Felt a bit guilty about a list article I wrote yesterday to get on the BR front page, so I decided to get back to what I love and write in detail. I asked on twitter which legend people would like to hear more about and Sakuraba and Igor were by far the front runners. I've written loads of Igor stuff but I've never touched on Sakuraba, which is weird because he's basically the only fighter who I've ever been moved to buy merchandise from - that's how important he is to me as an influence.
Hope you don't mind clicking the link and as always I love all the feedback you can give me (and be brutal with this one because as I always say, grappling is NOT my strong suit).
Kazushi Sakuraba's list of accomplishments is simply astounding, but because of the unnecessary and brutal losses he accumulated as he dragged his feet about retirement, it is easy to forget just how great a fighter he was. If you have forgotten or don't know just why Sakuraba is so revered in Mixed Martial Arts circles, I shall give you the run down on some of his feats.
- Sakuraba defeated numerous world class 205lbs fighters including Vitor Belfort, Kevin Randleman andQuinton Jackson when he is comparable in build to some modern welterweights and easily made 185lbs in the twilight of his career.
- Sakuraba defeated four members of the legendary Gracie family when they were still a name to be feared in the sport.
- Sakuraba's first bout with Royce Gracie went 90 minutes (the longest MMA bout in history) by Gracie's request and ended with the Gracie corner throwing in the towel.
- Rather than drop out of the tournament which the bout was part of, Sakuraba went on to fight IgorVovchanchyn—the scariest striker in MMA at the time and a heavyweight—to a respectable loss in the same night.
Kazushi Sakuraba is truly an all time great in the MMA world, but an often under—appreciated technician. Sakuraba is an excellent example of a fighter who excelled in "anti—technique". Similar to the boxer who will drop his hands and throw looping counters, Sakuraba would put himself in calculated danger on the mat to secure his infamous kimura lock or a knee bar.
While I am certainly nowhere near as comfortable talking grappling as I am when I am talking the ins and outs of striking, I cannot help but appreciate the unorthodox methods that made Sakuraba such a difficult man to fight in his youth and have made him such an inspiration in my own training.
Sakuraba's fights often featured prolonged periods of fighting from this position.
Sakuraba is sporting his traditional orange hot pants and a Renzo Gracie backpack
I'm sure anyone who has seen a single Mixed Martial Arts event in the last five years will be able to tell me why that is such a poor position in the traditional positional hierarchy. Whether you're a wrestler or a jiu—jitsu fighter, you want to be the guy with a body lock from the opponent's back.
With the opponent's hands locked around him from behind, however, was whereSakuraba—the anti—technician that he was—did much of his best work.
Not even bothered
From this position Sakuraba would work to figure—four his grip and separate his opponent's wrists. Once this was accomplished he could simply spin with the kimuraand try to wrench the opponent's shoulder while standing—as he did to Renzo Gracie—or he could use it to turn them.
Take a look at how Sakuraba actively and repeatedly gives his back to Kevin Randleman(of suplex fame) en route to separating Randleman's hands and using the kimura to turn him
Relying on the kimura so heavily (not to mention giving the opponent one's back so routinely) above steady movement through the positional hierarchy is not the jiu—jitsu norm, but plenty of active competitors have realized the benefits of the kimura as a positional weapon rather than a submission attempt.
Sakuraba has separated Randleman's wrists.
As Sakuraba falls back and wrenches Randleman's arm, Randleman rolls.
Sakuraba follows Randleman up to attempt an armbar.
Here is the great Andre Galvao using a diving kimura to force a predictable reaction out of an opponent and using a vicious armbar to take his opponent's back. Galvao also uses the kimura grip routinely to take opponent's backs as they roll into him.
Something interesting to note about Sakuraba is his choice to "turk" the legs of his opponent when using the kimura. Where Paulo Filho and others take the kimura grip from half guard and use it to preoccupy the opponent as they pass, Sakuraba would actively hook his opponent's legs to keep them from moving as he attempted to finish the kimura.