows to the chin. With very little training under his belt, that, at the very least, is a good sign that he could be a decent prospect in the future with the proper training.
Antonio Silva vs. Jim York also went as expected with Silva dominating much of the fight and York on his heels for most of it. Silva should take on Barnett for a heavyweight title match-up, likely as a potential co-headliner bout for NYE. As Nick Thomas posted in the live thread, Silva has been in talks with the UFC, but he must finish his Sengoku contract first.
Makoto Takimoto won a close fight with Jae Sun Lee, which somewhat surprised me with his ground tactics. While he does have a judo background, Lee has been concentrating a lot of kickboxing as of late, or so I thought. A lot of ground tactics, but Takimoto didn't show a formidable enough ground game for me to believe Dan Hornbuckle will ever have any trouble demolishing him in a title bout. Sengoku should book it for November 7th to crown a champion and give Hornbuckle a battle on NYE as their newly crowned champ.
Fabio Silva is a Wanderlei Silva-type of fighter, and he showed that in the ring. He put it to Ryo Kawamura once again with devastating power punching and Muay Thai knees. I'm not sure what you do with Fabio Silva considering "King Mo" already defeated him, but Silva will be in the mix. I would say the main event winner, Antz Nansen, is a possibility since both men like to throw immense power into their hands.
Joe Doerksen beat Takenori Sato down with striking for most of their bout. I was a bit surprised at this since I thought Sato had a legitimate shot at upsetting Doerksen, but Doerksen's stand-up has improved. He was able to easily control Sato and gain the win.
As Chris Nelson pointed out in our live blog,
UPDATED at 5:20 AM ET - Some big news from intermission: World Victory Road have officially announced that Satoshi Ishii vs. Hidehiko Yoshida will take place on New Year's Eve, directly competing with FEG's annual Dynamite!! card. It appears the show will also mark the end of Sengoku, and the beginning of the rebranded Sengoku Raiden Championship.
Michihiro Omigawa, Jorge Santiago and Akihiro Gono also appeared in the ring to address the crowd. All three will take part in Sengoku 11 on November 7th; Hatsu Hioki was announced as Omigawa's opponent, the winner likely facing Masanori on 12/31.
Tony Loiseleur tweeted during Sengoku's press conference that Nick Thompson is now pondering retirement:
kidnamedtony Nick Thompson saying in post-fight interview that he's pondering retirement. Told him, "But you can't. Who will wear Zubaz to the ring now?"
It isn't surprising news since he has dropped off in skill, but it's possible this is due to the fact that he's now a lawyer as well who does practice part-time. He has a great fallback career in law, so it wouldn't be all bad for Thompson.
Loiseleur also pointed out that Ryan Schultz was walking around after his loss, but ended up heading to the hospital after not feeling well.
Interesting tidbit: Loiseleur also stated that the Black Eyed Peas had a concert in the main arena while Sengoku took place in the community arena just next door. Saitama Super Arena is an engineering marvel.
Antz Nansen (1-0) def. Hiroshi Izumi (0-1) via TKO (Punches) in R1
Antonio Silva (13-1) def. "Big" Jim York (11-3) via Submission (Arm-Triangle Choke) at 3:51 of R1
Makoto Takimoto (6-5) def. Jae Sun Lee (2-4) via unanimous decision
Kazunori Yokota (10-2-3) def. Ryan Schultz (20-12-1) via KO (Punch) at 2:31 of R1
Fabio Silva (12-5) def. Ryo Kawamura (10-5-2) via TKO (Punches) at 2:28 of R1
Dan Hornbuckle (19-2) def. Nick Thompson (38-12-1) via TKO (Punches) at 1:30 of R2
Joe Doerksen (43-12) def. Takenori Sato (9-7-4) via KO (Punches) at 4:27 of R2
Maximo Blanco (4-2-1, 1 NC) def. Tetsuya Yamada (3-2) via TKO (Punches) at 1:12 of R2
Ikuo Usuda (6-0) vs. Woo Hyun Baek (1-1) via TKO (Punches) at 4:59 of R1
Shigeki Osawa (4-0) def. Ki Hyun Kim (0-1) via unanimous decision
Jae Hyun So (3-6) def. Ryosuke Komori (4-2) via unanimous decision