UFC Fight Pass Announces Kazushi Sakuraba’s QUINTET Event

April is cut out to be a great month for grappling fans. In addition to the IBJJF Rio International Open Championships, a brand-new promotion was just added into the fold. Earlier today, the UFC announced that PRIDE FC legend and UFC Hall of Famer Kazushi Sakuraba’s grappling promotion, QUINTET, would debut on UFC Fight Pass on April 11, 2018.

QUINTET derives its name from the organization’s unique format. Rather than pursuing a traditional tournament-based or Super Fight oriented style, Sakuraba envisioned a team jiu jitsu event. Instead of the aforementioned formats, QUINTET features two teams of five grapplers, who will compete in a winner-stays-on system. Another rule is that each team’s combined weight must be under 430 kilograms, or 948 pounds.

Some recognizable names will be competing on April 11. Josh Barnett, the former UFC Heavyweight Champion, will be in action. Bellator and RIZIN competitor and Olympic gold medalist (Judo, 2008) Satoshi Ishii threw his name into the fold, too. Grappling family standouts Marcos de Souza and Gregor Gracie are also among those competing, as is 2017’s breakout star, Craig Jones.

The event features twenty total competitors. They will be split into four teams, who will face one another in single-elimination matches.

Sakuraba’s own team, the “Haleo Dream Team”, will be among the four. The other teams comprise of various specialists. Ishii heads the “Judo Dream Team”, Jones and Gracie head fellow jiu jitsu promotion, Polaris Pro’s, team, and Marius Zaromskis will lead the “Sambo Dream Team”.

Here’s an MMA Today breakdown of each team and its competitors:

Haleo Dream Team

Led by Sakuraba himself, the Haleo Dream Team is made up of members from various nations. Sakuraba joins Josh Barnett, Hideo Tokoro, Marcos Souza, and Diasuke Nakamura to form this team of all-stars.

Kuzushi Sakuraba

Kuzushi Sakuraba has an extensive, historic grappling resume. From his PRIDE FC days to his days in DREAM and K-1, Sakuraba amassed nineteen submission wins. In addition, Sakuraba’s legendary nickname, “The Gracie Hunter”, points to just how feared the Japanese was. By defeating a host of Gracie family members, Sakuraba etched his name in stone as one of the best grapplers of all time. In his two most recent outings, Sakuraba drew to both Renzo Gracie (Metamoris, 2014) and Frank Shamrock (RIZIN, 2017).

  • MMA veteran (PRIDE FC, DREAM, K-1, UFC)
  • UFC Hall of Fame inductee
  • Nicknamed “The Gracie Hunter”
  • 19 Submission victories (MMA)

Josh Barnett

While Josh Barnett is in the headlines following a long, arduous battle with USADA, he returns to the competition scene at QUINTET. As a former UFC heavyweight champion, Barnett’s MMA accolades are well-documented. He also brings in an extensive wealth of experience in wrestling and catch-wrestling. Barnett has an odd jiu jitsu background, however. With no training in jiu jitsu (either in the Gi or outside of it), Barnett was awarded a black belt in the art by Erik Paulson with an endorsement from Rigan Machado. Nonetheless, Barnett is a dangerous threat for anyone in this competition.

  • Former UFC heavyweight champion
  • 21 Submission victories (MMA)
  • ADCC veteran
  • Metamoris veteran

Hideo Tokoro

Adding to the Haleo Dream Team’s MMA experience is Japanese martial artist Hideo Tokoro. Tokoro, a veteran of numerous MMA promotions, has competed with Sakuraba before. The two were teammates at RIZIN FF 1 for a grappling match against Wanderlei Silva and Kiyoshi Tamura (they drew). Tokoro is known for his dizzying speed, often quickly launching himself into precarious positions. He has a strong shoot wrestling base that he uses often, as well.

