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Sengoku Raiden Championship 15: Preview and Predictions

Sengoku 15 has taken quite the hit over the last two weeks as Leo Santos bowed out of his anticipated match-up with Yoshida Dojo rising star Maximo Blanco and the return of the former SRC featherweight champ Masanori Kanehara was put on hold as his opponent Doo Ho Choi was also forced to out due to injury.

Still, the promotion still has some high quality action on offer in the form of the excellent bantamweight Asia and welterweight tournaments, former welterweight and middleweight King of Pancrase Kiuma Kunioku has stepped up to face the wonderfully violent Maximo Blanco and Kazunori Yokota will return to face Brian Cobb.

After the break, Sengoku Raiden Championship 15 predictions so good that they probably need a spoiler warning.

Sengoku Raiden Championship 15

Where: Ryogoku Kokugikan in Tokyo, Japan

When: October 30th from 3 PM locally or from 2 AM ET live on HDNet

Maximo Blanco vs Kiuma Kunioku
Any fighter that has beaten the likes of Nate Marquardt, Genki Sudo, Frank Shamrock, Guy Mezger and Masakatsu Funaki deserves significant respect, but since his 2004 TKO loss to Kazuo Misaki, Kiuma Kunioku doesn't seem to be the same fighter. 4-7-2 in his last 13 outings, it will take something special from the former welterweight and middleweight King of Pancrase to stop Blanco – even Kunioku himself said pre-fight that he cannot clearly see a way to victory.

Blanco wins this fight, I have no doubt about that. What will be interesting is how he does it.

Kazuhiro Nakamura and the rest of Yoshida Dojo are working to calm the wild man in Blanco as his current style is likely to start bringing avoidable losses when he starts facing top competition. It didn't work against Rodrigo Damm - Blanco grew frustrated after one round of fighting a "smart fight" and resorted back to the old ultra-violence to grab the victory in the second. Kunioku represents a good opportunity to again test Maxi 2.0, and if Blanco is able to fight smart while retaining the violence, top tier lightweights should take notice.
Pick: Blanco

Kazunori Yokota vs. Brian Cobb
The "Speed Star" finally returns after almost 11 months of inactivity due to an injury sustained in a car accident just prior to his one-sided New Year's Eve loss to Tatsuya Kawajiri. Should Yokota and Blanco both win their bouts then we will almost certainly have a title fight set for the year end.

Yokota seems to be looking past Cobb, commenting in the pre-fight presser that he has trouble sleeping recently because he is worried about embarassing himself in his post fight victory speech. Normally I would chastise a fighter for taking a legitimate opponent this lightly but Cobb came in 7.3 lbs heavy, reportedly has "health issues" and was still attempting to make weight hours after the official weigh-ins. Should the bout go ahead as planned at lightweight, Cobb will likely be a drained, shell of a fighter and Yokota will run circles around him to take a decision.
Pick: Yokota

Hiroshi Izumi vs. James Zikic
The evening's main event doesn't hold as much interest for Western fans as it does Japanese but still, it is worth a look as it will define the career of a high-level, relatively young judoka. Athens Judo silver medalist Hiroshi Izumi will aim for his third win since entering MMA and is looking to erase the memories of falling to the canvas in a bloody mess after standing with a world champion kickboxer in his debut bout. Former Cage Rage champ and pro boxer James Zikic represents a stiff challenge for the judoka should he elect to stand with him.

Like Yokota, Izumi is looking past his opponent and promised at the pre-fight press conference to call out his next opponent after he wins. That concerns me. Similar to the Maximo Blanco vs. Kiuma Kunioku fight, this will be a telling bout for Izumi - either he plays to his strengths and has distinct possibility of taking a tough decision or he stands with Zikic and inevitably loses. The former possibility would bode well for the rest of Izumi's career while the latter would indicate that he will continue to be stubborn and will never be a legitimate contender.

Izumi's performance at SRC 13 against Chang Seob Lee was wonderfully judo-centric and if he does that again I like his chances of upsetting the veteran.
Pick: Izumi

Kazuo "Yoshiki" Takahashi vs. Chang Seob Lee
This bout has been made because Kazuo "Yoshiki" Takahashi is coaching at SRC's official gym and Chang Seob Lee was injured going into his last bout against Hiroshi Izumi and so Sengoku owed him one for not dropping out before that fight.

