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Tag: Kazushi Sakuraba

CagePotato Roundtable #27: Who Suffered the Furthest Fall from Grace in MMA History?


(Taktarov vs. Kerr, as promoted by Bob Meyrowitz. If this doesn’t embody everything about today’s discussion, then what *does*? Photo courtesy of Sherdog.)

It was thirty-three years ago today that the absolutely tragic bout between Muhammad Ali and Larry Holmes went down — where a younger, far more athletic Larry Holmes beat the aging legend so badly that he actually cried for Ali when it was over. Though Ali is still celebrated as one of the greatest fighters of all time, his legacy has never been the same as it could have been if he simply stayed retired. It’s in memory of this fight that we’ll be talking about falls from grace during today’s roundtable: fighters who stuck around far too long, lost some embarrassing bouts as a result and tarnished their once-great legacies. Read on for our picks, and please continue to send your ideas for future CagePotato Roundtable topics to tips@cagepotato.com.

George Shunick

Tim Sylvia: A name once synonymous with greatness, excitement, and extraordinary physique. Once atop the Mount Olympus of the sport, he reigned supreme over lesser beings for roughly four years, vanquishing the best of the best in his weight class. OK, so maybe I’m exaggerating here. So maybe Tim Sylvia was never exactly a world beater; he was awkward, plodding, fat, had no real ground game to speak of and was the UFC heavyweight champion when all the best fighters in the division were busy competing across the Pacific ocean.

But for all that, he was the heavyweight champion. He even had sex with his greatest rival’s ex-girlfriend. (Leading to this glorious interview with said rival, Andrei Arlovski.) He was relatively wealthy, at least compared to other fighters. Point being, he had achieved all someone who came into this world as Tim Sylvia could possibly hope to achieve. Even once he had lost the title, he still retained the respect that was deservedly owed to him.

Then this happened.

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On This Day in MMA History – Kazushi Sakuraba Born Forty Four Years Ago


(Baby Saku – Already cooler than you or I at age 1)

If the sport of MMA continues to grow in popularity, decades from now there will be legions of fans raised only on the UFC who will have no idea who Kazushi Sakuraba was and is. I’ll feel sorry for them.

To date, Sakuraba is the greatest and perhaps bravest fighter to have come out of Japan in the sport’s history. He became a super star while fighting for the defunct Pride Fighting Championships.

Sakuraba’s prime warring days took place before an appropriate weight class came into existence for him and as a result, the natural welterweight fought light heavyweights and heavy weights. Usually, he beat them.

Sakuraba would, and sadly still does, fight anyone, anywhere and always does so in exciting and unrelenting fashion. He is a jester-samurai if there ever was one, quick with a Kimura shoulder lock or smile. Sakuraba combines excellent wrestling with dynamic submissions and effective stand up striking.

In recent years, Sakuraba has fought on past his health and has taken brutal beatings. Though they make us cringe, they do not and cannot possibly diminish this champion’s legacy.

Win, lose or draw, from lightweight to heavyweight, from Gracies and Wanderlei to “Rampage”, Belfort, Nogueira and “Cro Cop”, no one that has ever gone into the ring or cage with Kazushi Sakuraba has left it without respecting him. Enjoy the highlight videos of Sakuraba and always remember, where there’s a will, there’s a way.

More highlight videos after the jump.

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27 Signs You’ve Been an MMA Fan Too Long


(Image via FAIL Blog, obviously.)

By the CagePotato.com Staff

You know you’re a true MMA fan when it starts to negatively affect your work, health, and personal relationships. Check out our latest list below, and let us know which ones apply to you. Props to Buzzfeed for the inspiration.

1. You roll your wrists while blasting “Sandstorm” before every job interview.

2. Kimbo Slice is your favorite professional boxer and Tank Abbott is your favorite author.

3. You used to drive 25 miles to the nearest video store that carried bootlegged copies of King of the Cage events. Now, you complain because there are too many free UFC events on cable.

