TOKYO -- World Victory Road, the first promotion to throw its hat in the vacuum left by the collapse of Pride, drew a near sell-out crowd of 15,523 to the Yoyogi Number One Olympic stadium Wednesday for the debut of the new Sengoku series.
Just seconds into the bout, Barnett got behind his opponent and pulled off a huge suplex reminiscent of the Kevin Randleman-Fedor Emelianenko slam at a Pride event in 2004.
Yoshida survived the impact of the tremendous suplex, but it was quite obvious he didn't want to go through it again.
Barnett continued to try to slam his opponent whenever he got behind him, but the judoka wisely fell to the mat each time, nullifying Barnett's leverage to complete the technique.
Yoshida's best chance at ending the fight came midway into the first round. As Barnett looked to suplex him, the Japanese fighter sank to the mat to counter the technique and caught the American in an extremely slick transition into a rolling armbar.
Barnett was stuck in the perilous position for some time. Eventually, he resorted to going after Yoshida's ankle with his other hand to escape from the pressure.
Yoshida tagged his foe with some hard shots on the feet, but Barnett's size and smothering ground control started to give him the advantage. By the end of the second round, Yoshida looked exhausted.
In the third, Yoshida seemed absolutely gassed, and his only defense was to roll on the mat whenever Barnett had him in trouble. Barnett finally sealed the deal, locking Yoshida in a kneebar and eventually transitioning to a heel hook for the tapout.
Barnett praised his opponent's hard jaw and strength in the postfight news conference.
Barnett had hoped to display more catch wrestling but said Yoshida forced him to veer away from his game plan and do more ground-and-pound than he wanted to. When asked if he'd prefer to fight recently announced World Victory Road additions Kevin Randleman or Roger Gracie, Barnett stated that fighting Randleman would be like fighting a friend, and he'd prefer to take on Gracie.
Gomi stops Ludwig on a cut
Both fighters started out with sporadic jousting while circling the ring. Gomi, shifting his stance between orthodox and southpaw throughout, eventually caught his opponent with a good left hand that knocked him to the mat momentarily. However, Gomi couldn't capitalize on the advantage before Ludwig got back to his feet.
Ludwig, while relatively unfazed by the punch, began to bleed heavily from a cut opened by the impact. The fighter was directed to the doctor, and it was determined that the cut was too severe for the match to continue, giving Gomi the TKO at the 2:28 mark of the first round.
Gomi apologized to fans afterward and said he definitely wanted to fight Ludwig again.
Misaki sees off Bahadurzada
Afghan-born fighter Siyar Bahadurzada climbed the ranks of Shooto Europe to take Shooto's light heavyweight title last July. For his Sengoku debut, the Golden Glory team member squared off against Pride middleweight grand prix champion Kazuo Misaki.
Bahadurzada looked good on his feet in this one, catching his Grabaka-trained opponent with a good punch early. But Misaki, fresh off a controversial no contest against Yoshihiro Akiyama, weathered the storm well and eventually took the action to the mat, where he had a good kimura attempt.
The second round saw Misaki continuing to move laterally to avoid his opponent's punches. Bahadurzada got to his feet quickly after being tossed and went for a single-leg takedown of his own.
Unfortunately, he ended up trapped in a guillotine.
Sensing his chance, Misaki tightened up the technique, forcing Bahadurzada to tap at 2:02.
Fujita overwhelms Graham
Iron-jawed pro wrestler Kazuyuki Fujita and heavyweight K-1 kickboxer Peter Graham found themselves in a heated melee at the news conference the day before the event, and the emotions were still simmering as the two fighters had an intense staredown and jaw-jacking session in the center of the ring before the fight.
Yet Graham, a well-decorated kickboxer making his MMA debut, didn't have the mat experience to take on Fujita. He avoided the Japanese fighter's first two takedown attempts, but he fell victim to the third.
Fujita then maintained ground control, taking both side and mount before submitting the Australian fighter with a choke at 1:23 of the first round.
Jason Nowe is a contributor to Sherdog.com.