Sengoku ‘Ninth Battle’ Preview

Kitaoka vs. Hirota

By Tim Leidecker Jul 31, 2009
Daniel Herbertson/

Kitaoka will force a tap.
Sengoku Lightweight Championship
Satoru Kitaoka (25-8-9) vs. Mizuto Hirota (11-3-1)

The Storyline: Sengoku lightweight champion Kitaoka is probably the fighter carrying the most momentum into his fight on Aug. 2. Always a reliable performer dating back to his days at Pancrase -- where he scored solid wins over respected opponents like Kurt Pellegrino, Carlos Condit and Paul Daley -- his stock exploded when he snatched the Sengoku strap and subsequently sent longtime lightweight megastar Takanori Gomi crashing out of the promotion and the consensus world lightweight rankings in 2008.

His opponent, Cage Force titleholder Hirota, was eliminated from the Sengoku lightweight tournament in the semi-finals, where he fell to Grabaka’s Kazunori Yokota by unanimous decision. The 5-foot-7 knockout merchant has since successfully defended his Cage Force belt against multiple-time King of Pancrase Katsuya Inoue in a fight that ended in a flattering draw for the challenger. He most recently knocked out former Pride “Bushido” ace Mitsuhiro Ishida at Shooto’s “Final Tradition” show in May.

The Breakdown: This serves as a straight-up grappler vs. kickboxer bout. Hirota has given his opponents fits with his powerful boxing, knocking out half of them in the process. The striker from the university town of Isahaya, Japan, has not faced as strong and pure a grappler as Kitaoka, however. The stocky submission specialist’s recipe for success remains his powerful wrestling, dangerous leg submissions and a wealth of experience stemming from an eight-plus-year career with over 40 matches.

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The Prediction: Hirota is a worthy challenger for the title, especially after his 93-second obliteration of the hard and irksome Ishida. His fight against Kitaoka will also close the chapter on the Sengoku lightweight grand prix, as the defending champion will have fought all contenders who emerged from the tournament. In the end, it seems highly unlikely that Hirota’s judo will prove strong enough to keep him off his back. That’s where he will find himself for most of the fight, as Kitaoka controls the action on the ground en route to a decision.
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