Aoki vs Sakurai was a good old fashioned Next Generation versus The Original Series fight, and during the build up things got pretty heated between the two fighters. Mach Sakurai was feeling like Aoki was badmouthing his style, and Aoki was … well, he WAS badmouthing Sakurai’s style. In the end though, a good one sided asskicking washes away all grudges and this fight was no exception. While Aoki was still recovering from several knees to the face, Mach offered up an olive branch:
“Because we were badmouthing each other a lot before the fight, I told him, ‘That was bad, wasn’t it? Let’s be friends now,’” Sakurai said. “But since I saw his eyes roll back and turn white when I kneed him, and he still looked pretty gone afterward, I figured the knees were probably too effective. I doubt he even remembers what I said.”
While he did not confirm that he remembered Sakurai’s request for friendship, Aoki admitted he had a newfound respect for the veteran.
“I feel like telling him, ‘Truly, thank you very much,’” he said. “I don’t have any really special feelings. I just want to tell him, ‘Sempai (Japanese for one’s senior or elder], you are strong.’”
The Aoki loss still interests me. People blame his non-existant standup and weak chin for the loss. But Aoki lost the fight ON THE GROUND after getting swept by Mach. And those knees and punches to the face would have clobbered anyone. If you want to pinpoint where shit went wrong, it was when Aoki tried to balance himself on Mach’s leg for the pass and ended up with his face pinned against the canvas. So in effect, Mach beat Aoki with jiu jitsu. Sure, the strikes finished things off, but he never would have been able to use them without superior ground control.