Everyone has a list of fights that they reminisce about whenever they get the chance. Most of us still love Nick Diaz vs. Takanori Gomi, or Chuck Liddell vs. Wanderlei Silva. But what about the fights that have flown under the radar a bit as the years have passed? There have been a ton of excellent bouts that never quite got the respect they deserved, for a variety of reasons. Well I'm going to make it my goal to expose you to some of these forgotten classics. I'll try to make this a semi-regular figure, and I'm sure with all the fight nerds on the BE staff, others might want to chip in too. I give you (title courtesy of KJ Gould) - Forgotten Fights.
Volume one features a couple of guys you should know of if you follow the sport - Hayato Sakurai and Frank Trigg. But did you know that they fought each other in Shooto in late 2000? And the bout was pretty good?
Setting the stage: Shooto R.E.A.D. Final, December 17th, 2000. Hayato "Mach" Sakurai was the Shooto middleweight (168 lb) champion and was undefeated in 19 pro fights (17-0-2) coming into the bout. Trigg entered the fight at 7-0 , and already had a Pride win under his belt. He had been a finalist in the Olympic wrestling trials earlier in the year as well. Mach's title was not on the line in the bout, and the fight wasn't even the main event of the show. A welterweight (153 lb) title fight between Rumina Sato and Caol Uno had the honors that night (Uno defended the title by knocking out Sato early in the fight [thanks for the correction RagingNoodles]).
The video and synopsis of the fight is after the jump.
The fight: The bout begins at 2:59 of the video. They battle early in the clinch, with Trigg landing a few knees and Sakurai getting in a solid left. The crowd cheers every time Sakurai lands a strike, which includes some solid leg and body kicks. Trigg finally opens up and hurts Mach with undefended punches, which forces Mach to drag Trigg to the ground. Trigg immediately reverses though. Trigg sits in Mach's guard for a while, landing methodical strikes while Sakurai looks to trap an arm or throw his legs up for a triangle. Listening to the announcer yell PUNCHY! always makes me laugh. The last minute of the round sees Trigg really unload on Mach against the ropes, bloodying his nose. He seemed to land a very solid shot slightly after the bell.
I'll admit it, the first round probably isn't going to light your world on fire. You're probably wondering why I picked this fight. Damn you Burke, you're wasting my valuable time!
The second round might offer some redemption.
The fighters exchanged knees, and Sakurai looked for another takedown. Unfortunately he ended up with Trigg on top of him again. Trigg battered him some more, and at one point was clubbing Sakurai with shots while he was hanging out of the ring. They are reset in the middle, and Sakurai quickly gets to his feet. In less than five seconds, Sakurai backs up and cracks Trigg with a beautiful left. Trigg pops up immediately, but Shooto has a standing eight count. Trigg is confused and angry, but he waits out the count and gets going again. They immediately clinch up after Sakurai catches him with a right, and Mach locks up the Thai clinch and lands a perfect knee to Trigg's face that crumples him to the mat. Once again he pops right up, and mocks the second standing eight count. Hands up, ready to go...until Mach immediately clubbers him with another straight right. Triggs clinches, and it's deja vu. Thai clinch, perfect knee, nighty night. Hayato Sakurai wins by knockout at 4:03 of the second round.
Immediate aftermath - Sakurai would lose his Shooto welterweight title in his next defense. To who? Anderson Silva, who defeated Mach by decision. Sakurai would then go on to challenge Matt Hughes for the UFC welterweight title at UFC 36, where he was finished in the fourth round by the future UFC Hall of Famer. Trigg won three fights in the WFA after this loss, then famously challenged Hughes for the welterweight title twice. And lost twice.
I hope you enjoyed the first edition of Forgotten Fights, or at least tolerated it. If you have suggestions for future editions, by all means include them in the comments. My only rule (and it's a big one) is - no Pride or UFC fights. They're kinda played out in this regard, and they're not very "forgotten". So...that's all for today.