What would have been among the biggest fights to hardcore fans of a different era, Frank Shamrock vs. Kazushi Sakuraba, was announced on Friday at a press conference for Rizin.
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Shamrock, 44, who hasn’t fought since a 2009 loss to Nick Diaz, will face Sakuraba, 48, in a 15 minute grappling rules match on the 10/15 Rizin show at the Marine Messe in Fukuoka. Shamrock will replace Dan Henderson, who was Sakuraba’s original opponent for the show. Rizin officials said that Henderson pulled out due to a neck injury.
This will be Shamrock’s first grappling match since a 1997 submission win over Henderson. Sakuraba competed in two grappling matches in recent years, a 2014 draw with Renzo Gracie and a 2016 draw in a tag team match where he teamed with Hideo Tokoro against Kiyoshi Tamura & Wanderlei Silva, the latter on a Rizin show.
Shamrock said that Rizin first contacted him about doing the fight one week ago, and spent this past week testing his body to see how it responded before confirming the fight on Thursday.
The fight will be at 185 pounds has no judges, so if there is no submission, the match will be ruled a draw.
Rizin announced that two of the 16 fights on the show would air live on the Fuji Network, but didn’t indicate which two they would be.
The show is heavy on women fights, since women like Rena Kubota and Miyu Yamamoto have turned out to be strong television draws on network television. Both are on the show with Kubota against Andy Nguyen and Yamamoto against Irene Cabello, Rizin is using Yamamoto as part of a mother-and-son fighting on the same show, as Erson Yamamoto will face Manel Kape. Erson was an age group wrestling champion and is the nephew of Kid Yamamoto and the grandson of a well-known Japanese former Olympic wrestler Ikuei Yamamoto. In the 90s, the Yamamoto sisters, Miyu and Seiko, were both well-known world champions in wrestling, and their younger brother, Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto was at one time Japan’s biggest MMA star.
Three other stars of the past are also on the show, the famed 265-pound heavyweight Jerome LeBanner of 90s K-1 fame, now 44, will face Roque Martinez of Guam in LeBanner’s first MMA fight in seven years. Andy Souwer, another K-1 star in the lightweighgt division, will face Akiyo Nishiura. Tatsuya Kawajiri, who fought for years in UFC, will face Gabriel Oliveira in a 139 pound fight.