In Kazushi Sakuraba's first MMA fight, in 1996, he submitted to an arm triangle choke from Kimo Leopoldo. In more than 40 fights since then, Sakuraba has never tapped.
Royce Gracie couldn't make him tap in a total of 105 minutes over two fights. Gracie's relatives Ralek, Ryan, Renzo and Royler couldn't make Sakuraba tap either. Neither could great submission specialists ranging from Antonio Rogerio Nogueira to Ken Shamrock.
On Saturday in Japan, Jason Mayhem Miller wants to make Sakuraba tap again.
At his press conference promoting their Dream 16 fight, Miller sounded like both a huge Sakuraba fan and a dedicated student of Sakuraba's career. But he also made it clear that he's planning to win, and win by submission.
"I want to show everyone that I am stronger," Miller said. "I hope to be the first man to submit Sakuraba here in Dream."
Miller recounted the first time he ever saw Sakuraba, hanging out with friends, watching Sakuraba's fight with Renzo Gracie at Pride 10 in 2000.
"His kimura technique broke Renzo's arm," Miller recalled. "And to me, at the time, Renzo was magic. Sakuraba, at the time, was just some Japanese guy to me. But he broke Renzo's arm and to me that was amazing, that that could happen. And I remember everyone at the party was angry or sad for Renzo but I was just amazed at the way mixed martial arts was moving. I saw the change."
Miller said that Sakuraba's success motivated him to become a well-rounded fighter, and that he largely modeled his own game after Sakuraba's. He discussed working on his wrestling with Mark Munoz, and said he's been working on his boxing as well. But submissions are still his specialty.
"I've learned to both stay away from submissions and also use my submissions to finish the fight."
That's how Miller wants to do it on Saturday.
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