Gono-Hornbuckle Set for Aug. 2 Sengoku

By Jordan Breen Jun 30, 2009
It is still undecided if Akihiro Gono will get to fight alongside his teammate Kazuo Misaki on Aug. 2, but he at least has an opponent now.

Sengoku parent company World Victory Road announced Tuesday that Gono's return to Japan at the promotion's "Ninth Battle" card at Saitama Super Arena would see the charismatic Grabaka representative take on tough Midwesterner Dan "The Handler" Hornbuckle in a welterweight affair.

The contest will be Gono's first fight in 26 months in his native Japan, having narrowly bested rival Yuki Kondo by split decision on New Year's Eve 2006. Following the bout, the 34-year-old Gono signed with the UFC and cut to 170 pounds, where he debuted with a "Submission of the Night" over Tamdan McCrory in November 2007. However, nagging hand injuries hampered the ring-savvy veteran afterward, keeping him out of the ring for 11 months. After dropping a hotly contested split verdict to fast-rising Brit Dan Hardy in October, Gono was thoroughly dominated by divisional stalwart Jon Fitch en route to a unanimous points loss in January, and was released by Zuffa.

Hornbuckle, 28, had a 13-fight win streak broken when he made his Sengoku debut in May 2008, as slick veteran Mike Pyle submitted him in the first round. "The Handler" has since rebounded, taking a first-round submission victory over Nabil Khatib last June before knocking out then-undefeated Joe Alexander in just 46 seconds this past February.

WVR director Takahiro Kokuho stated that no decision had been reached regarding the status of the legally embattled Kazuo Misaki, who is still tentatively scheduled to take on Kazuhiro Nakamura in a 183-pound title eliminator on the card. Kokuho reiterated that he planned on meeting with fellow Sengoku commissioners to decide whether or not Misaki would stay on the card, and that he hoped to announce the decision in the coming days.

It was revealed late last week that Misaki had pled guilty in the Tokyo District Court to obstruction of justice, stemming from a March incident in which he sped away from a police officer who had attempted to cite him for talking on his cell phone while driving. Misaki was given a three-year suspended sentence following his plea.

“I personally think he should fight,” Kokuho said last Friday. “I believe proper atonement would be for him to train hard and step up into the ring to show us a Misaki-like fight.”

"I've wanted to fight alongside Misaki, always, but that's up to the promoter," Gono said. "I haven't been able to contact Misaki lately; I think he's off, reflecting, mourning on his own."
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