  • MMA veteran (K-1, DREAM, Bellator, RIZIN)
  • 20 Submission victories (MMA)
  • Previously competed alongside Sakuraba

Daisuke Nakamura

Much like Tokoro, Nakamura also uses a shoot wrestling base to complement his action-packed grappling attack. In addition, the two have fought each other before. It was an exciting, back-and-forth battle that saw Nakamura secure the victory. Once opponents, they will now grapple alongside one another at QUINTET. Nakamura sports fifteen submission victories in his lengthy MMA career, most by armbar. In fact, Nakamura is most well-known for his armbar variations.

  • MMA veteran (DEEP, PRIDE FC, M-1, DREAM)
  • 15 Submission victories (MMA)
  • Submitted teammate Hideo Tokoro (armbar)
  • Notable for his touted armbar proficiency.

Marcos de Souza

Rounding out the Haleo Dream Team is noted Brazilian grappler, Marcos de Souza. de Souza moved to Japan in 2007, hence his proximity to QUINTET and Sakuraba. A black belt under his father, Master Adilson de Souza, de Souza has competed in a litany of competitions. He also sports (like all of his teammates) an MMA career. He’s currently 6-0 with five submission victories.

  • MMA veteran (RFC)
  • 6-0, 5 Submission victories (MMA)
  • 2005 Brazilian National Cup Champion
  • 2006 Rickson Gracie Cup Champion
  • IBJJF Asian Champion (Absolute, 2009/Absolute and Weight Class, 2010)

Judo Dream Team

The Judo Dream Team will be headed by 2008 Olympic gold medalist, Satoshi Ishii. The team comprises of various Asian Judo players, including Ishii, Dong Sik Yoon, Hyung Ju Kim, Shutaro Debana, and Michihiro Omigawa. The Judo Dream Team is one of two specialized teams, with the other being the Sambo Dream Team.

Satoshi Ishii

Leading the charge for the Judo Dream Team is Satoshi Ishii. A gold medalist in Judo at the 2008 Olympics, there are few as qualified to head such a team as Ishii. In addition to his Olympic accolades, Ishii sports a lengthy MMA career. As a powerful judoka, Ishii brings a level of diversity to the competition, as does the entirety of his team.

  • 2008 Olympic gold medalist (Judo)
  • MMA veteran (DREAM, Bellator, RIZIN, K-1)
  • 7 Submission victories
  • 2007 World Judo Championships gold medalist

Dong Sik Yoon

South Korean representative, Dong Sik Yoon, joins the Judo Dream Team next. Another MMA veteran, Dong Sik Yoon is an accomplished judoka in his own right. The third degree black belt holds numerous medals in international competition, including a 2001 bronze medal at the World Judo Championships.

  • MMA veteran (ROAD FC, PRIDE FC, K-1, DREAM)
  • 4 Submission victories (MMA)
  • 2001 World Judo Championships bronze medalist
  • 1997/200o Asian Judo Championships gold medalist

Hyung Ju Kim

A previous teammate of Dong Sik Yoon’s, Hyung Ju Kim rejoins his countryman as a member of the Judo Dream Team. Kim was on the 2001 team that took the bronze medal at the World Judo Championships, and holds a litany of other accolades. Judo is a sport that runs deep in Kim’s family, as his wife, Lee Eun-hee, is a judoka, too. Kim, unlike his previous two teammates, is not an MMA veteran.

  • 2001 World Judo Championships bronze medalist
  • 2002 Asian Games gold medalist (Judo)
  • 2000 Asian Judo Championships silver medalist

Michihiro Omigawa

While Hyung Ju Kim was no MMA veteran, Omigawa certainly is. The forty-two year old has been in thirty-one professional fights, winning seventeen. The UFC veteran has an extensive career in combat sports, from judo to kickboxing to MMA. As a judoka, Omigawa earned the silver medal at the 2001 Asian Judo Championships.

