As the gong sounds, Aoki is on the front foot straight away, moving straight to Sakuraba with careful intent. Sakuraba immediately throws a right roundhouse to ward him off. This doesn’t stop Aoki, who smoothly takes Sakuraba down within 10 seconds of the fight starting.
From the side position, Aoki mounts Sakuraba. Sakuraba tries to escape but he cannot as Aoki lays into him with elbows and punches to the head. Sakuraba covers up desperately as both fighters remain close to the red corner.
The head punches keep coming from Aoki as Sakuraba can only cover up. He’s literally only had one kick in this fight. Every time Sakuraba tries to escape, Aoki counters and just keeps beating down on Sakuraba as blood starts coming out of his nose.
Sakuraba doesn’t fight back at all but the referee keeps the fight going. Finally Sakuraba is able to roll over into all fours position and Aoki stops the barrage of punches to try and put a submission on but Sakuraba is covering up. Aoki goes back to his fury of head punches. He is relentless in his attack.
Aoki picks up the microphone.
Sakuraba, thank you so much. I know I will never be able to replace you. Please do not retire, I want to see you fight more. Let’s grapple again soon. And now to you Mr. Chairman! You have seen what I can do in this ring right!? Next year, I want Takanori Gomi. Make the fight happen! Osu!
An interview with Shinya Aoki
First of all , what are your impressions on such a candid fight?
Leading up to the fight, I was really scared. I even watched some of Sakuraba’s fights yesterday, but the Sakuraba I trained to fight against was the Sakuraba in his heyday, 10-15 years ago. I felt like telling him that it’s time to hang up his boots but it’s clear though that Sakuraba is still enjoying himself. He doesn’t need to go anywhere just yet.
Did you tell Sakuraba that?
I told him he is still good to fight, but I also told his corner to throw in the towel and stop the fight. People are talking about the rebirth of MMA and there is a lot of hype and excitement around, and I feel like I kind of crushed the hype. That’s what I’m trying to do. I want to crush all this hype and excitement. The fight game is not about feeling happy. I’m not happy.
Are you aware just how great Sakuraba was?
The Sakuraba I fought tonight wasn’t the Sakuraba in his prime. That’s sad. That is reality. But not all is lost, you can still see it in him. Do you think I need to think like that? Nobody is happy seeing him like this. What he represents might be great, but it was painful seeing him like this.
But you said you didn’t want him to retire?
Just because he lost to me doesn’t mean everyone will tell him to retire. You can see that he still loves MMA. Even though he has slowed up and fallen down the ranks, I still want to see him grappling. The decision to retire or keep going shouldn’t be made by listening to the people around you. You have to decide that for yourself. I don’t want this fight to influence whether he retires or not.
Do you want to fight Gomi?
He’s all that’s left. If you think about how MMA was 10 years ago, it went down like this right? This kind of thing has to be planned from the beginning. I’m ready for that fight, and I think everybody wants to see it happen.