Yoshiki hasn't won a fight in five years and has added six first-round KO losses to his record during that time. Lee is a fairly unremarkable fighter and will win by KO, but it doesn't really matter.
Pick: Lee

SRC Welterweight GP Series 2010 Semifinals
Keita "KTaro" Nakamura vs. Takuya Wada
In early 2008, Keita "KTaro" Nakamura had just been cut from the UFC, had a serious eye injury and retired from fighting (for a few days). When he returned to competition later that year he was clearly an unmotivated fighter and since that time, he has fought like an unmotivated fighter. That Nakamura disappeared when he faced Omar de la Cruz and returned to the form that saw KTaro go undefeated in his first seventeen fights.

It is no accident that a staggering 10 draws and 14 decision wins populate the former Welterweight King of Pancrase Takuya Wada's record. Wada's formidable game is centered around holding down and nullifying his opponent and the fact that he has been impossible to knock out and difficult to submit. He is far from being the most entertaining fighter in the world, but Wada certainly is effective.

KTaro makes it no secret that he doesn't like Wada and said during the press conference that he is looking forward to "beating the hell out of him". While his reasoning for the hate is that Wada is better looking than him, it doesn't really matter. KTaro sounds and looks like a motivated fighter for the first time in years and that spells danger for Wada who will need to ride out three rounds on the ground with the ADCC level grappler if he is to advance in the tournament. A rear-naked choke seems likely.
Pick: Nakamura

Yasubey Enomoto vs. Taisuke "Gouten" Okuno
Peruvian Swiss\Japanese Yasubey Enomoto has gone from unknown to exciting prospect in a very short time with his impressive SRC wins over Sanae Kikuta and incredible bulldog choke victory over Kenta Takagi. Despite seeing him fight twice, we have only seen a small glimpse of what Enomoto appears to be possible of and Taisuke "Gouten" Okuno should present an interesting challenge.

Okuno has reinvented himself since opening a gym with former SRC lightweight champ Mizuho Hirota and has gone from a fighter renowned for slugging it out without a gameplan, to a fighter that still likes to slug it out but now has KO'd former Deep champ Hidehiko Hasegawa and UFC vet Nick Thompson in the process.

Although Okuno has gone beyond what I thought he was capable of recently, I don't see him surprising me here and Enomoto is a fighter that has impressed me lately and should take this with a submission after an entertaining scrap. Don't miss this fight.
Pick: Enomoto

SRC Bantamweight Asia Tournament 2010 Quarterfinals
Akitoshi Tamura vs. Shoko Sato
"If you asked, a lot of people would say that 10 out of 10 times that Tamura would win but I hope to prove them wrong." - Shoko Sato.

Unfortunately for Sato I agree with "a lot of people." His bloody victory over the cut prone Takuya Eizumi was solid but Sato is simply not on same level as the WEC veteran and former Shooto Champ. The seeded Shooto representative Tamura hasn't looked good against the upper level of competition lately, but he is still good enough to take a decision.
Pick: Tamura

Manabu Inoue vs. Jae Hyun So
When asked to provide a seeded fighter, Pancrase sent their King – Manabu Inoue. Inoue has successfully defended his crown three times after winning it against the highly dangerous Seiya Kawahara and has looked excellent since dropping down to bantamweight, although he has had trouble finishing fights.

Jae Hyun So started his career 3-8 but in his last three bouts has been dramatically better than that and impressed with grappling that can best be described as uniquely aggressive.

So is riding high right now, but Inoue is a tough test for any bantamweight in this tournament – especially the Korean as he has never been submitted. Inoue takes a decision and So makes it exciting.
Pick: Inoue

Taiyo Nakahara vs. Shintaro Ishiwatari
Cage Force seeded representative Taiyo Nakahara will return from a two-year layoff to take on Gutsman's Shintaro Ishiwatari who has finished both of his tournament fights in the first round. Although Nakahara has only lost to top opposition on the past, coming in after this much time off against an in-form Ishiwatari is bad news for the Wajutsu Keishukai Gods fighter and a quick submission seems likely.
Pick: Ishiwatari

Shunichi Shimizu vs. Wataru Takahashi
ZST seeded submission-specialist Shunichi Shimizu takes on Kazushi Sakuraba student Wataru Takahashi. This fight has fun written all over it and while Takahashi is likely going to emerge victorious via choke, Shimuzu's flying scissors and rolling kneebars will give Western fans a rare glimpse at what ZST is all about.
Pick: Takahashi

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