by Jack Slack at Headkicklegend Following the terrible performances put forward by former Japanese superstars at UFC 144, the age old debate over whether Japanese fighters can do well in the Octagon has sprung to light again. The main contention is that those who abandon the "Japanese style" (if there is such a thing) and adopt Yushin Okami or Tatsuya Kawajiri's style of top control based grappling are the only ones who will do well in the Octagon. In the context of this debate I would like to dust off the career of Genki Sudo for public review once again. The Neo Samurai went 2 - 1 in the UFC, the only loss being a controversial decision loss to Duane Ludwig, and one of the wins being a submission of future WEC Featherweight champion, Mike Thomas Brown. Genki Sudo is one of the few fighters whom I really enjoyed watching when I began viewing Mixed Martial Arts bouts, before I understood the subtleties of the ground game and clinch. While he maintains a cult like following today in forums and on message boards, I wish to make the case for his being one of the best martial artists in recent history. Make no mistake, I am not claiming that he is as accomplished as an Anderson Silva, Kazushi Sakuraba or even a Frankie Edgar. I do, however, feel that Sudo embodied everything that a true martial artist should, and in many ways fought so far ahead of his time that the sport has still not caught him up, almost six years after his retirement. The assets of Sudo's career and style which I rate so highly are: His unique grappling style and technique His willingness to give up top position His complete self expression His wins over big name competition and success in the UFC Having some of the finest shorts in MMA history Unique Grappling Any highlight video of Genki Sudo that you watch will largely focus on his unique stand up, composed of dancefloor classics and stapled together by spinning hammerfists and side kicks, but his real ability lay in his ground game. Genki Sudo came from a high school wrestling background and took up Brazilian Jiu Jitsu at the Beverley Hills Jiu Jitsu club (an old haunt of Bas Rutten) before entering mixed martial arts competition. One of the most entertaining factors of Genki Sudo's fighting style was his complete lack of fear of being on his back. We hear so often how Brazilian Jiu Jitsu brown and black belts "aren't afraid to be put on their back", but for so few it is true. The majority of Jiu Jitsu players fear being on the bottom because their opponents are able to stall in their guard for a minute or so before a stand up, and by then have won the round on the score cards. Sudo's lack of inhibitions about being in guard or a worse bottom position were not based in stupidity either. Sudo submitted a younger, bigger Nate Marquadt from his back with a text book armbar from the closed guard. How often do we see fighters attempt a 'salto' (gif below)? The only times I have seen this technique attempted outside of Genki Sudo's fights were by a young Kazushi Sakuraba, and by an unfortunate Japanese fighter in PRIDE Bushido (it may have been Akira Shoji) who ended up "pulling mount" as Bas Rutten put it. Sudo not only accomplished this salto from an over-under position, he also had success with it from opponents having double underhooks on him, a terrible wrestling position. If more fighters were as competent fighting from traditionally disadvantageous positions as Genki, the MMA world would be a much more exciting place! Sudo was also willing to pull guard against great wrestlers such as Kazayuki Miyata (Olympic medalist). How many fighters, even today, are so comfortable that they can pull guard on even mediocre grapplers? Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Shinya Aoki are the only ones which spring to mind. Genki Sudo's confidence on his back was so great that he often attempted flying submissions against his opponents, and even threw up a jumping triangle in a kickboxing match against Masato (which took a different kind of confidence). Self Expression Genki Sudo is doubtless one of the most entertaining Mixed Martial Artists to compete in any promotion, and much of this stems from his willingness to express himself in the standing portion of the fight. Where many fighters choose to dance when they are dominating an opponent, or simply stalling (Anderson Silva, I'm looking at you), Sudo's entire striking style stemmed from his perpetual motion. Sudo's staple movements included the robot, belly dancing, and drunken style Kung Fu (complete with costume). Aside from these dances and his legendary entrances, however, Sudo was one of the most creative strikers of his day. Against Albert Kraus (a legendary Dutch kickboxer and the frst K-1 Max champion) Sudo danced back and forth, squatted on his haunches, and used Kraus' low kick to propel him into a spinning backfist! Marks are not given for self expression in fights, in fact the perception of Sudo's dancing as arrogance is likely what cost him the dodgy decision to Ludwig, but ability to confuse such high level kickboxers as Kraus and Masato on the feet with little actual training there is worthy of praise in itself. Further to this, Genki simply put on a show. Against Butterbean (yes, unfamiliar readers, that fight ACTUALLY happened), Genki Sudo chose to bounce off the ropes and throw a two footed, pro-wresting drop kick at Butterbean. Five years before Anthony Pettis' wonder kick, Genki Sudo was the closest thing we got to real life Hong Kong movie wire work. High Quality Opponents Sudo, most importantly, was not a can crusher. Even in the K-1 promotion, whose handling of the career of Sudo's rival, Kid Yamamoto, was notably slap dash. Where Yamamoto would fluctuate between fighting top ten competition, game challengers, and debuting no-hopers, Sudo was almost mostly matched against legitimate threats. The occasional match against Butterbean, Ole Larson or Ramon Dekkers is forgivable, all three could have taken his head off, but the majority of Sudo's matches came against tough and experienced fighters. Kazayuki Miyata, Royler Gracie, Damacio Page, Kenichi Yamamoto, Nate Marquadt, Mike Thomas Brown, Duane Ludwig, Kid Yamamoto, Hiroyuki Takaya. All dangerous, savvy fighters and many of whom had done or went on to do great things. Not to mention Genki's kickboxing appearances against Albert Kraus and Masato - both of whom he gave a tough fight. Genki Sudo retired in 2006 due to repeated injuries and the tedium of constantly training hurt for fights. He received his black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in 2010 (having submitted and outgrappled some of the best fighters in the world through his MMA career as a brown belt) and became the head wrestling coach for Takushoku University. He is now involved in the Olympic co-ordinations for the Japanese wrestling team and a comeback seems less and less likely with each passing year, but isn't getting out with his health what a truly smart martial artist would do?