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Killer Highlight Reel Alert: The First Eight PRIDE Events, Condensed to 33 Minutes of Awesome


(Props: Hiten Mitsurugi)

CagePotato reader Andrew K. sent this to us with the brief message “The newbs deserve to know.” And indeed, they do. Above is part one of a new highlight series featuring the best moments of PRIDE’s early days, mostly soundtracked by obscure video-game music. (It’s amazing how well that works together.) Give it a look and you will witness…

- Gary Goodridge, back when he was still one of the scariest men to ever enter a cage or ring.

- Rickson Gracie armbarring Nobuhiko Takada on two separate occasions.

- Kazushi Sakuraba vs. Carlos Newton, aka The Greatest Grappling Exhibition in MMA History.

- Mark Kerr, in absolute beast-mode.

- Emmanuel Yarborough, doing whatever it is that he does.

And so much more! Check out parts 2 and 3 after the jump, which cover PRIDE 5-8, including the infamous Takada vs Coleman fight, and Sakuraba taking out his first Gracie. Here’s hoping this highlight series continues, because PRIDE 8 was immediately followed by one of the most epic tournaments in the history of the sport.

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Video Tribute: The Eight Most Insane Moments in DREAM History


(“You’ll never get me Lucky Charms!”)

For nearly four years, the Japanese MMA promotion DREAM did its best to carry the mantle of PRIDE, presenting the same mix of top international talent and freak-show comic relief, all inside of a traditional ring, rather than a filthy American cage. But we were hit with some sad news this weekend as multiple sources reported that DREAM has ceased day-to-day operations, and will no longer be producing events. So as we like to do when great MMA traditions die, let’s take a look back at some of the fights that made this promotion so unique, so entertaining, and so balls-out insane…

#8: Kazushi Sakuraba vs. Melvin Manhoef
DREAM.4, 6/15/08 

Though Kazushi Sakuraba’s fame was partly based on his willingness to absorb damage from larger fighters, the level of savagery that Melvin Manhoef inflicted on him during their meeting at the Yokohama Arena probably should have convinced Saku to walk away from the sport. The moment when Manhoef drags Saku away from the ropes by his leg so he can dive in to continue the assault (see the 2:43 mark above) remains one of DREAM’s most indelible and brutal moments.

#7: Shinya Aoki vs. dumb-ass gaijin
DREAM.7, 3/8/09

Another tradition that DREAM inherited from PRIDE? Absurd mismatches. At the time of this fight, Aoki was widely considered to be a top-3 lightweight, while Gardner was an obscure 13-7 journeyman who was coming off a loss to Brian Cobb. Aoki’s domination on the mat was no surprise, but the fight became legendary for how it ended. Stuck with Aoki on his back, Gardner took advantage of a brief pause in the action — and the near-silence in the Saitama Super Arena — to wave to the crowd and shout “Hello Japan!” Aoki immediately wrapped up Gardner’s neck and choked him out, causing the crowd to break out in laughter and Bas Rutten to cry “Oh my God it is so dumb! So dumb! Why?!” Some things just can’t be explained, Bas.

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Kazushi Sakuraba vs. Shinya Aoki Reportedly Booked for Next DREAM Event

Kazushi Sakuraba Ricardo Arona photo eye face bloody MMA photos gallery
(Kazushi Sakuraba during his PRIDE glory days in 2005.)

By Elias Cepeda

When does a person not eagerly anticipate the next time one of his favorite fighters competes? When that fighter should have retired years ago due to the damage he’s endured over the years. That’s the way I’ve feel each time Kazushi Sakuraba gets a new match — not excited, but filled with genuine concern for his well-being. The legendary “Gracie Hunter” may be the best MMA fighter the warrior-nation of Japan has ever produced, but he’s lost four fights in a row, hasn’t won a bout since 2009, and has suffered enough beatings for 12 lifetimes. (This guy knows what I’m talking about.)

