Having sat on this rumour for about three weeks, it’s good to finally put to paper.
A bout between Evolve MMA’s superstar and the man with more top 10 wins at lightweight than any other, Shinya Aoki, versus pound-for-pound demi-God of Mixed Martial Arts and the pick of many longtime fans for the #2 spot behind Fedor Emelianenko as the sport’s greatest ever, along with perhaps Nogueira and Anderson; Kazushi “The Gracie Hunter” Sakuraba.
With Sakuraba basically fighting open-weight throughout his career, including against such men as Mirko Cro Cop, Igor Vovchanchyn, Quinton Jackson, Wanderlei Silva (3x), Ricardo Arona, Melvin Manhoef and Kevin Randleman, who would have thought that he would ever face off against a man well and truly confined to the Bushido’s (lighter weights) cards when he was facing the likes of Jackson; the longtime lightweight Aoki? Who’d have thought?
Despite being a super fan of both men, I am positively salivating at the thought of this one. None of America’s largely moronic MMA fanbase give Aoki his props as perhaps the benchmark of all lightweight greats, with more top 10 wins than any other, so a prospective loss to a heavier legend shouldn’t do much to harm his criminally underrated legacy. And Sakuraba has now fully “Shamrock’d” his win/loss record, and at this stage, his exploits already in the hearts and minds of the people, another loss would be an irrelevance to him also. So it matters not who wins, just how they look doing it.
This could be a grappling exhibition the likes of which MMA has never seen. Yes, Sakuraba might be long in the tooth, a tad punch drunk and definitely slowed down from his 195-200lbs prime, but he is still an exceptionally skilled catch wrestling submission grappler. Aoki, on the other hand, despite having next to no credentials in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu outside his black belt, makes fellow black belts look like foolish amateurs on the mat – see the fight with Marcus Aurelio for reference. His moniker is the “Tobikan Judan”, which literally translates to “Master of Flying Submissions”, and he lives up to that handle with an array of flashy moves and an extremely entertaining ground-game. It bodes well.
If these guys go toe-to-toe in the grappling sense, we could bear witness to a submission clinic that would make Sakuraba vs. Newton and Sakuraba/Renzo look like sloppy heavyweight pub brawls between unskilled beer drinkers from northern England. The skill on show could rival any grappling fight in history.
The rumour was initially for the next DREAM card, sometime this summer.
One hopes this comes to fruition…
For those lost souls who have never seen GREATNESS, here are highlights of Sakuraba and Aoki – the p4p God, and the lightweight submission magician.