In , he wandered in mixed martial arts and entered Kiguchi Dojo, where he trained with Shooto members Noriaki Kiguchi and Noboru Asahi. Sakurai peppered his opponent with strikes and kicks before receiving a left hand which seemed to put him down. He recovered and injured Pulver's eye with a combo, only to immediately land a front kick directly to the same eye, but then Hayato received another sudden left hook, which anticipated a possible finish. Hughes started the match taking down Sakurai repeatedly, but the Japanese worked submission attempts from the bottom and managed to capture Hughes's back. Over the next five years he would go undefeated in eighteen bouts, representing the promotion in three consecutive victories at the renowned Vale Tudo Japan event, as well as French MMA promotion Golden Trophy Despite his revered and legendary early career some questioned if Sakurai could make an impact in the division.
During high school, he became friends with fellow combat sportsmen Michihiro Omigawa and Kazuyuki Miyata. He fought an uneventful match against the former, stopping him from passing guard for the first round and being stopped himself from passing guard in the second, before receiving some knees to the head which gained Gracie the decision; and he then lost by submission to the latter, despite him showing a better performance until the last minutes. Sakurai then defeated Kuniyoshi Hironaka via unanimous decision. Despite his revered and legendary early career some questioned if Sakurai could make an impact in the division. In a shocking start, Shibata charged across the ring and almost fell through the ropes when Sakurai dodged him, and then unloaded all his offensive with the intention to end the fight early, but Hayato took him down and punished him methodically until the stoppage. On the stand-up, he favored grinding low kicks and technical boxing along with a wide usage of knee strikes, including flying knees. Sakurai controlled the fight early on, outstriking Gono both standing and from the half guard , but eventually lost via armbar submission in the second round. Fighting style[ edit ] Sakurai was renowned for his well rounded set of skills, excelling on every field of the MMA game. In a less official light, he contended with Rumina Sato for the fastest victory at the time, knocking out Ademir Oliveira with a spectacular flying knee in 0: Trigg continued dominating through the second round, until Sakurai finally came back knocking him down with a left hook, and he managed to finish the fight with multiple knee strikes to the face, winning by KO. The match with Pulver was specially acclaimed, as it featured high speed and an exciting give and take. The fourth would see the final action, with Hughes managing to knock down Sakurai and perform ground and pound until the referee stopped the fight. Sakurai won the fight via knockout in the second round. Takanori capitalized and rained down punches on him, and although Sakurai was able to return to his feet, he was overwhelmed and knocked out with a punching combo. The fight was stopped, TKO by cut. He then lost at DREAM 10 in the semi-final of the tournament to eventual winner Marius Zaromskis in a huge upset, conceding the loss via knockout from a head kick and punches. After several minutes of attempted ground and pound by Azevedo, the fighters were stood back up. The second round saw Hayato landing a solid left hand and a knee to the head, which Hughes got back on the third by slamming the Japanese hard on the mat with a takedown and landing several strikes on the ground. Mach then consistently stuffed Azevedo's takedowns, and landed a fight-ending knee on Azevedo over his left eye. At the end, he was scouted by Shooto founder himself, Satoru Sayama , and ended joining the Shooto organization along with a young Takanori Gomi. He opened the first round against Akira Uemura, but was eliminated. He later became interested in shootboxing and joined Caesar Takeshi 's dojo , competing for his promotion during years. A few minutes into the round Sakurai attempted a judo throw, but the ring ropes got in the way and caused him to crash head first on the mat with Gomi taking his back. He won the fight via unanimous decision. Hughes started the match taking down Sakurai repeatedly, but the Japanese worked submission attempts from the bottom and managed to capture Hughes's back.
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Hayato "Mach" Sakurai Highlight
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