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HAYATO SAKURAI

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Hayato "Mach" Sakurai (Japanese: 桜井マッハ速人) (August 24, 1975-) is a Japanese mixed martial arts fighter. He was born in Ibaraki Prefecture[1], Japan. His nickname, "Mach", is pronounced ma-ha in Japanese. He has a professional MMA record of 29-7-2 as of October 26, 2006. Sakurai has been fighting in mixed martial arts since October of 1996 and was at one time considered pound for pound one of the greatest fighters. He holds impressive victories over the likes of UFC Veterans Frank Trigg, Jens Pulver, Dave Menne and Yves Edwards, former Shooto 160lb Champion Joachim Hansen, Shooto superstar Caol Uno, and Luiz Azeredo. Sakurai is a very well rounded fighter who possesses a great striking skills, grappling and submission skills having finished 2nd in the Absolute Class (no weight limit) Abu Dhabi Combat Club submission wrestling annual competition in 1999.

Sakurai made his professional debut in the Shooto organization on October 4, 1996 by submitting Caol Uno. Over the next five years he would go undefeated in twenty bouts, a feat rarely achieved in professional mixed martial arts, and would win that organization's middleweight (167 lbs.) title. Sakurai was finally defeated in August of 2001 by Brazilian ace and current UFC middleweight (185 lbs.) champion Anderson Silva. After the loss Sakurai and subsequent to a severe car accident, would travel to the United States to fight the UFC's welterweight champion Matt Hughes, losing by TKO in the fourth round.

After losing to Hughes, Sakurai fought periodically in Shooto and Deep before joining PRIDE Fighting Championships, Japan's largest MMA organization. During this time he was inconsistent in his performances, often losing to much lower ranked opponents. He also attempted to fight at 183lbs., but it was clear that his frame was far to small for that weight, and his performances suffered. Some speculated Sakurai's seeming loss of spirit and mental focus came from a car accident he suffered a month before fighting Silva. However, in 2005 Sakurai regained focus and went to the US to train with legenary coach Matt Hume and AMC Pankration before rattling off 4 impressive wins against tough competition. It was announced that he would drop down to 160 lbs. in order to participate in Pride's Lightweight Grand Prix. Despite his legendary early career some questioned if Sakurai could make an impact in the division. Sakurai silenced his critics when he defeated former UFC champion Jens Pulver and former Shooto champion Joachim Hansen on the same night to advance to the tournament finals. On December 31, 2005 Sakuari fought mixed martial arts superstar Takanori Gomi for the first ever PRIDE Fighting Championships 160lb championship of the world. Although fighting with a torn ACL he sufered in training just three weeks prior to the fight, though this was not known outside of his coaching circle at the time, Sakurai initially had the upper-hand, pounding Gomi with brutal inside-leg kicks; however, after a failed judo-throw Gomi was able to get Sakurai's back and rain down strikes upon him. Sakurai was knocked out at the 3:56 mark of the first round. Despite the loss to Gomi, Sakurai would continue to impress with his performances. At Bushido 11 he scored a brutal KO over fan favorite Olaf Alfonso.[1] On August 26, 2006, Mach fought Luciano Azevedo at Bushido 12. After several minutes of attempted ground-and-pound by Azevedo, the fighters were stood back up. Mach then consistently stuffed Azevedo's takedowns, and landed a fight-ending knee on Azevedo over his left eye. The fight was stopped, TKO by cut.

Sakurai's last fight was against former King of the Cage lightweight champion Mac Danzig at PRIDE 33. Sakurai won the fight via knockout in the second round.

- From wikipedia.org

Official Website: www.machweb.jp

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