Sandwiched between Strikeforce's Challengers card and their network-televised CBS card featuring Fedor Emelianenko vs. Brett Rogers, Sengoku XI took place in the wee hours of Saturday morning on HDNet and provided the hardest of the hardcore fans with some interesting match-ups that produced some surprising results. The card featured a main event featherweight tilt between UFC veteran Michihiro Omigawa and the Brazilian jiu-jitsu mastery of Hatsu Hioki with supporting bouts that included a middleweight match-up between Eastern European up-and-comer Mamed Khalidov and UFC veteran Jorge Santiago. Kevin Randleman, Jorge Masvidal, former lightweight champion Satoru Kitaoka, Eiji Mitsuoka, Kazunori Yokota, and Marlon Sandro were also involved in bouts on the card.
The most shocking outcome of the evening came during the middleweight match-up between Jorge Santiago and Mamed Khalidov. Khalidov's dominating record against lesser competition over the past couple of years was the swaying vote in why Khalidov came into the match-up as the clear underdog, but he proved that he could hang with one of the best middleweights in the world by defeating Santiago via TKO at 1:45 of the first round.
Strangely, Santiago was stunned by a hammerfist while working from top control. Santiago immediately dropped on top of Khalidov in a daze, and Khalidov quickly worked his way to the top to finish Santiago. It was a stunning upset from a blow that seemed unassuming, but the win should vault Khalidov into most MMA rankings' top ten list at middleweight.
Khalidov's win wasn't the only surprising result of the evening. By most accounts, Michihiro Omigawa didn't do enough to defeat Hatsu Hioki in their featherweight main event showdown. Hioki dominated the first round with an advanced ground game, half-guard strikes, and a near armbar submission while the third round likely went to Omigawa as he peppered Hioki with strikes. The second round was the closest round of the three rounds, but most watchers scored it for Hioki as he beat Omigawa with jabs and countered nearly everything Omigawa threw.
Unfortunately for Hioki, the judges saw it differently as Michihiro Omigawa was given the win via split decision. Interestingly enough, Omigawa commented in the ring that he felt he didn't win. It's nice to see a fighter with some honesty after such a controversial victory.
Former lightweight champion Satoru Kitaoka took the beatdown of his life in his lightweight battle with Bellator veteran Jorge Masvidal. After securing an early takedown, Kitaoka grappled with Masvidal for positioning while also latching onto Masvidal's limb. It looked as if Kitaoka may pull off a quick leg lock submission victory in the early moments of the fight, but a very active and pressing Jorge Masvidal unleashed loud, booming blows to the head of Satoru Kitaoka during the ground exchange. The round ended after Kitaoka withstood a couple of minutes of brutal ground strikes, and he had to be carried to the stool between rounds. Miraculously, Kitaoka continued on into the second round, but his night ended late in the round as Masvidal punished him once again with ground strikes, knocking him out.
Kazunori Yokota's striking and Judo were the deciding factors in the lightweight contender match-up with submission grappler Eiji Mitsuoka. Mitsuoka put Yokota into some trouble in the grappling department in the first round, but the second and third rounds easily went to Yokota. Yokota was able to muscle Mitsuoka in the clinch while landing knees and strikes at will in the later rounds to win.Yokota will likely rematch Mizuto Hirota for the lightweight title, who he holds a win over.
- Kevin Randleman vs. Stanislav Nedkov was the most boring fight of the evening. I'm all for seeing some wrestling on display, but takedowns without some sort of striking or submission efforts are unattractive for even hardcore fans. Nedkov was able to hold Randleman's posture down rather well and that probably attributed to the difficulties Randleman had with trying to posture up, but Nedkov wasn't able to land significantly on the floor either. In all honesty, it probably should have been a draw, but Nedkov was given the nod for actually landing some strikes during the small spurts of striking in the standing position and a last gasp takedown at the end of the final round.
Akihiro Gono let down some of us without his entrance theatrics, but he showed up as a much more serious fighter. He was able to defeat the tall and lanky Yoon Young Kim with striking combinations, quick footwork, and better ground tactics. It wasn't an impressive win by any means, but Gono did manage to hurt Kim with strikes on more than one occasion
Gono's post-fight speech was the most startling revelation (All of it was in English):
- Marlon Sandro made quick work of Yuji Hoshino, who should have probably been a much more game opponent than what the result of the fight suggests. Hoshino was dropped with a right hook from Sandro early in the first round and was finished by another punch during the flurry to end the bout by Sandro. Sandro is quickly becoming a devastating finisher. It would be nice to see him take on Hioki after this battle to truly test him.
- Dave Herman defeated "Big" Jim York in impressive, but strange fashion at Sengoku XI. York tried to sink in an Achilles lock during the first round of action, and Herman quickly began stomping downward heel strikes to the chin of York. York went limp during the flurry of heel kicks, ending the fight.
- Shigeki Osawa has a ton of potential in his future, but he could compete with the experience and ground tactics of Ronnie Mann. Mann was positionally better on the floor while also trying to work submissions, and he was easily winning the stand-up war when the bout was on the feet. He was even able to takedown Osawa at times during the fight. It wasn't exactly an awe-inspiring performance from Osawa, and he'll hopefully take some tips away from this bout as to what he needs to work on.
The event didn't live up to my expectations as a phenomenal card, but some of the battles were fun to watch. Khalidov vs. Santiago would have been a bit more revealing had it lasted a bit longer, but Mamed will surely gain bigger fights from his win over Jorge. While I think a rematch with Jorge would reveal some problems in Mamed's game, it's tough to say whether Khalidov is just that powerful or if he happened to hit the right place and the right time.
From what I've read, Omigawa vs. Hioki had two judges call the fight a draw with the must-decision going to Omigawa from one of them. Most fans don't realize that Sengoku actually scores these bouts under a 10 point must system by round, just like North American promotions. The major difference is 10-10 draw rounds are scored more frequently, and a majority draw must be decided upon by the judges at the end of the fight. In this case, Hioki and Omigawa both received votes as the must-decide winner with the third judge going with Omigawa.
While I could see some of those rounds being tough to judge, I imagine Sengoku is judging some of the striking heavy bouts as K-1 battles. If it's even remotely close, a draw has a good chance of being scored. It's unfortunate because I felt Hioki easily won rounds 1 and 2.