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Sengoku 13: Comments and Conclusions

Sengoku Raiden Championship 13 is in the bag and although American audiences haven't seen it yet, do we have a new No. 2 featherweight in the world?

It took Marlon Sandro 38 seconds to capture the Sengoku featherweight title, but where does he go from here? Masanori Kanehara seemed to do everything right for this fight, but he still lost his belt in brutal fashion. How does Kanehara recover from this?

Maximo Blanco, Yasubey Enomoto, Shigeki Osawa, Hiroshi Izumi and Doo Ho Choi all picked up wins, but what can we take away from those fights and what does the future hold for these young fighters?

After the break, I attempt to answer all the questions from Sengoku 13, analyze the winners and losers and see what comes next.

SRC Featherweight Title:

Marlon Sandro (won by KO over Masanori Kanehara in Round 1, 0:38):
It took 38 seconds for Sandro to crush SRC Featherweight Champion Masanori Kanehara with his right uppercut. It took nine seconds to do the same to Kanehara's sempai Tomonori Kanomata. The highly underrated Yuji Hoshino managed to last 2:33 before he fell victim to Sandro. Nick Denis only lasted nineteen seconds. The sole mark on his record is a split decision loss to Michihiro Omigawa but that result is debatable.

With his streak in Sengoku, Sandro is now the second-best featherweight in the world behind WEC champ and teammate Jose Aldo. Uriah Faber down to bantamweight, Mike Thomas Brown dropping two of his last three and Manny Gamburyan only having three 145 lb bouts under his belt make this a no-brainer for me.

Due to the fact that Sandro and Aldo are from the same camp, I doubt that Sandro will be moving to the WEC. As the two won't fight, Sandro's love of belts will most likely keep him in Japan for the moment and for that I am thankful as there is at least one fight that needs to happen.

Sandro obviously deserves a rematch against Omigawa and with the Yoshida Dojo fighter's recent run, it would be an easy sell.

Newly crowned Shooto champ Hatsu Hioki was considered the No. 1 featherweight fighting in Sengoku and perhaps Japan until Sandro's recent run. Hioki did drop the decision to Omigawa as well but again, it was debatable.

Whether either of those fights will happen is another matter.

Omigawa is a J-Rock fighter and left Sengoku when J-Rock Boss Takahiro Kokuho was fired from Sengoku. I don't see a return to Sengoku for Omigawa and he will most likely be fighting under the DREAM or WEC banner before the end of the year.

Hatsu Hioki was another fighter brought in by Kokuho but not under the J-Rock banner. He hasn't fought in Sengoku since his loss to Omigawa and I don't believe that there is a contract in place there. Hioki seems interested though. Hioki was ringside and talking with him post fight all he could say was "Wow... he is strong." multiple times.

World Victory Road needs to get it's act together and get Hioki signed (if he is not signed already) and fighting Sandro as soon as possible and keep the champ busy. Within Sengoku I don't see any other relevant challengers.

SRC Featherweight Title:
Masanori Kanehara (lost by KO to Marlon Sandro in Round 1, 0:38):
When Kanehara was being stretchered out of the ring, I actually thought he was dead. I'm not exaggerating. A neck and jaw brace were in place, I couldn't see Kanehara breathing and when he was stretchered out, the blanket was pulled over his face. My stomach sunk. Thankfully, Kanehara recovered, did not suffer any injuries other than a concussion and was able to give his post-fight interview. It sure made for some morbid pictures though. Note to SRC doctors: A blanket over a body looks much, much worse than someone in a neck brace. Don't do that again.

Post fight, Kanehara commented that he didn't see the punch and in fact, didn't remember any of the fight at all but in reality what is there to take away from a 38 second knockout? Kanehara did everything right in preparation for this bout, his camp with Greg Jackson and most importantly (to me) his consultation of Satoru Sayama but he got cornered and paid the price.

Sandro, Jose Aldo are just on a completely different level to Kanehara right now, and I don't see him being able to reach them. What Kanehara has going for him is his speed and cardio and I think some time and one of Japan's top boxing gyms would help him better use it. Kanehara got caught while cornered and some time at a boxing gym will fix that. Kanehara's gym in Hachioji actually only has three sides and perhaps that has led to his ring sense being off.

Give Kanehara a couple of months to recover and to learn to exploit his natural abilities better and then give him an opponent that will test him but not knock his head off. Kanehara should be able to get another title shot eventually if he can avoid Hioki, and if Omigawa is out of the picture, but he needs to work on his footwork and angles to make sure he is never in a position to receive a blow like that again. Even still, I'm not sure if I ever see him beating this incarnation of Marlon Sandro.

Hiroshi Izumi (won by TKO over Chang Seob Lee in Round 1, 4:37):
Chang Seob Lee is not a top-flight opponent by any means and was probably the easiest stylistic match-up for Izumi yet but it was precisely what he needed. On the feet Lee and Izumi were quite even. Evenly low. We didn't get to see the "Izumi Shocker" and I don't think much of "special techniques" in MMA unless it's Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira or Seichi Ikemoto (I kid) but combining striking with his world class Judo is exactly what Izumi needs.

