Hatsu Hioki. Photo courtesy of TKO Championship Fighting.
World Victory Road has officially announced five participants for the organization’s upcoming inaugural featherweight grand prix, which is slated to take place at Sengoku VII on March 20 in Japan.
Former TKO featherweight champion Hatsu Hioki was the most high-profile fighter named by the promotion today. Hioki, who briefly struggled in 2007 after a bright start to his career, has since gotten back on track, going undefeated in his last six fights. The longtime Shooto veteran last fought on November 29, scoring a first-round stoppage of Rumina Sato.
In addition, current featherweight King of Pancrase Marlon Sandro, Chris Manuel, Nick Denis, and Ronnie Ushiwaka were also confirmed as competing in the tournament today. World Extreme Cagefighting veterans Chase Beebe, Alexandre Franca Nogueira, and Hiroyuki Takaya have all announced their participation in the tourney as well.
Paulo Filho submits Chael Sonnen with an armbar at WEC 31: Faber vs Curran. Photo property of World Extreme Cagefighting.
WEC champions Paulo Filho and Doug Marshall will each defend their respective titles at World Extreme Cagefighting’s next event on March 26th.
The news comes from MMA Weekly, who reports that the promotion will now hold the event at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas instead of a previously mentioned location of Sacramento, California. Indications suggest that the idea of holding an event in the home state of WEC featherweight champion Urijah Faber was scrapped after an attempt to schedule a bout between him and former UFC lightweight title holder Jens Pulver was unsuccessful.
Apparently Filho will once again defend his middleweight strap in a rematch against Chael Sonnen, whom Filho defeated in controversial fashion in December. Sonnen has kept his stance that he did not tell referee Josh Rosenthal to stop the bout while being trapped in a Filho armbar.
The fight will also likely be Filho’s last at 185 lbs according to boxing coach Josuel Distak, who stated last month that Filho has opted to move up in weight due to cutting problems.
While it might seem crazy that Filho is moving up in weight, he might be a good career move for the near future if he really is indeed having problems making 185 lbs. The WEC’s light heavyweight division is very stacked talent-wise and even though Filho would be still be undersized for the weight class, he would most likely tear through guys like Doug Marshall, Ariel Gandulla, and Brian Stann.
Speaking of Marshall and Stann, the two heavy-hitting light heavyweights are also expected to clash at the event in a battle that will see Marshall attempt to retain his belt against the popular U.S. Marine.
Additional bouts mentioned in the report include a meeting between welterweight title contenders John Alessio and Brock Larson in a fight where the winner may also be fighting the victor of the Carlos Condit-Carlo Prater welterweight title bout at some point later this year. Others were the following: Kenji Osawa vs. Chris Manuel, Marcus Hicks vs. Ed Ratcliff, and Bryan Baker vs. Nissen Osterneck.