Next Sunday World Victory Road returns for the first time since May with Sengoku Nine. Live from Saitama Super Arena they will put on the semi final and final of their featherweight grand prix as well as a lightweight championship fight. While no one on this card will be familiar to those who do not follow Japanese MMA there are a lot of good fighters on this card. This should be a very interesting night so let's break down the card:
Featherweight Semi Finals:
Marlon Sandro v. Michihiro Omigawa
Sandro is 14-0, 2-0 in World Victory Road, with seven wins by stoppage. He has good striking and submissions. Omigawa is 6-7-1, 2-0 in WVR, with three wins by KO. He is a judo fighter with solid hands.
Omigawa is the upset special of the tournament but he is running into a brick wall in Sandro. Sandro is too well rounded for Omigawa and I don't see the Cinderella story going any further. I think Sandro has the advantage wherever the fight takes place but I think he'll try to keep it standing and away from Omigawa's superior clinch game. I'm picking Sandro by KO in the first round.
Hatsu Hioki v. Masanori Kanehara
Hioki is 19-3-2, 2-0 in WVR, with 14 wins by stoppage. He is a submission grappler with improving striking. Kanehara is 13-5-5, 2-0 in WVR, with 10 wins by stoppage. He is a submission fighter with decent stand up.
Simply put Hioki is the better fighter. However, this fight is more dangerous than it looks on paper as these two fighters mirror each other's skill sets. With that said though Hioki is more talented and tougher than Kanehara. I'm picking Hioki to earn a decision victory in a much tougher fight than people would expect.
Marlon Sandro v. Hatsu Hioki
If everything goes as I expect it to here is what I foresee in the finals. Sandro should still be fresh after quickly dispatching Omigawa while Hioki will be worn down after a tough fight with Kanehara. I like Sandro's stand up to be the difference as I believe they would cancel each other out on the ground. I'm going to pick Sandro to earn a tough decision victory over a game but tired Hioki.
Lightweight Championship: Satoru Kitaoka(champion) v. Mizuto Hirota
Kitaoka is 25-8, 5-0 in WVR, with 14 wins by submission. He is a jiu jitsu fighter. Hirota is 11-3-1, 1-1 in WVR, with seven wins by KO. He is a striker.
This should be a great match up of striker v. grappler. If Kitaoka can get the fight to the ground he can win but he'll have to get it there first. I still foresee Kitaoka winning but it will be by a tough decision over a very game Hirota.
Eiji Mitsuoka v. Clay French
Eiji is 15-6-2, 3-1 in WVR, with 12 wins by stoppage. He is a jiu jitsu fighter with some striking. French is 17-5, 0-1 in WVR, with 12 wins by stoppage. He is also a submission fighter with some striking.
This fight will go one of two ways. Either they will go to the ground where they will most likely cancel each other out or they will slug it out on the feet in a sloppy but entertaining fight. Unfortunately I expect the former. In that case I expect French to pull out a tough decision against Eiji.
Kazuhiro Nakamura v. Kazuo Misaki
Nakamura is 13-9, 2-1 in WVR, with four wins by stoppage. He is judo fighter with decent striking and submissions. Misaki is 21-9-2, he is 2-1 in WVR, with 12 wins by stoppage. He is a submission fighter with solid striking.
Ironically both men are coming off losses to Jorge Santiago and are looking to rebound. Misaki is more talented and I expect him to have an advantage anywhere the fight goes outside of the clinch. I think he will try to take this fight to the ground where he has more control over the fight. I'm picking Misaki by submission in the second round.
Kazuyuki Fujita v. Blagoi Ivanov:
Fujita is 15-7-1, 1-1 in WVR, with 12 wins by stoppage. He is a wrestler with solid striking and submissions. This is Ivanov's first MMA bout after gaining notoriety for beating Fedor Emelianenko in a Sambo match. Nothing is known about Ivanov other than he is a great Sambo fighter.
While Fujita isn't a world class opponent Ivanov is really getting thrown into the deep end for his first match. It's on a big stage against a solid opponent who is well rounded. Ivanov probably has the advantage in the grappling but Fujita is no slouch and can probably hold his own. I think Fujita would have the advantage in the striking so he'll probably want to keep the fight standing. I'm picking Fujita to win by TKO in the first round.
Yoshihiro Nakao v. Choi Mu Bae
Nakao is 7-2, 1-1 in WVR, with five wins by stoppage. He is a wrestler with some kickboxing experience. Choi is 8-3, 1-1 in WVR, with seven wins by stoppage. He is also a wrestler with some striking.
These two are almost identical so hopefully someone can find an advantage somewhere but I get the feeling this could become a boring wrestling match. I'm picking Nakao to win a boring decision victory.
Akihiro Gono v. Dan Hornbuckle:
Gono is 29-14-7, making his WVR debut, with 14 wins by stoppage. He has solid striking and submissions. Hornbuckle is 17-2, 0-1 in WVR, with 14 wins by stoppage. He is a jiu jitsu fighter with solid striking.
Hornbuckle has a great record but hasn't beaten anyone of consequence. Gono has always been eccentric and erratic in the ring. This is going to lead to one interesting fight. Gono needs a win badly after a very poor showing in the UFC and if Hornbuckle wins this fight he'll put his name on the map especially in Japan where Gono is very well recognized.
Both guys are well rounded so it's very tough to choose. This fight could go either way but I'm going to flip a coin and say that Gono is going to win by submission in the first round.
John Shubert is a staff writer for InsideFights