  • MMA veteran (UFC, DEEP, Sengoku)
  • 4 Submission victories
  • 2001 Asian Judo Championships silver medalist
  • 2002 Asian Games bronze medalist (Judo)

Shutaro Debana

Shutaro Debana, fighting out of Japan, rounds out the Judo Dream Team. Debana notably took the bronze medal in his weight class at the All Japan Judo Championships in 2004. Now thirty-three, Debana will be one of the three Japanese judokas to compete at Sakuraba’s QUINTET.

  • 2004 All Japan Judo Championships bronze medalist
  • 2004 Japan U20 Championships bronze medalist (Judo)

Polaris Dream Team

Unlike the Judo Dream Team, the Sambo Dream Team, or the Haleo Dream Team, the Polaris Dream Team is assembled by a grappling promotion. The United Kingdom’s Polaris Pro promotion selected some of their most notable and successful grapplers to compete as part of their team. The five grapplers include Craig Jones, Dan Strauss, Gregor Gracie, Charles Negromonte, and Caol Uno

Craig Jones

Craig Jones burst on to the scene last year at ADCC. The breakout Australian star shocked the world, submitting pound-for-pound great Leandro Lo and the uber-accomplished Murillo Santana. The leg lock specialist followed up his dark horse run with impressive outings at Polaris Pro, Kasai, and an almost unbelievable performance at EBI 14. The Aussie superstar looks to lead his Polaris Dream Team to victory as QUINTET makes its debut on April 11.

  • Polaris Pro inaugural middleweight champion
  • ADCC Trials Champion (2014/2016)
  • SUG 5 Superfight winner
  • EBI 14 finalist

Dan Strauss

A behemoth of a man, Dan Strauss is renowned for his pressure and grit. Nicknamed the “Raspberry Ape”, in part due to his eye-popping strength, Strauss wears on his opponents until they succumb to his pressure. While his power is an unmistakable factor in his success, his jiu jitsu is just as impactful. His combination of the two have led him to various victories throughout his burgeoning career.

  • ADCC veteran
  • EBI veteran
  • Polaris veteran
  • Roger Gracie black belt

Charles Negromonte

Like Dan Strauss, Negromonte is also a native of the United Kingdom. As a member of Roger Gracie’s association, Negromonte has competed in just about every major tournament there is. He’s even branched out into MMA, compiling a short, undefeated career at 2-0. Negromonte most recently became the Abu Dhabi Champion on the UAEJJF Grand Slam Tour.

  • MMA veteran (Total MMA)
  • 2 Submission victories (MMA)
  • Abu Dhabi Champion – UAEJJF Grand Slam Tour (2018)
  • IBJJF European No-GI Open Champion (2015)
  • CBJJ Brazilian National No-Gi Championship (Absolute/2014)
  • IBJJF World No-Gi Championship 3rd Place (2015)

Gregor Gracie

Gregor Gracie, 31, is a black belt under the great Renzo Gracie. Gracie put together an incredibly impressive career as a colored belt to good use, accomplishing a great deal of things as a black belt, including a successful transition to MMA. The ONE FC veteran has competed at the highest levels of jiu jitsu, and looks to add to his resume here at QUINTET.

  • MMA veteran (ONE FC, WSOF)
  • 6 Submission victories (MMA)
  • ADCC bronze medalist (2009)
  • 4-Time Grapplers Quest Champion
  • World No-Gi Championship silver medalist (2008)

Caol Uno

Rounding out the Polaris Dream Team is MMA legend Caol Uno. The longtime veteran brings a wealth of experience to the table, with over fifty MMA matches to his credit. As a grappler, Uno has competed at the highest levels of the sport, and has previously fought in team-style competitions. A native of Japan himself, Uno may face to face off against his countrymen. If his team advances, both Judo Dream Team and Haleo Dream Team have Japanese competitors.

  • MMA veteran (Shooto, UFC, DREAM, K-1)
  •  18 Submission victories (MMA)
  • ADCC veteran

Sambo Dream Team

Last but not least is the Sambo Dream Team. Much like the Judo Dream Team, all of these grapplers are talented specialists in their respective fields. Marius Zaromskis, Mykyta Mikhno, Teodoras Aukstuolis, Mindaugas Verzbickas, and Sergej Grecicho make up the Sambo Dream Team. 

