The Case for Ken

By Steven Curtis Oct 20, 2005
Two guys who don’t know when to quit just might make a very compelling match-up on Sunday.

The Kazushi Sakuraba (Pictures)-Ken Shamrock (Pictures) match-up is a masterstroke because it pits two fighters who almost single handedly built the sport of MMA in the two biggest media markets in the world. Both are pioneers. Both are tremendous promoters, mainly of themselves. Both have fought against the tide as the sport caught up with, and finally exceeded, their capabilities.

So who’s going to win?

With all due respect to my fellow Sherdog scribe James Hirth, I’m making the case for Ken.

As anyone who knows your humble correspondent can tell you, there’s no bigger Sakuraba fan than yours truly. He is possibly the most exciting fighter ever, literally inventing moves in every fight. He took it to Royce Gracie (Pictures) like no one ever had before. He spanked Ryan Gracie (literally). He destroyed Belfort. He got screwed in the first round of UFC Japan, then came back and submitted the guy who “beat” him in a matter of minutes. He choked out Rampage.

He accomplished all of this not with roids and a ripped body, but with 100 percent all natural skill and smarts — which is why he’s called the “IQ Fighter” in Japan. But he’s no striker, never has been, despite his recent knockout of Yoon Dong Sik (Pictures). And he’s going up against a guy he won’t be able to submit — Shamrock won’t make Rampage’s mistakes.

The recent Rich Franklin (Pictures) fight aside, Ken can take a pretty good shot, too. Just ask Don Frye (Pictures). He can also dish it out. Ask Alexander Otsuka (Pictures). If Sakuraba tries to jump the guard like he does against most fighters, he’s just as likely to get caught in a heel hook as he is to connect. If he plays to the crowd too much and gets sloppy, Ken will pounce with submissions of his own. Just ask Bas Rutten (Pictures), whom Ken submitted in spectacular fashion with a rear-naked choke in Pancrase many years ago.

True, Ken has slowed. And he’s been inactive. Sunday’s bout will be his fifth in the past three and a half years. After he lost to Franklin, it was clear he had basically resigned himself to quitting. Who knows what the man has been up to since April? Who knows how much time he’s had to train for this fight while Sakuraba was training in Brazil with the Chute Box crew?

But Sakuraba hasn’t exactly been lighting up the sport in the last few years either, his couple of wins coming against fighters well past their prime. So if Ken’s conditioning’s there, you have to favor The World’s Most Dangerous Man.

The beauty of MMA is that I could be completely wrong, and I know that, so you can spare yourself the “I told you so” e-mails if Saku wins. As “Cro Cop” says, “In MMA, everybody goes down.”

Regardless of the victor, my hope is that all of you — the true fans — get a spectacular fight on Sunday. After the debacle that was UFC 55, I think we all deserve it.
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