2008 wound down stylishly for the world of MMA. Now 2009 has begun,
and World Victory Road is here with another round to make sure
fight freaks can avoid the always-nasty New Year's hangover.
Just four days after the annual installment of K-1 Dynamite went
off in Saitama, the seventh edition of Sengoku will fill the
Saitama Super Arena, as the upstart Japanese promotion will fill
their first two thrones. Takanori Gomi
looks to right his ship against submission stud Satoru
Kitaoka with the lightweight crown at stake, and Kazuo Misaki
looks to affirm his place amongst the middleweight elite against
the surging Jorge
Also par for the course on this wildcard weekend: judo soap operas,
pituitary freaks, Korean disco connoisseurs and another ad hoc
hip-hop video from the Mo’s queens.
From the launch of Sengoku, WVR were clear on how they would crown
their first lightweight champion: eight talents would duke it out
for the right to fight Takanori Gomi
to crown the first lightweight to put the golden kabuto around his
waist. And to their credit (or detriment), they stuck to their
word. Come rain. Come shine. Come inexplicable split decision loss
to random Russian.
Gomi and Kitaoka enter the bout from opposite directions. Since his
New Year's Eve smashing of Mitsuhiro
Ishida two years ago, Gomi has floundered between the Nick Diaz
debacle, taking ho-hum victories over Duane "Bang" Ludwig and
Hwan Bang, and dropping a split decision, albeit a robbery of
one, to Sergei Golyaev in November.
Meanwhile, Kitaoka is undefeated as a lightweight and has ripped
over his last four opponents in his Sengoku tenure, including
Mitsuoka and Kazunori
Yokota on the same evening this past November to win Sengoku's
What makes this bout particularly compelling is that regardless of
the victor, there will be dramatic combustion of a finish. Gomi has
shown brutal show-closing ability with his hands, but he can be
exploited against dynamic submission grapplers like Diaz and
Aurelio. Meanwhile, Kitaoka may have one of the most dynamic,
crushing submission games in MMA, with a lights-out guillotine and
brutal leglocks. However, Kitaoka's impotent and immature striking
game can reduce him to mere prey against a talented
History and stylistic considerations are on Gomi's side. While Gomi
can be flaky and fallible as a fighter, one scenario in which he
excels is when he can reduce his opponent to a desperate grappler.
In his bout with Ishida, Gomi had no reason to respect Ishida's
standup, and as a result, was able to be both defensively aware as
a grappler, and offensively aggressive as a striker. Consequently,
Ishida lasted only 74 seconds.
Despite the bumps along the road, WVR will get the champion they
sought from day one and it shouldn't take long. Kitaoka will look
for his takedown immediately and his predictability will make him
target practice for Gomi. Look for MMA's foremost turnbuckle surfer
to send Kitaoka back to Wonka's Factory in the first round, and get
another belt for a muscular mantle. Whether or not Gomi can
actually defend this one is another unnerving story.