Yoshida Dojo boxing coach Katsuhisa Tashiro is well versed in teaching judokas to strike. Izumi needs to pay a visit to Tashiro or at least a top boxing gym to fix up his atrocious striking technique and then with some more in ring experience and high level training partners (namely not Yoji Anjo) to get his judo game to work in MMA.

Yasubey Enomoto (won by TKO over Sanae Kikuta in Round 1, 3:57):
Enomoto certainly looked impressive in his destruction of Sanae Kikuta but the Grabaka boss gassed almost immediately which made things easy for the Swiss fighter. A fight against someone like Omar de la Cruz or Jae Sun Lee who were ejected from the Welterweight GP with their losses would be good.

Sanae Kikuta (lost by TKO to Yasubey Enomoto in Round 1, 3:57):
Kikuta is a wonderful coach and a very solid fighter, but he gassed way too quickly in his debut at welterweight. Kikuta doesn't have the same dedication to fighting as the rest of the athletes in the big leagues so unless he recommits himself to fighting (and works out his conditioning issues at welterweight) then he should focus on coaching.

To be honest, when I heard about Kikuta and Akihiro Gono both cutting weight, it struck me that Kikuta was doing this as an experiment to help the Grabaka fighters. It was certainly a learning experience for him if it was in fact the case.

Maximo Blanco (won by TKO over Rodrigo Damm in Round 2, 0:45):
Rodrigo Damm was Blanco's toughest test to date, and despite a slow start, he did very well. Blanco's game plan was to stay calm through the first and then explode in the second and it was successful but also concerning. Blanco's defense against low kicks was none and his tendency to just jump at his opponents is going to lead to him getting caught Fedor vs. Arlovski style one day. He needs to fix those holes in his game. Still, it was a good test for Blanco and although Damm didn't play to his strengths it was a positive fight for the Venezuelan.

I see him getting a shot at the SRC Lightweight Title after one more fight. That next fight needs to be against a submission fighter with good wrestling (which may be Blanco's weakness I feel) or a more technical striker.

Rodrigo Damm (lost by TKO to Maximo Blanco in Round 2, 0:45):
Rodrigo Damm is a world class BJJ black belt and one of the best wrestlers in Brazil but you wouldn't know it when he fights. Damm is another one of those fighters that try to showcase their improving striking in every fight but he needs to stop doing that and play his game, which is on the ground. Damm's striking may eventually catch up to his mat skills but his record will have at least leveled out to 50-50 by that stage.

Welterweight GP:
Keita "K-Taro" Nakamura (won by TKO over Omar de la Cruz in Round 2, 3:53):
Going into this fight I ruled K-Taro out and said that he was done as a top flight fighter and boy, was I wrong. Although De la Cruz's game plan was questionable at best, Nakamura looked fantastic with his striking on the ground and his time training at Yoshihiro Akiyama's Team Cloud Dojo has served him well. K-Taro needs to go back there and continue learning and training with what has quickly become the best training camp in Japan to get ready for his fight with Wada, because it will be a tough one.

Welterweight GP:
Takuya Wada (won by Split Decision over Jae Sun Lee):
Takuya Wada held Jae Sun Lee for the victory but to say it wasn't inspiring is an understatement. The tournament participants aren't finalized yet but Wada will probably take the tournament just because he fights so safely. I've talked a lot about fighters playing to their strengths in this article but Wada takes this to a ridiculous degree. I'd really like to be surprised by Wada but I think he will continue his tactic of clinching and takedowns against Nakamura and advance to the finals.

Shigeki Osawa (won by DQ over Katsuya Toida in Round 3, 1:35):
It's hard to take much away from this fight given the groin shots that happened and eventually led to the end of the fight but there are some things to note. Shigeki Osawa got tired. It was before the first low blow in the second round, but for about thirty seconds there, he was spent. To tell the truth, I think it was a blessing for Osawa that he got hit low as otherwise he would have continued to fade.

Osawa needs to get back in the gym to fix his conditioning and keep working at Watanabe Gym to try to find some striking and finishing power. He is currently training MMA and wrestling equally with Olympic wrestling dreams but I don't believe it is possible for him to succeed both as his skill set in MMA is still too weak and it needs more focus.

Do Ho Choi (won by Split Decision over Ikuo Usuda):
Choi was a late replacement and had already fought earlier this month in DEEP. His win over a quality opponent in Usuda displayed the focus and solid execution of a strategy that is really exciting to see in a young fighter. I'd like to see some more power from Choi and he really reached for his punches too much but I think he has a bright future. Choi handled it well but he was out-sized in this bout. Some time in the gym is in order and then the power should follow. Choi also sported a Kazuhiro Nakamura UFC era haircut and gets major points for that.

Ryo Kawamura (won by TKO over Hidetada Irie in Round 2, 3:00):
Kawamura finally gets his second consecutive win but Irie is not a legitimate opponent. Please go down to middleweight. Please. Kawamura's power at light-heavy doesn't finish fights and given his style, he needs it to be. He should be able to KO middleweights if he can retain his muscle, lose the excess fat and sharpen his technique.

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