Great Fights is a series aimed at newer MMA fans who are looking for recommendations on the sport's finest bouts.
In 1999, on the cusp of a new Millennium, Caol Uno and Rumina Sato faced off at Shooto's 10-year anniversary event. The two fighters were renowned for their fast-paced fights and penchant for finishing. Uno was the consensus best 155lb'er in the world while Sato was one of the best grapplers in MMA.
11 of Sato's 12 professional wins leading up to the fight were by submission - and they weren't just your standard rear-naked chokes. No, Sato had a full arsenal of the wildest fight-ending moves. His pro debut saw him win by calf slicer which he then followed up with a flying reverse triangle. Heel hooks, armbars and kimuras would make up a large chunk of his other wins. None, however, was more impressive than his fight four months prior to facing Uno as he beat Charles Diaz by flying armbar in six seconds. Seriously, six seconds. Take a look:
Uno had just finished competing at the 1999 ADCC World Championships where he racked up a few submission wins before losing to the legendary Jean Jacques Machado. In MMA, he was undefeated under the Shooto banner and was fast becoming one of their poster boys.
Round one saw Uno start the fight with his patented flying kick attempt which Sato very calmly evaded. Immediately, Sato hunted Uno's lead leg with prodding calf kicks which allowed him to disrupt Uno's pace and get the fight to the ground. Within seconds, Sato had the body triangle and the rear-naked choke locked up. Uno desperately fought Sato's hands and turned into the choke which allowed him to survive. Sato mounted Uno's back and delivered some strikes before catching him in the exact same submission - this time, it was tighter. Uno squirmed and grimaced but, again, managed to turn himself into the choke and ended up in top position. Raining down heavy strikes, Uno had proven to the audience that he could survive on the mat against Sato. The crowd was electric; chants of "Uno! Uno!" filled the arena. While the first round had been one of total dominance for Sato, his inability to finish the fight would come back to haunt him.
In the second round, Uno tried to establish his own calf-kicking game but was repeatedly caught on the chin with sharp strikes from Sato every time he lifted his leg. Exposing Uno's lazy striking attempts, Sato managed to grab a hold of him and initiate a takedown. Uno, however, had learned his lesson from the first round and instantly hit a sweep to land in top position. He punished Sato for the remainder of the round with damaging ground-and-pound. The submission specialist was totally inept off his back. Every time he looked to lock something up, Uno would disrupt the set-up with prodding strikes to the head and body. Eventually, Uno allowed the fight back up to a standing position where he would land a few impactful strikes before the bell rang.
It was clear who had won either round but Uno certainly looked sharper and more dangerous than Sato who emptied his tank hunting for the submission in the opening frame of the fight. Despite this, Sato opened the third round with a straight right hand that forced Uno to shoot on him. And so, the scrambles would begin. The crowd noise was deafening as Uno jumped on Sato's back only to slip right off. Seconds later, Sato jumped the guillotine which Uno turned and twisted out of. Uno would hit him a few times before egging Sato back to his feet.
Uno's pace had visibly broken Sato who threw every strike in a laboured manner. When he couldn't strike anymore, Sato attempted a double-leg takedown that managed to partially get Uno down. In one swift movement, with less than a minute left of the fight, Uno framed Sato's head down and circled to his back. The crowd noise reached an emphatic climax as Uno cinched in a rear-naked choke and drew a tap out of the submission whizz.
If this fight happened today, we would still be losing our minds. Uno x Sato was way ahead of its time. From the high octane pace to the scrambles, it's a gem of a fight that has sadly gone a little forgotten.
Do yourself a favour and watch the fight!
Part One: https://youtu.be/ChNC_-sTz0Y
Part Two: https://youtu.be/TwXMqAtHIYM