There is a lengthy history of pro wrestlers crossing over into MMA. From the nascent days of this sport, professional wrestlers have indulged their desire to go from work to a shoot. In this episodic series, I will review fights where pro wrestlers foray into the combat world. It’s like a weird, violent version of IMDB and I am DB (Dylan Bowker). This is Pro Wrestlers in MMA #5: Kazushi Sakuraba vs Marcus Silveira I and II.
Pro Wrestlers In MMA
Nowadays, Sakuraba competes in some submission grappling with cemented legend status in MMA. He is a UFC hall of famer and was fittingly inducted into the pioneer wing. Silveira also has an impressive fight legacy of his own. He now imparts his wisdom to the next generation of prizefighters out of ATT. 1997 was quite a different time for these martial artists though. Sakuraba has been part of many tournament structures in his career. The story of Ultimate Japan unfurled in an especially unique fashion though.
Both of these Sakuraba vs Silveira bouts took place in a single night due to some situational circumstances. Both were making their UFC debuts and the size disparity was evident. Sakuraba was six inches shorter and forty pounds lighter than the hulking Silveira. Both men came ou feinting with Sakuraba eventually level changing and taking Silveira to the mat. Saku would posture up and eventually stand up as both men looked for leg locks.
Silveira eventually turns the tides and gets a body lock takedown on Saku. He began working for a kimura but Sakuraba scrambles out. Silveira ramped up the volume of his strikes and began landing several hooks as well as uppercuts. Saku shoots for a single leg and as he works for an ankle, the fight is halted. John McCarthy thought Saku was out and the crowd booed the premature stoppage as Sakuraba looked visibly upset.
Sakuraba and Silveira would run it back later on in the evening after UFC’s sanctioning body rules the fight was stopped too early. This is the info relayed on the broadcast which is curious because Japan is known for not having any kind of regulatory body (ergo it was an arbitrary change from UFC).
In any event, a path is cleared for the sequel with a victorious Tank Abbott suffering a hand injury. This injury from the Anjo fight left him unable to compete and Saku assumed his spot. As Sakuraba is pacing the backstage area with Nobuhiko Takada by his side, Bruce Buffer tells the live crowd the first bout was declared a draw.
Silveira looked to put Saku away early. He quickly assumed the center of the cage and began slinging leather. The two lock up in a folkstyle clinch and jockey for position. Silveira would press Saku into the fence and secures a body lock takedown. Sakuraba began looking for the wrist right away but a subsequent scramble led to both standing again. Silveira began looking to get an arm under Saku’s chin but the Japanese MMA veteran got the takedown.
Silveira is up high on Saku’s back and is raining down punches. Sakuraba would flow through into Silveira’s open guard. The catch wrestling vet would maneuver with great efficiency from half guard to side control. From there Sakuraba works for the armbar and secures the submission in what was a gorgeous sequence overall.
An amazing turn around performance for Saku after the nature of the first bout. Kazushi Sakuraba, a natural welterweight by today’s standards, wins a one-night heavyweight tournament in what would be the only UFC foray of his legendary career.
Kazushi Sakuraba (vs Marcus Silveira): 7/10