January 3, 2009

Sengoku 7 Predictions and Analysis

By Nicholas Bailey (nbailey@mmaratings.net)

While it won't have the paegenty or theatrics of the recent K-1 dynamite production, this card should provide a surprisingly solid after-dinner snack. While Sengoku has struggled in the past to establish its own identity as more than a stopping-off point for fighters moving to other organizations, by now many of these fighters have a real history (however brief) with the promotion. Jorge Santiago and Satoru Kitaoka have emerged as legitimate top challengers due to their tournament success, Mo Lawal is officially Sengoku's hottest prospect, and Sergey Golyaev is the dark horse of the promotion with his (in my opinion undeserved) victory over tarnished superstar Takanori Gomi.

Also, unlike the bizzare (yet exciting) K-1 card, the matchmaking for this event by and large makes sense, as do the rules of the fights. Unfortunately, the only hyper-pituitary freak is a very talented one with no pop rap career or suicidal blog entries, and anime fighters wearing masks are nowhere to be found.

Takanori Gomi (-200) vs. Satoru Kitaoka (+170) (for vacant lightweight title)
BestFightOdds.com

Ever since his shocking upset loss to Nick Diaz, fight fans have been waiting for Gomi to make clear whether the “fireball kid” that nuked everyone that stepped into the ring with him is gone for good, or if he will return and establish himself as one of the world's most dangerous lightweights again. The underwhelming victories over Bang Ludwig and Seung Hwan Bang did little to resolve this question, and such doubt has redoubled after a poor decision went against him to unheralded Russian Sergey Golyaev after an uninspired performance from Gomi.

Kitaoka's strength recalls what is seen is Gomi's biggest weakness: he's submitted his way through Sengoku in impressive fashion, with a dynamic and aggressive grappling style that has many believing that the submission-prone bobblehead Takanori Gomi will be victim to yet another leglock.

However, given that Kitaoka is almost no threat to Gomi on the feet, and has to be worried about the extreme power Gomi has displayed in the past, I think this fight will devolve to the submission whiz shooting for desperation takedowns, with Gomi tagging him and accumulating damage at his leisure. If Gomi shows up undertrained and gasses out or knocks himself over with a miss on a giant haymaker, Kitaoka has the skills to make him pay, but I don't think Kitaoka is going to be able to take the fight down himself, especially with Gomi's hands and knees in his face the entire time. Takanori Gomi by TKO round 2.

At -200, I think Gomi's loss to Sergey is being counted far too heavily. I think the style matchup is very favorable to him, and that there is value for a normal-sized play at these odds.

Kazuo Misaki (-110) vs. Jorge Santiago (Even) (for vacant middleweight title)
BestFightOdds.com

Santiago is a very dangerous fighter, with A+ finishing ability with his strikes AND with his submissions. It takes a lot to just plonk Kazuhiro Nakamura and finish him off, which is what Jorge did to cap off an impressive run through Sengoku that has capped off a 8 fight streak of finishes of virtually every type from the fighter. The only thing keeping Jorge from being an elite fighter and contending for a major title is the fact that he has very little staying power. With a fairly weak chin and often-bad gas, Santiago tends to wilt in the face of adversity and get finished off, leading to his go-big-or-go-home record.

Misaki on the other hand, despite having a well-rounded offense and enough punching power to floor the likes of Joe Riggs and Yoshihiro Akiyama, has found success primarily based upon his staying power. He is very difficult to submit and has a very good beard. His counter-striking, feint-ridden striking style seems to infuriate opponents, and in a 5 round fight that I expect he will drag out, Misaki will be able to wear Santiago down and put a few on his chin to seal the deal. Kazuo Misaki by TKO round 3.

While Santiago is a threat even to as durable a guy as Misaki, I do not think the fight is as even as the odds would have it, so I recommend a good-sized play on this fight.

