In the main event, Kitaoka kept true to his word, as he put away Takanori Gomi before the former Pride Fighting Championships lightweight king could do anything of note. Sizing up each other for a tense moment, Kitaoka was the first to act, as he dove for a takedown. Gomi spun out of the way to avoid the shot, but the persistent Kitaoka made another attempt and ate a grazing hook in the process.
Kitaoka (24-8-9) captured an arm, however, and pulled “The Fireball Kid” to the canvas and quickly attacked his right leg. After spinning to defend, Gomi waved off the referee and signaled he was in no trouble. Once Kitaoka readjusted his grip on the Achilles lock, the story soon changed. Gomi (29-5, 1 NC) tapped out 1:41 into the first round in the quickest defeat of his career.
Gomi attempted to congratulate Kitaoka on becoming the first Sengoku lightweight champion, only to have Kitaoka insist on a rematch. Though Gomi attempted to deflect his request, Kitaoka was adamant, making for a particularly awkward moment between the two.
Kitaoka was not the only new champion crowned.
Santiago’s quest for the Sengoku middleweight belt came to a successful end in the co-main event, as the American Top Team product pulled out a come-from-behind fifth-round submission against Kazuo Misaki.
An active Misaki stayed on the outside, circled and took potshots at the Brazilian with side kicks and spinning back kicks early. Santiago pumped long jabs at Misaki, but the Japanese veteran proved too evasive, as he circled, countered and built a lead with multiple hard low kicks.
Santiago (21-7) knocked down Misaki with a second-round hook, but the Brazilian failed to finish, and Misaki eventually had him figured out. He picked apart Santiago with single strikes and foiled his armbar attempts on the mat. Since Santiago relied almost exclusively on his jab, Misaki eluded his efforts with relative ease. As the fight progressed, it seemed as though Santiago had nothing in his arsenal that Misaki could not dodge or counter.
Entering round five with a substantial lead, Misaki (21-9-2) was derailed when Santiago switched tactics and scored with a big takedown. The re-energized Brazilian postured up and landed several heavy punches before passing to mount. Misaki surrendered his back and gave up the rear-naked choke soon after, passing out before he could submit. Referee Yoshinori Umeki called a halt to the action 3:26 into the final round.
In the evening’s only bout that was left to the judges, Sanae Kikuta defeated Hidehiko Yoshida by split decision.
Kikuta (28-6-3) appeared to take the first round, as he outpunched and outworked the Olympic gold medalist on the ground. Yoshida rallied in round two, however, as he exchanged positions with Kikuta, taking the top position and dropping punches. Kikuta tied up Yoshida’s legs and looked for submissions, but his unfazed foe sat through the attempts.
With the bout seemingly deadlocked at a round apiece, Kikuta came through in the final period, as he repeated his performance in round one, maintained top position and pounded on Yoshida (8-7-1) until the bell sounded. Judges Gen Isono and Tenshin Matsumoto ruled in Kikuta’s favor, while Masanori Ohashi curiously sided with Yoshida.
Meanwhile, Muhammed Lawal’s stock continued to rise.
“King Mo” made quick work of Yukiya Naito, as he put away the Japanese veteran by technical knockout 3:54 into the opening frame. Lawal (3-0) defended Naito’s high kicks, wound up for big punches and forced Naito into a defensive shell. The unbeaten Team Quest thoroughbred planted a huge right hand on Naito’s face that sent his mouthpiece flying and then flurried for the finish. As Lawal lunged in for the kill, referee Samio Kimura intervened and saved the fallen Naito (15-5-2) from further damage.
Elsewhere, EliteXC heavyweight champion Antonio Silva’s debut lasted barely more than a minute, as Yoshihiro Nakao could not continue after an awkward step resulted in a knee injury.
Leading on points with punches, stout middle kicks and an attempted anaconda choke, Silva was well on his way to delivering a sound beating against Nakao (7-2, 1 NC). After the Japanese heavyweight swung with two wide hooks in an attempt to distract Silva (12-1) as he circled out, he began limping and grasped his left leg. After referee Tomoki Matsumiya was called over to check Nakao’s leg, he waved off the match 1:42 after it began.
In other lightweight action, Sergey Golyaev -- fresh off his upset victory against Gomi in November -- was finished inside one round by the highly regarded Eiji Mitsuoka.
Rather than engage the Russian standing, Mitsuoka relied on his wrestling base, took down Golyaev (12-7) and dominated in top position. The end came when Mitsuoka (15-6-2) secured mount and slapped Golyaev’s right arm in a figure four. As the Russian rolled to escape, Mitsuoka pulled back on the limb and forced the tapout 4:22 into the first period.
Finally, in a surprising upset, Pride veteran Mu Bae Choi stopped the previously undefeated Dave Herman on a second-round TKO.
A heavy favorite, Herman (13-1) won the first round easily but was too tired by the second to defend a mid-round surge from the 261-pound Korean. He ate two big right hands and doubled over the ring ropes. As Choi (8-3) punched away, referee Hiromi Okamoto stepped in on Herman’s behalf and stopped the fight 2:22 into round two.
Maximo Blanco def. Seigo Inoue -- TKO (Stomp) 0:38 R1
Hidetaka Irie def. Minoru Kato -- TKO (Punches) 4:21 R2