“Sengoku” Begins a New Era for MMA in Japan


Josh Barnett weighs-in for PRIDE 32: The Real Deal. Photo property of PRIDE FC Worldwide.

For those of you in North America, a new era of mixed martial arts will take place over in Japan while you are sleeping Tuesday night. World Victory Road will hold it’s inaugural show titled “Sengoku” Wednesday at the Yoyogi National Gymnasium in Tokyo, Japan.

The show will feature a main event between former UFC heavyweight champion Josh Barnett and former Olympian Hidehiko Yoshida. Former PRIDE lightweight champion Takanori Gomi and one-time K-1 kickboxing standout Duane “Bang” Ludwig will clash. Kazuo Misaki will also compete on the card.

A definite mix of former PRIDE veterans and other notable fighters that have competed in various organizations around the world make this event intriguing.

Main Card

As far as the main event goes, both Barnett and Yoshida will be attempting to shake of a good amount of ring rust as neither fighter has competed since PRIDE: Shockwave 2006 on New Year’s Eve two years ago.

Barnett lost a unanimous decision to Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira in a rematch of their Open-Weight Grand Prix bout at the event. Yoshida was stopped with strikes by heavyweight slugger James Thompson.

While Barnett has been staying in shape thanks to a regular schedule involving professional wrestling appearances and grappling matches, Yoshida is a complete question mark conditioning wise. In reality though, it won’t matter very much in this fight.

Even though the two are former training partners, it shouldn’t be much of a chess match. Look for Barnett to dominate Yoshida and pick up an easy win.

The one bout I’m looking forward to the most on this card is easily Gomi-Ludwig.

The battle between the former PRIDE lightweight champion and the one-time K-1 kickboxing standout should be an entertaining war on the feet, at least in the first couple of minutes.

Gomi has not fought since he took on Nick Diaz at PRIDE 33 in February of last year. Diaz submitted Gomi with a gogoplata in an exciting fight but the decision was later overturned by the Nevada State Athletic Commission after it was found that Diaz had tested positive for marijuana at the conclusion of the event.

“The Fireball Kid” had been courted by multiple organizations since PRIDE was purchased by Zuffa last March, including the UFC. Speculation had him headed over to K-1 Hero’s at one point but a deal between the two sides never came to fruition and he obviously headed to WVR.

Ludwig was originally slated to take on Steve Berger at the “Strikeforce at the Dome” event earlier this month but pulled out of that fight after being offered Gomi.

While Ludwig is always a dangerous opponent for anyone he faces, his ground game is no match for what Gomi brings to the table. While the fight might be even on the feet, Gomi has a distinct advantage on the mat, which is where I predict he’ll take this fight and ultimately finish “Bang” off.

Siyar Bahadurzada will have a huge opportunity to improve his stock ten-fold when he takes on Kazuo Misaki.

I have to be honest, I haven’t seen much of Bahadurzada so far in his career but from everything I’ve read and heard, the kid is legit and is well-rounded in all areas with striking being his forte.

The key to this fight is which Misaki plans on showing up. If the Misaki who beat Akiyama and Kang shows up, he’ll pick up a nice win. If not, we could be looking at an upset. I’ll take Misaki by ground and pound here.

PRIDE veteran Kazuyuki Fujita will also be in actions, taking on K-1 kickboxer Peter Graham.

Fujita has not fought since being submitted by fellow heavyweight Jeff Monson at PRIDE’s final event in April of last year. The fight was the first-ever “UFC vs PRIDE” fight to take place under the plan between Zuffa and Dream Stage Entertainment officials that never ended up coming to fruition.

Graham will be making his professional mixed martial arts debut in the fight. He is a former WKBF World Amateur Heavyweight Champion and holds a record of 54-11-1 in kickboxing. His professional boxing record stands at 6-3-1.

The Sydney, Australia native is mostly known for his patented somersault kick, which he calls “The Rolling Thunder”. Graham has landed the kick twice under the K-1 banner, most recently against rival Badr Hari during the K-1 World Grand Prix in 2006. Hari suffered a broken jaw and was sidelined for a year.

I think this fight should be pretty self-explanatory. If Fujita chooses to stand with Graham, it’ll be a bad night. If he takes him down, quick and painless win.

Other Fights

Evangelista “Cyborg” Santos will return to action against Makoto Takimoto.

Hardcore Championship Fighting originally planned to have David Loiseau take on Santos for the promotion’s middleweight title later this month. Unfortunately for HCF officials, the Chute Boxe product decided to sign with World Victory Road. His decision led to the terminiation of his contract with the organization.

Current Bodog Fight welterweight title holder Nick Thompson will be going up against Fabricio Monteiro in what will likely be the night’s first fight and Pancrase veteran Ryo Kawamura clashes with Antonio Neto as well.

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