Hey guys, just another little opinion piece. Genki gets a lot of love on the internet, but I think his tremendous charisma and dancing often overshadow his real world talent. This is just a breakdown of some of the stuff I love about watching his fights.
Following the terrible performances put forward by former Japanese superstars at UFC 144, the age old debate over whether Japanese fighters can do well in the Octagon has sprung to light again. The main contention is that those who abandon the "Japanese style" (if there is such a thing) and adopt Yushin Okami or Tatsuya Kawajiri's style of top control based grappling are the only ones who will do well in the Octagon. In the context of this debate I would like to dust off the career of Genki Sudo for public review once again. The Neo Samurai went 2 - 1 in the UFC, the only loss being a controversial decision loss to Duane Ludwig, and one of the wins being a submission of future WEC Featherweight champion, Mike Thomas Brown.
Genki Sudo is one of the few fighters whom I really enjoyed watching when I began viewing Mixed Martial Arts bouts, before I understood the subtleties of the ground game and clinch. While he maintains a cult like following today in forums and on message boards, I wish to make the case for his being one of the best martial artists in recent history. Make no mistake, I am not claiming that he is as accomplished as an Anderson Silva, Kazushi Sakuraba or even a Frankie Edgar. I do, however, feel that Sudo embodied everything that a true martial artist should, and in many ways fought so far ahead of his time that the sport has still not caught him up, almost six years after his retirement.
The assets of Sudo's career and style which I rate so highly are:
- His unique grappling style and technique
- His willingness to give up top position
- His complete self expression
- His wins over big name competition and success in the UFC
- Having some of the finest shorts in MMA history
Any highlight video of Genki Sudo that you watch will largely focus on his unique stand up, composed of dancefloor classics and stapled together by spinning hammerfists and side kicks, but his real ability lay in his ground game. Genki Sudo came from a high school wrestling background and took up Brazilian Jiu Jitsu at the Beverley Hills Jiu Jitsu club (an old haunt of Bas Rutten) before entering mixed martial arts competition.
One of the most entertaining factors of Genki Sudo's fighting style was his complete lack of fear of being on his back. We hear so often how Brazilian Jiu Jitsu brown and black belts "aren't afraid to be put on their back", but for so few it is true. The majority of Jiu Jitsu players fear being on the bottom because their opponents are able to stall in their guard for a minute or so before a stand up, and by then have won the round on the score cards.
Sudo's lack of inhibitions about being in guard or a worse bottom position were not based in stupidity either. Sudo submitted a younger, bigger Nate Marquadt from his back with a text book armbar from the closed guard. How often do we see fighters attempt a 'salto' (gif below)? The only times I have seen this technique attempted outside of Genki Sudo's fights were by a young Kazushi Sakuraba, and by an unfortunate Japanese fighter in PRIDE Bushido (it may have been Akira Shoji) who ended up "pulling mount" as Bas Rutten put it.