Preview: Sengoku 7th Battle

More Tourney Matchups

By Tony Loiseleur Mar 19, 2009
Daniel Herbertson/

Can Jong Man Kim return
to winning form?
Masanori Kanehara vs. Jong Man Kim

Sengoku’s featherweight grand prix will be Jong Man Kim’s second Japanese featherweight tourney, but the question remains whether he will be able to get past the first round this time. Since participating in the Cage Force featherweight tournament, Kim’s development from featherweight foil into an actual solid talent has all but derailed, as recent performances have left much to be desired for the Korean fighter.

ZST representative Masanori Kanehara, on the other hand, comes into Sengoku off a thunderous first-round starching of Kenji Arai in Pancrase -- a knockout that earned him his spot in this tournament. While it’s doubtful he’ll be able to replicate the Hail Mary knockout punch that “Wicky Akiyo” Nishiura used to give Kim his first KO loss, Kanehara has at least proven in previous bouts that he has the power to finish with punches. With a fighter like Kim who drops his hands and gets sloppy when tired, the chances for Kanehara’s punches to meet their mark increase even further. Add to this Kim’s wide stance that acts as a low kick sponge, and Kanehara becomes an even more enticing pick here.

Whether Kim will break his slump under the big lights of Sengoku to resurge and shock Kanehara is still uncertain, but given his defensive liabilities, Kanehara has a good chance of putting his hands and shins on the Korean to rack up damage. Should the KO or TKO not result, expect Kanehara to beat on Kim until catching a third-round submission, at once advancing to the second round of the tournament and further proving that “ZST is BST.”

Shintaro Ishiwatari vs. Chan Sung Jung

Even if you’re not a hardcore fan, you’ve probably already seen Ishiwatari fight. Making the Internet rounds last year was a video of him slamming Kazuhiro Ito on his face in order to escape from an armbar, brutally knocking out Ito in the process. While it was great to see Ishiwatari (6-1-3) receive notoriety for the wicked KO, it was a shame that his fame was so short-lived, especially since the Shooto standout is an absolute joy to watch -- even when he’s not slamming others on their faces.

Thus, it’s for the best that Sengoku has given Ishiwatari the chance to finally shine in a big show. The opportunity does not come freely or without some danger, however, as he’ll be paired up against the deadly Jung (2-0) in the opening round of the tournament. The unsuspecting Jung, who in his last outing viciously knocked Shooto veteran Fanjin Son straight into retirement, has enough power in his hands to ruin anyone’s day.

That threat is exacerbated by Ishiwatari’s style, as he’ll likely opt to stand and bang it out with the Korean slugger. While Ishiwatari is certainly exciting and slick on his feet, one small slip could be the difference between stylishly outpointing Jung and taking a nap after eating one big punch. Furthermore, if the fight goes to the ground, it’ll be because Jung takes it there. Ishiwatari’s takedown defense is porous, and if the action hits the floor, Jung will be able to work submission attempts and ground-and-pound before Ishiwatari manages to pop back to his feet.

Be that as it may, Ishiwatari is certainly a worthy enough prospect in which to invest time and faith. Provided he doesn’t slip and get his brains splattered on the canvas by a well-placed Jung punch, look for the Gutsman representative to put his fists on Jung with style and panache en route to a unanimous decision.

Jim Page/

Mann has 17 fights and an
extensive muay Thai background.
Tetsuya Yamada vs. Ronnie Mann

As far as storylines go, Yamada is certainly an interesting fighter to have in the Sengoku tournament. He’s not particularly wacky or unorthodox in the way that most Westerners tend to think of Japanese fighters, but he is young. So young, as a matter of fact, that he graduated from high school this year, just in time to participate in the featherweight grand prix. It’s the kind of human interest story that should put an event like Sengoku 7 in the local newspapers for some much-needed press.

However, the promotion is pitting the unbeaten ZST fighter against Mann in the first round; at 16-1, he looks like an incredibly stiff test for Yamada. While it would be easy to say that someone like Mann could best the still-developing Yamada (3-0) on sheer weight of experience, the situation isn’t necessarily so simple. Certainly, Mann has 17 fights and an extensive Thai boxing background, and he’s a champion in the UK, but outside of his one loss to Robbie Olivier, it’s difficult to gauge the extent of Mann’s true abilities given the competition he’s faced. Mann has thoroughly handled most of his opponents, putting them away with quick first-round submissions that make it somewhat difficult to get an accurate measure of what the Briton has in his toolbox.

It’s likely in this small detail that Sengoku is banking its hopes on the young Yamada, who, with two knockouts and one submission already under his belt, has the potential to develop into a featherweight finisher. Should Yamada best Mann, it would undoubtedly boost his stock for having not only put away a foreign champion but one with an extensive record, as well.

Even so, it’s still hard to argue for Yamada given his three fights. While he’s at least proven he has knockout power and submission skills, it’s still Mann who has over five years of experience on his side in this fight. Yamada can still put away Mann, but expect the Briton to take it to the floor. There, he will outwork the young Japanese fighter in a game of capturing and maintaining dominant position in order to take a razor-close decision.

Seiya Kawahara vs. Nick Denis

Kawahara’s only loss came to Manabu Inoue, who defeated him last December to become the first bantamweight King of Pancrase. In that fight, the flashy, striking-focused Kawahara (6-1) paid for his recklessness and youthful inexperience by allowing Inoue’s tenacious attempts to turn the bout into a grappling match to break through his dangerous offense on the feet. Thus, Kawahara gave up his back and the rear-naked choke late in the second round.

Luckily for Kawahara, King of the Cage Canada’s featherweight champion, Denis (6-0), is a bit of a knockout artist himself and does not seem inclined to pursue tactics similar to Inoue’s. While Denis has the weight advantage in this bout as a true 145-pounder, he will likely not use those extra pounds where they would be most advantageous to him -- in out-grappling Kawahara.

With Denis’ penchant for throwing single strikes, it’ll be the natural bantamweight, Kawahara, who will push the pace on the feet, landing punches and kicks that won’t stun the Canadian import but will certainly make him look less appealing to Sengoku’s judges. Given their historic predilections toward favoring strikes, it’ll come down to which fighter lands the most by the end of the bout. That will be Kawahara, who will take a hard-earned unanimous decision after three rounds of banging it out with Denis.
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