What makes Saku’s situation worse is that so many of his early losses were the result of savage abuse at the hands of much larger opponents (Wanderlei Silva, Mirko Cro Cop, Ricardo Arona, etc.), leaving him completely broken down at the age of 42. Sakuraba competed just once in 2011 — getting choked out at Dream 17 by unheralded Brazilian prospect Yan Cabral — and has yet to fight this year, while venturing back into pro wrestling just to stay active.

It is now being reported that Sakuraba will return to the ring at Dream’s next event, for a welterweight match against Shinya Aoki. If there’s a silver lining to rolling out Saku for another pay day, it’s that Aoki is foremost a grappler like Sakuraba, so it’s possible that we could see a technical wrestling and Jiu Jitsu match with minimal blunt strikes hitting the legend. Also, Bloody Elbow’s Anton Tabuena is reporting that the fight, now signed according to him, could be Sakuraba’s final MMA appearance.

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CagePotato Roundtable #4: What Was the Greatest Rivalry in MMA History?

We have a very, very special guest on this week’s installment of the CagePotato Roundtable: UFC light-heavyweight legend Stephan Bonnar, who has agreed to join the CP gang for a spirited debate on the most epic rivalries in MMA history — something he knows a thing or two about first-hand. Follow Stephan on Twitter @stephanbonnar, buy some of his t-shirts at PunchBuddies.com, and if you have a suggestion for a future Roundtable topic, please send it to tips@cagepotato.com. Now then…

Stephan Bonnar

I’m here to talk about MMA’s most intense rivalries. Catering to the casual fight fan first, I’ll start with the most obvious one. (I know it’s not fair to you hardcore fans, but no one cares about you. We know that you will tune in no matter what. I still appreciate you, you obsessed lunatics, so just stay tuned.)

Chael Sonnen vs Anderson Silva. Chael recently received his PHD in the art of trash talking (TT), and was also the valedictorian of his class. He took TT to new heights. His words ripped not only through his adversaries intestines, but the intestines of his counterpart’s entire country. Trust me though, this brilliant TT’er has an outrageous yet adept plan to convert the hate of some of those countrymen to love and acceptance. Yes, I have inside info…but no, I won’t spoil Chael’s next scheme. Take it from me, “You’ll see what’s up Chael’s sleeve!”

If Chael was valedictorian of his class, then Anderson was the class buffoon. Anderson’s knowledge of the English language quickly evaporates when it’s his turn to retort to some of Chael’s verbal onslaught. This rivalry has had the most one-sided trashtalking in the history of the sport. When it comes to slanging rhetoric, is Anderson worse than Joe Frazier was against the great Ali? I’d enthusiastically say so. I’d also have to say that Chael would be able to hang with “The Greatest” when it came to sparring with verbs. Even in his native tongue, Anderson fails to even so much as hold Chael’s jock strap. Landslide victory for Chael in this event. And for those of you that say talking trash doesn’t do shit, I beg to differ. It has increased my anxiousness ten fold in anticipation of seeing this “rivalry” settled with extreme violence.

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CagePotato Roundtable #3: Who’s Your Favorite Fighter to Never Win a Major Title?


(In the heart of the child who made it, the Super HLUK belt is the most prestigious title on the planet.)

CagePotato Roundtable is our new recurring column in which the CP writing staff and some of our friends all get together to debate an MMA-related topic. Joining us this week is MiddleEasy.com founder Zeus Tipado, who was kind enough to smoke an entire bag of PCP and channel the spirit of Wallid Ismail. If you have a suggestion for a future Roundtable column, send it to tips@cagepotato.comThis week’s topic: Who’s your favorite MMA fighter to never win a major title?

Ben Goldstein

We take personality for granted these days. Everywhere you look, the MMA ranks are packed with shameless self-promoters, aspiring comedians, unrepentant assholes, and assorted clown-men. But in the UFC’s infancy, fighters tended to come in two types: Stoic (see Royce Gracie, Dan Severn) and certifiably insane ( see Joe Son, Harold Howard). David “Tank” Abbott changed all that. He entered the UFC with a fully-fledged persona, and managed to stay in character through his entire career. Simply put, he was the UFC’s first villain, and he played that role more effectively than anyone has since.

