KRQE News 13 — a local New Mexico-based television station — reported earlier this week that hometown product Diego Sanchez (17-1) will fight PRIDE FC standout Hayato "Mach" Sakurai (30-7-2) at UFC 74 on Saturday, August 25 at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Nevada.
The piece was a voiceover, but I was able to track down the transcript today after a day or so of pestering the good folks at KRQE.
Here's the full snip:
"Diego Sanchez is ready to return to the UFC stage after suffering his first defeat back in April. Sanchez will has a welterweight showdown on the UFC 74 card in Las Vegas, Nevada, August 25th. He will fight Hayato Sakuri of Japan. Sanchez says if he is victorious he could get a rematch with the only man ever to defeat him ... Josh Koscheck."
At this time, no official word from the UFC or either fighter has confirmed this bout. However, the television station has to be going off of an extremely reliable source (such as Sanchez) to be reporting this news.
Sakurai fights at lightweight (161-pound limit) in PRIDE FC and has been in against a "Who's Who" of opponents throughout his career.
Caol Uno (win), Frank Trigg (win), Anderson Silva (loss), Jake Shields (loss), Ryo Chonan (loss), Shinya Aoki (win) Jens Pulver (win), Joachim Hansen (win), and Takanori Gomi (loss) to name just a few.
Hopefully, you get the point.
"Mach" also has one appearance in the Octagon to his credit, losing to Matt Hughes via technical knockout (strikes) at UFC 36: "World's Collide" in 2002.
This is a huge addition to an already loaded UFC welterweight division, and a big test for Sanchez, who is coming off of a serious staph infection and his first career loss at UFC 69.
It is no doubt still fresh on his mind if there is already talk of a rematch after the UFC 74 bout.
Sakurai is an extremely talented and experienced opponent -- one that Sanchez cannot overlook. And although Sakurai recently fought at 161 pounds in PRIDE, he is a very big 161 pounds.
Put simply, he will not be undersized as a UFC welterweight.
Unfortunately, most casual fans have probably never heard of Sakurai. But make no mistake, this is looks like an awesome fight ... on paper.