Height: 5'7" (171cm)
Weight: 168 lbs
Hayato "Mach" Sakurai (August 24, 1975) is a Japanese mixed martial arts fighter, and PRIDE FC welterweight grand prix finalist. He was born in Ibaraki Prefecture, Japan. He has a professional MMA record of 30-7-2 as of February 24, 2007. 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 notable victories over Frank Trigg, Jens Pulver, Dave Menne, former Shooto 154 lb (70 kg) Champion Joachim Hansen, Shinya Aoki, Mac Danzig, Caol Uno, and Luiz Azeredo. Sakurai finished 2nd in the Absolute Class (no weight limit) Abu Dhabi Combat Club submission wrestling annual competition in 1999.His nickname, "Mach", pronounced ma-ha in Japanese, was taken as a tribute to his childhood pro wrestling hero, Higo Shigehisashi better known as Mach Hayato, the first Japanese professional wrestler to completely embrace the Mexican style of Lucha Libre and was also among the group of professional wrestlers who made the transition to shoot wrestling as part of the original UWF movement
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 and would win that organization's middleweight (167 lbs.) title. Sakurai was finally defeated in August 2001 by Brazilian ace and current UFC middleweight (185 lbs.) champion Anderson Silva. After the loss, and subsequent to a severe car accident, Sakurai traveled 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 183 lb (83 kg)., but it was clear that his frame was far too 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 after fighting Silva. However, in 2005 Sakurai regained focus and went to the US to train with legendary 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 lb (73 kg). 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 Sakurai fought mixed martial arts superstar Takanori Gomi for the first ever PRIDE Fighting Championships 160 lb (73 kg) championship of the world. Although fighting with a torn ACL he suffered 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.
A few minutes into the round, Sakurai attempted a Judo throw, which landed Gomi upon the ropes of the ring. Gomi was able to take Sakurai's back and rain down strikes upon him. Seconds after both fighters stood back up, 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. 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 fought against former King of the Cage lightweight champion and The Ultimate Fighter 6 winner Mac Danzig at PRIDE 33. Sakurai won the fight via knockout in the second round. Sakurai was then defeated by David Baron by submission in the first round. Sakurai then defeated Kuniyoshi Hironaka via Unanimous Decision.