Heralded as a “pit fighter” — a term invented by UFC promoter Art Davie — Tank’s martial art of choice was hitting guys in the head really hard, which he did while wearing the sort of fingerless gloves that soon become industry standard. It’s difficult to overstate the impact that Tank’s debut at UFC 6 had on a 14-year-old Ben Goldstein as I was watching the pay-per-view at my friend Josh’s house. It wasn’t just that Abbott starched John Matua in a mere 18 seconds, or that Matua’s body seized up when his head hit the canvas. It’s that Tank reacted to the knockout by mimic-ing Matua’s stiffened pose. Tank actually mocked John Matua for having a seizure. Ruthless! And how about his destruction of Steve Nelmark at the Ultimate Ultimate ’96, which had to be the first “oh shit is that guy dead?” moment in UFC history. Tank was a living reminder that the UFC was very real, and very dangerous.

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CagePotato Roundtable #1: What’s Your Favorite Come-From-Behind Win in MMA History?

CagePotato Roundtable is a new recurring column in which the CagePotato writing staff (and some of our friends) share their opinions on an MMA-related topic, and hopefully inspire some discussion among our readers as well. For the inaugural installment, we took inspiration from Joe Rogan’s enthusiastic crowning of last weekend’s Tim Boetch vs. Yushin Okami fight as “the greatest comeback in the history of the UFC.” That’s debatable, to say the least — but isn’t everything? So what *was* the greatest comeback fight in MMA history?

Seth Falvo
When Joe Rogan first called The Barbarian’s victory the greatest comeback in UFC history, my first thought was “Come on, Joe, are you seriously the only MMA fan who hasn’t seen Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira vs. Bob Sapp?” That comeback exposed Sapp for the overhyped freak that he was while establishing the legend of Big Nog and his ability to come from behind to win fights. Hell, we at Cagepotato consider it to be the best freak show fight to ever come out of Japan. But in fairness to Joe Rogan, that fight didn’t take place in the UFC. So my second thought was “Come on, Joe, are you seriously the only UFC fan who hasn’t seen Mike Russow vs. Todd Duffee?”

What makes this comeback so great was the fact that Todd Duffee and Mike Russow were essentially photo negatives of each other. Before this fight, Duffee was destined to be the next big thing in the UFC’s heavyweight division, having just tied the record for the fastest knockout in UFC history in his promotional debut against Tim Hague. Duffee was on the cover of Muscle & Fitness, the poster boy for Muscletech and seemingly in every men’s magazine on the planet — no matter how loosely the content was related to sports. Meanwhile, Russow was quietly coming off of a unanimous decision victory over Justin McCully in his UFC debut and had more fat in his left bicep than Todd Duffee had in his entire body. Everything about this fight seemed like it was a squash match.

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Kazushi Sakuraba to Dig Out the Ol’ Orange Wrestling Briefs for DREAM/IGF New Year’s Eve Show


(Human speed-chess: Kazushi Sakuraba and Kiyoshi Tamura put in work at a UWFi show in March 1996. Video via theperfectone)

If you’re a student of Japanese MMA history like we are, you know that legendary fighter Kazushi Sakuraba got his start as a professional wrestler in the 1990s, honing his grappling chops in the UWFi and Kingdom Pro Wrestling leagues. But once he tasted success at the UFC Japan tournament in December 1997, Saku’s career shifted away from worked matches, and he soon became PRIDE’s most beloved native hero.

Now 42 years old and riding a four-fight losing streak — the last three losses by stoppage — Sakuraba has agreed to re-capture some of his lost youth in a tag-team wrestling match at Fight For Japan: Genki Desu Ka Omisoka 2011, the New Year’s Eve show promoted by DREAM and IGF at the Saitama Super Arena. Sakuraba will team up with fellow wrestling/MMA crossover star Katsuyori Shibata, against Shinichi Suzukawa and Atsushi Sawada. (I’ve never heard of the second guy, but Suzukawa is that dude who beat Mark Coleman even though he wasn’t supposed to.)

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