Marius Zaromskis

Zaromskis, an accomplished MMA fighter, is more known for his standup attack than his grappling. A black belt in Kyokoshin Karate and a decorated kickboxer, Zaromskis superb sambo often goes unheralded. The Lithuanian has competed around the world in MMA, and was even the DREAM welterweight champion of the world.

  • MMA veteran (Bellator, DREAM, Strikeforce, Cage Rage)
  • 1 Submission victory
  • Former DREAM welterweight champion
  • Strikeforce welterweight title challenger

Mykyta Mikhno

Mikhno, of Ukraine, is a martial artist as well as a sambo practitioner. The Bellator and RFP veteran has three submission wins to his name, and also is a former European Combat Sambo Champion. Mikhno, the only non-Lithuanian on the Sambo Dream Team, poses a threat to all competitors in QUINTET.

  • MMA veteran (Bellator, RFP)
  • 3 Submission victories (MMA)
  • European Combat Sambo champion

Teodoras Aukstuolis

Aukstuolis is a decorated sambo practitioner and martial artist. As a light heavyweight, Aukstuolis currently competes in RIZIN. With dozens of minor tournament wins under his belt, and several major accomplishments, Teodoras Aukstuolis is a veteran of the sport. Aukstuolis’ size and demonstrable power should make him a dangerous opponent. 

  • MMA veteran (RIZIN, Bushido)
  • 3 Submission victories (MMA)
  • World Sambo Championships silver medalist (2017)
  • Combat Sambo Lithuanian champion

Mindaugas Verzbickas

Mindaugas Verzbickas is also an MMA veteran. Having competed across Europe, Verzbickas has built up a wealth of experience. Like his teammates, Verzbickas is also a European Combat Sambo champion. Along with his teammates, that Combat Sambo skillset should serve Verzbickas well in the tournament. 

  • MMA veteran (ACB, KSW, Bushido)
  • 9 Submission victories (MMA)
  • Combat Sambo European champion

Sergej Grecicho

The final member of the Sambo Dream Team is Sergej Grecicho. Grecicho is perhaps the most accomplished sambo competitor on the team. From his three gold medals at the Sambo World Championships to his lengthy MMA career, Sergej Grecicho has used his skillset to prove himself one of the best in the world. 

  • MMA veteran (ACB, KSW, Shooto)
  • 20 Submission victories (MMA)
  • 3-Time World Sambo Championships gold medalist (2007/2009/2012)
  • World Sambo Championships silver medalist (2010)
  • 2-Time World Sambo Championships bronze medalist (2008/2015)

The opening round will be contested as follows, with the winner of each side of the bracket meeting in the finals:

The event will take place in Tokyo, Japan, at the legendary Ryogoku Kokugikan Sumo Hall. The Wednesday, April 11 event will stream live on UFC Fight Pass (at around 4:30 AM EST).

In a February press release, Sakuraba said: “We are planning 3 events this year, the first in Japan and then England and then America where grappling competitions are popular these days. The rules are being adopted to not restrict grappling arts fighters from the likes of Jiu-Jitsu, Judo, Wrestling and Sambo.”

The promotion will be airing as part of the UFC’s second annual “PRIDE NEVER DIE” week. The week is dedicated to remembering the legends of PRIDE FC, where Sakuraba made his mark. Sakuraba, a grappling legend, ventures into promoting with the debut of QUINTET.

For more on Sakuraba’s novel promotion, check out these great pieces from Eric Kowal (here), and Raphael Garcia (here).

Follow @MMATodayNews on Twitter and check out MMA Today’s website for the latest in the world of mixed martial arts.

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Hey, all! My name is Michael Fiedel, and I'm from Fort Lauderdale, Florida. I love everything there is about MMA, particularly jiu jitsu. I do my best to cover what's going on in the sport, and my favorite thing to do is cover up-and-coming prospects. Thanks for reading!