Monday Blog: Takaya Readies for Dream 9

May 25, 2009

More Reality TV
By Jordan Breen ([email protected])
Monday, 4:30 p.m. ET: While the ninth season of "The Ultimate Fighter" rolls on with its transatlantic theme, Sengoku's parent company World Victory Road has announced the participants for its own reality MMA foray across the Pacific.

Friday, WVR unveiled the twelve competitors who will comprise the 132-, 143- and 154-pound four-man tournaments in the inaugural edition of Sengoku’s “Project Gold Rush.” The roster of prospects draws heavily from some of Japan's most notable MMA gyms, including the Wajyutsu Keisyukai Network, Yoshida Dojo, Kiguchi Dojo, Gutsman Shooto Dojo, SK Absolute and P's Lab Tokyo.

The 132-pound field features amateur wrestling stud Takeshi Numajiri, Cage Force veteran Daisuke Endo, Deep 2008 Future King champion Ryosuke Komori, and Pancrasist Hiroyuki Hara.

The 143-pound tournament is anchored by undefeated, Sengoku-sponsored prospect Shigeki Osawa, and includes ZST torchbearer Takayuki Kishi, Shooto rep Makoto Sannai and 22-year-old Deep regular Toru Harai.

There is but a single loss between the four 154-pound entrants. 2008 Shooto rookie champion Ikuo Usuda leads the field, and is joined by fellow unbeaten Koji Ando, once-beaten ZST'er Kota Okazawa and SK Absolute product Kohei Maruyama.

While the tournaments feature several talents, the early favorite in all three divisions is a former standout wrestler. Usuda and Numajiri are both pupils of Combat Wrestling founder Noriaki Kiguchi, who has also mentored the likes of Rumina Sato, Hayato "Mach" Sakurai, Genki Sudo, Norifumi "Kid" Yamamoto and Takanori Gomi. The 29-year-old Usuda, a graduate of Takushoku University, won the 2002 All-Japan Collegiate Championships in the Greco-Roman 146-pound division, before taking a bronze medal at the World University Wrestling Championships later that year. Numajiri, 25, wrestled for Kokushikan University, and took a third-place finish in freestyle at the 2006 All-Japan Collegiate Championships at 132 pounds, and won the 146-pound division at the All-Japan Combat Wrestling Championships in '08.

Usuda and Numajiri both gained hype among hardcores after impressing established pro fighters who had grappled with them at the Kiguchi Dojo while they were still amateurs. While Usuda has thus far been the more successful pro, Gomi had the highest praise for Numajiri's wrestling, opining that even the best wrestlers in MMA would struggle with his takedown game.

The 24-year-old Osawa is the most accomplished wrestler of the trio. A product of wrestling powerhouse Yamanashi Gakuin University, Osawa has won gold in the 132-pound freestyle division at the All-Japan Collegiate Championships, Junior Olympics, World University Championships and Meiji Dairies Cup, and was a major prospect to qualify for the Beijing Games last year. Now training out of the Yoshida Dojo and carrying a 2-0 MMA mark, Osawa will, at least temporarily, embark on the featherweight division as he continues his growth process.

The Gold Rush fighters will be paired up into six semi-finals, which will be taped in mid-June and televised over subsequent weeks on the promotion's "Sengoku G" program, which airs Sundays on Japanese terrestrial network TV Tokyo. The episodes will, in a slight departure from western reality competitions, focus more prominently on each fighter's personal lives and training as they prepare for their bouts. The eventual finalists will square off at Sengoku's Aug. 2 card at the Saitama Super Arena.

Pictures: Takaya Readies for Dream 9
By Mike Fridley ([email protected])
Monday, 4:30 a.m. ET: Sometimes, we just run out of room. Here’s a pictorial that’s exclusive to the Sherblog.

Hiroyuki Takaya was photographed by Daniel Herbertson as he prepared to face WEC veteran Yoshiro Maeda at Dream 9.

Continue » Takaya Readies for Dream 9

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