Join Date: Oct 2006
Location: Branson, Missouri
Was Sakuraba The Highest Level Of Fighter We Have Seen In MMA?
I'd say so.
Saku was a guy who was naturally talented. He came in and was thrown in there against a huge grappler in Conan, and he ended up armbarring him in their second fight. Then, he goes on to completely outgrapple guys like Renzo, Newton, White and Braga. Sakuraba was way, way, way ahead of his time, and had it all: Striking, grappling, charisma, excitement, presence, etc.
You had this smaller guy beating bigger dudes. It was amazing to see someone who came from a pro-wrestling background and made great grapplers look pretty foolish. He put it all together rather quickly. He pulled off moves that were mind blowing. He was a thinking man's fighter, and for a chain smoker, he had excellent cardio.
Guys like Fedor, Penn, GSP, Nogueira and Anderson Silva are all great fighters, and they each have their own special qualities, but Kazushi Sakuraba just had something more than them. When Sakuraba busted out something new, you knew it was a huge deal. He was unpredictable in there. I'm not saying that Sakuraba would beat guys like Fedor and Nogueira, but as far as all the tools and the "it" factor, Saku (1999-2000 era) rates above them. I mean, dude took on Igor Vovy back when Vovy was Fedor-like, and did really well against him.
It's a shame to see current Sakuraba. They completely ruined him by feeding him to guys like Mirko, Arona, Manhoef and Akiyama. Of course, Saku wasn't going to refuse those fights, dude has a huge heart (Or he's completely insane). It's sad to see someone who is seen as a great fighter look so old and broken down.
I truly believe that Sakuraba was the highest level of fighter we have seen in MMA. It's hard to compare anyone to him when he was at his best. Hell, many try to be like 1999-2000 Sakuraba, but they just can't.
Cardio, charisma, striking, grappling, presence, emotion, etc. Sakuraba was in a league of his own.