by Al Yu – MMAWeekly.com
Sengoku held its first lightweight grand prix this past weekend. Four Japanese fighters prevailed over their counterparts and moved one step closer to the tournament finals and earning a shot at Sengoku 155-pound kingpin Takanori Gomi.
Satoru Kitaoka made short work of HIT Squad fighter Clay French with an impressive submission victory in the first round. Kitaoka grabbed onto French’s leg shortly after the start of the match and proceeded to apply an ankle lock. French was forced to tap at just 31 seconds into the first round, snapping his eight fight winning streak.
“I am happy with the results but what I think is important is my next move,” said Kitaoka. “Whoever I fight next, I think it will be a difficult match and not as easy as it went today.”
“I think he’s [Takanori Gomi] very strong and I respect him very much. I think it’s important that he can excite the audience,” commented the Nippon Top Team fighter.
Eiji Mitsuoka continued to prove critics wrong with an impressive win over a lightweight prospect in Rodrigo Damm. The Brazilian was coming off a big win over Jorge Masvidal at Sengoku 3 and was favored to defeat his Japanese opponent.
Damm took the fight to Mitsuoka early and stunned him on a few occasions. Unfortunately, the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu world champion’s overconfidence in his hands got the best of him and he was floored by straight right almost half way into the opening round. Still dazed by the punch, Damm was unable to defend a rear naked choke that followed.
“I knew that he was a good striker. I took his punches well,” stated Mitsuoka. “I think the Japanese fighters had the audience backing them up so they had to win.”
“All I can do is try my best. I’m hoping that they put me up against a good fighter in the next round.”
Former Shooto rookie champion and current Cage Force lightweight champion Mizuto Hiroto raised his stock with a big knock out victory over former IFL champion Ryan Schultz. The two fighters were content to stand and trade early in the opening round while engaging in a few clinch-and-brawl spurts. As Hiroto began to gain a small advantage in striking, Schultz resorted to his wrestling pedigree to take the fight to the ground.
The Team Quest fighter began to fatigue as the fight progressed, allowing Mizuto to successfully defend against his takedown attempts. Hirota landed a superman punch in the second that dropped Schultz, forcing the ref to halt the match.
“I have two more fights that I have to do my best at,” said Hirota after the fight. “I hope the Japanese fighters continue to do well in this tournament.”
Former DEEP lightweight champion Kazunori Yokota rebounded from the first professional loss of his career with a unanimous decision over Bojan Kosednar. The Grabaka fighter controlled his Slovenian opponent for the majority of the match, getting the better of the exchanges and taking the fight to the mat. Kosednar received a couple of yellow cards for infractions during the fight while Yokota earned one.
Many of the higher profile lightweight fighters have found their way into Dream. Despite not having the star power of Dream’s roster, Sengoku’s inaugural grand prix produced four Japanese fighters, one that could prove to be a worthy challenger for Takanori Gomi.
The winner of the Sengoku grand prix will face Takanori Gomi for the vacant 155-pound belt at a later event.