Sanae Kikuta (+300) vs. Hidehiko Yoshida (-350)
BestFightOdds.com

This is a real snoozer of a fight. Yoshida is a tough guy, but nearly died in his fights with Mirko Crocop and James Thompson, and that was BEFORE Josh Barnett spent the better part of three rounds playing with him like a cat and a ball of yarn. Still, he's a durable guy with a rough, brawling style and a lot of physical strength.

Kikuta is a one-time submission ace whose best days were in the middle of the last decade (much like Yoshida in that regard). There's very little chance of him managing anything other than a drubbing at the hands of Yoshida, since the shine seems to have gone off his sub game recently. I don't see value in betting on either side of this fight. Hidehiko Yoshida by TKO round 3.

Yoshihiro Nakao (+350) vs. Antonio Silva (-430)
BestFightOdds.com

Antonio Silva is another giant that's recently had his pituitary tumor removed and looks somewhat diminished, especially in his unfortunate split decision over Ricco Rodriguez. Fortunately for 'Bigfoot' he's fighting a very mediocre heavyweight in Yoshiro Nakao, who in losing to Kazuhiro Nakamura showed he has little to offer aside from some warmed-over standup and decent wrestling.

Unfortunately for Nakao, Silva has both excellent wrestling and concussive power, so Yoshihiro will probably be eating his meals through of the back of his head for a few weeks following this fight. Antonio Silva by KO round 2.

I wouldn't bet on Silva unless the odds were much more favorable, although Nakao might be worth a very small play if he was a larger underdog, due to unknowns about Silva's condition and mental state.

Sergey Golyaev (+180) vs. Eiji Mitsuoka (-200)
BestFightOdds.com

Sergey is being very overvalued in this fight. Mitsuoka is a good wrestler and top position fighter. Sergey has little to offer aside from good kickboxing. That was enough to get an undeserved decision over fellow striker Gomi, but against a wrestler it means he will be on his back, getting his butt whipped and submitted, unless he lands a knockout strike very quickly. Mitsuoka already beat more accomplished fighters in the Sengoku tournament, so I don't see why this fight would go any other way. Eiji Mitsuoka by submission round 1.

This is another fight where the Gomi/Golyaev debacle has led to a fighter being undervalued. Mitsuoka is good for a play at -200. While the style matchup is very favorable, he's not a high-enough quality fighter for me to risk more than a normal play.

Mu Bae Choi (+300) vs. Dave Herman (-370)
BestFightOdds.com

Choi Mu Bae offers literally nothing aside from toughness and disco-entertainment. Dave Herman is just going to pound him mercilessly in a horrible mismatch. Dave Herman by KO round 1.

Herman is an almost guaranteed win here, but as the Mir/Nogueira debacle reminded us, even “guaranteed” wins should only get a small fraction of one's betting action, in case the impossible happens. Still, I like a two-unit play here.

Muhammed "King Mo" Lawal (-345) vs. Yukiya Naito (+275)
BestFightOdds.com

Mo Lawal is an extremely green but phenomenally talented neophyte. Mo has an excellent wrestling base, natural striking power, prodigious athletic gifts, and (most improtantly) a very intelligent and studious approach to the game. At first glance, Naito is a stiff test, with many times the experience Lawal has and a large number of knockouts on his record. However, almost every last opponent on Naito's record is garbage, so this should be an easy and one-sided fight for Lawal if he has even a significant fraction of the talent most observers saw in his fights with Travis Wiuff and Fabio Silva. Lawal is very new to the sport, so perhaps he cannot be matched up against top fighters just yet, but I'd like to see him fight a one-dimensional wrestler or someone similar that he could get a better workout against. Mo Lawal by decision.

My Plays:

1u on Gomi to win .5u
2u on Misaki to win 1.82u
1u on Mitsuoka to win .5u
2u on Herman to win .58u

As a side note, pick up Marcus Davis over Chris Lytle at -120u. Lytle is going to stand and bang with Davis because of his pride, and Davis is going to break his jaw. The odds are likely to change, so I'm making a note of it here.



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