Mann Sees ‘Problem’ for Sengoku GP Favorite Hioki

By Tony Loiseleur May 1, 2009
TOKYO -- All fighters reported on weight for Sengoku “Eighth Battle,” set to commence Saturday at Yoyogi National Stadium Second Gymnasium. In the main event, tournament favorite Hatsu Hioki (143.3 pounds) will face Ronnie Mann (142.6) in a featherweight grand prix quarter-final.

“He’s rumored to be one of the favorites to win the tournament, but the only problem with that is that he has to get through me first,” Mann (16-1-1) said. “I plan for an exciting and explosive fight.”

Unbeaten in his last seven fights, Hioki (18-3-2) has never been finished in 23 professional bouts.

“I’ve studied Mann a lot,” he said. “I watched all the footage there is and built a gameplan with my trainers for him. There aren’t many holes I can exploit, but with my technique, I think our bout will be great.”

Fellow featherweight tournament participants Nam Phan and Michihiro Omigawa also exchanged interesting words, thanks to Phan’s stated plans to finish Omigawa (5-7-1).

“To show an exciting fight and display good technique,” Phan said, “I’d like to finish Mr. Omigawa with the Kadowaki Special.”

When asked why he wanted to use the former Shooto 143-pound champion’s trademark finisher on Omigawa, Phan (15-5) spoke plainly.

“As a kid growing up, Hideki Kadowaki was one of my favorite fighters,” he said. “I beat him in the last round, and I guess I’d like to avenge him by doing his special move on Mr. Omigawa. Gotta show gratitude to Mr. Kadowaki for [inspiring] a young fighter.”

Omigawa’s reaction to Phan’s submission of choice was terse.

“It’s not his special move. He won’t catch me with it,” he said. “I will show my pure Japanese samurai spirit against Nam Phan and beat him.”

Chan Sung Jung only had eyes for Sengoku’s featherweight belt, for which the “Korean Zombie” vowed to fight on the promotion’s planned Aug. 2 card.

“I’m going to win tomorrow, and then go on to the final round in [the] Saitama Super Arena, where I would like to fight for the featherweight belt,” said Jung (6-0), a confident smile stretching his face.

His opponent, Masanori Kanehara, held similar sentiments but warned that he should not be overlooked.

“I’ve heard that [Jung] was already saying he’d knock me out, but I’ll lock up a solid submission tomorrow to put him away so that I can fight for the featherweight championship,” Kanehara (12-5-5) said.

Meanwhile, featherweight King of Pancrase Marlon Sandro and King of the Cage Canada featherweight champion Nick Denis kept their comments classy in advance of their tournament showdown.

“I trained really hard for this fight, for my opponent,” Denis (7-0) said. “I respect him a lot, and I think it’ll be a very good fight, an exciting fight. I wish him all the best.”

Sandro (13-0) submitted Matt Jaggers with an arm-triangle choke to advance to the quarter-finals.

“I am happy to have the opportunity to fight someone like Nick, who is one of the best fighters in our weight class,” Sandro said. “Tomorrow’s fight will be tough, since Nick Denis is a tough guy.”

Returning to the ring for the first time since his victorious mixed martial arts debut five months ago at Sengoku “Fifth Battle,” Alexandre Ribeiro will take on Japanese veteran Keiichiro Yamamiya in a light heavyweight bout.

The jiu-jitsu world champion discussed improving his striking with Andre Amade in Canada and Wanderlei Silva in Las Vegas.

“[Silva]’s one of the most experienced fighters in all of MMA,” Ribeiro said. “We trained together, and he talked a lot about his experiences of being in Japan and being a great champion. I think that’s my path now -- to come to Japan and become a great champion, too.”

Still, Ribeiro admitted he would likely pursue a jiu-jitsu game against Yamamiya (34-23-9).

“He’s got a lot of experience, around 13 years,” Ribeiro (1-0) said. “I got to watch a couple of his fights with Brazilian guys. He fought Paulo Filho, Nilson de Castro, [Gustavo] ‘Ximu’ [Machado], and I think he’s just a well-rounded, great fighter. He has good movement up top, can do jiu-jitsu, and, of course, experience counts a lot. I think the key of this fight is to impose my game and just overwhelm him with my jiu-jitsu.”

World Victory Road Public Relations Director Takahiro Kokuho indicated that the winners of the Ribeiro-Yamamiya bout and the Travis Wiuff-Stanislav Nedkov match would likely find themselves in the running -- alongside the currently sidelined Muhammed Lawal -- for the right to fight for the promotion’s vacant light heavyweight championship by year’s end.

As for championship bouts in other weight classes, Kokuho indicated that the winner of the Makoto Takimoto-Michael Costa bout would likely be slotted into the promotion’s welterweight grand prix later this year. Meanwhile, the winner of the Leonardo Santos-Kazunori Yokota bout will become a strong candidate to challenge Sengoku lightweight champion Satoru Kitaoka on Aug. 2.

Sengoku “Eighth Battle”
Saturday, May 2
Yoyogi National Stadium Second Gymnasium

Sengoku Featherweight Grand Prix
Hatsu Hioki (143.3) vs. Ronnie Mann (142.6)
Michihiro Omigawa (142.6) vs. Nam Phan (142.9)
Masanori Kanehara (142.9) vs Chan Sung Jung (143.3)
Marlon Sandro (143.1) vs. Nick Denis (142.4)

Non-Tournament Bouts
Maximo Blanco (154.1) vs. Akihiko Mori (154.1)
Travis Wiuff (204.8) vs. Stanislav Nedkov (202.6)
Makoto Takimoto (166.2) vs. Michael Costa (167.3)
Alexandre Ribeiro (203.5) vs. Keiichiro Yamamiya (202.9)
Kazunori Yokota (154.1) vs. Leonardo Santos (154.1)
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