An expert in both catch and submission wresting, Sakuraba first gained international attention with his fight against Royce Gracie. Requested by the Gracies, the fight had no time limit, no referee stoppage and could only be ended by knockout or submission. Unhappy with the Pride match of Sakuraba and the older Royler Gracie, they saw this as an opportunity to humble the rising Japanese star.
Lasting over 90 minutes, Sakuraba used the ever-present gi worn by Gracie as an advantage to control him on the ground. With Sakuraba's higher skill in wrestling, Royce was unable in many instances to complete takedowns or pull guard.
After employing aggressive leg kicks in the 5th and 6th round, the fight came to a close when Royce's brother, Rorion, threw in the the towel.
Sakuraba went on to capture victories against Renzo and the late Ryan Gracie. Following his match with the former, Renzo stated that Sakuraba was the "Japanese version of the Gracie family." Years later, Renzo remarked that the match was "one of the biggest lessons he learned in his life."
In his career, Sakuraba defeated 7 UFC champions. Although suffering a losing streak in the earlier part of the 21st century, Kazushi Sakuraba has no doubt gone down in history as one of the greatest contenders in MMA.