Sengoku ‘Soul of Fight’ Preview

Sandro vs. Hioki

Marlon Sandro (black trunks) vs. Masanori Kanehara | Taro Irei/Sherdog.com

Sengoku Raiden Championship promoter World Victory Road has saved the best for last.

After going a cost-cutting route in 2010, focusing almost exclusively on domestic talent and lighter-weight classes, Sengoku “Soul of Fight” has assembled an epic 28-fight card for its year-end-show. From muay Thai and kickboxing matches to excellent female fights, an “SRC vs. Dream” three-parter, and even a meaningful championship bout -- fans with tickets to WVR’s almost-New Year’s Eve extravaganza are in for a whole day of martial arts action.

Below, we take a look at the most competitive and high-profile bouts on the card.

SRC Featherweight Championship Bout
Marlon Sandro vs. Hatsu Hioki

In the year’s biggest 145-pound bout outside of WEC, SRC featherweight champion Sandro will make the first defense of his belt against Shooto title-holder Hioki.

A teammate of pound-for-pound phenomenon Jose Aldo and numerous WEC standouts at Nova União, Sandro has transformed himself from a conservative Brazilian jiu-jitsu player into a vicious knockout machine over the past 18 months.

Hioki has been a mainstay on the Shooto circuit for the past eight years. At only 27 years of age, the dangerous submission fighter already has 28 professional bouts under his belt, with 22 wins. In May, he captured the Shooto 143-pound title, defeating “Lion” Takeshi Inoue in a hotly-contested bout. Hioki was considered the odds-on favorite to win Sengoku’s 2009 featherweight tournament, but had to bow out due to a concussion sustained in his semifinal victory over eventual winner Masanori Kanehara.

Despite being the less experienced fighter, Sandro should come into the fight as the favorite. Not only is the Brazilian defending champion, but his last three bouts have seen him pulverize three highly-regarded Japanese veterans -- Yuji Hoshino, Tomonari Kanomatao and Kanehara -- with a trio of brutal knockouts in exactly 200 seconds combined.

To avoid the same fate, Hioki must either use his reach advantage or work the clinch. Under no circumstance does he want to meet Sandro at the Brazilian’s striking distance. Even though he has been around for quite a while, Hioki’s standup game remains underdeveloped. He is a decent kicker, but his hands are nothing that will strike fear into the heart of a hard-nosed veteran like Sandro.

Prediction: The safe bet is on Sandro to win another unanimous decision. Don’t be surprised if he posterizes Hioki with another first-round knockout, though.

Continue Reading » Page Two: Kanehara vs. Maeda
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