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Former ONE lightweight MMA world champion Shinya Aoki. [Image: ONE Championship]

3 must-watch Shinya Aoki fights before he steps into the Circle for what could be the last time

When looking for an athlete that ticks all the boxes in terms of status, longevity, aggression, and dominance, there's only one name that comes to mind, former ONE lightweight MMA world champion Shinya Aoki.

The Japanese megastar has participated in some of the organization’s most classic fights over the past decade. He has a career tally to a freakish 59 bouts – rarely ever heard or seen in the demanding sport of mixed martial arts.

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With him being 40 years old now, talk about retirement, unfortunately, has sprung up. But before he decides to set off into the sunset, the Evolve MMA affiliate will return for fight number 60 in his storied career at ONE 165 inside the Ariake Arena in Tokyo, Japan, on January 28.

‘Tobikan Judan’ goes toe-to-toe in a pivotal lightweight fixture versus Sage Northcutt in a match that would likely treat the fans to a high-octane performance before the main event between Rodtang Jitmuangnon and Takeru Segawa gets underway.

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Before Shinya Aoki steps back inside the Circle, let's revisit three of his best performances on the global stage of ONE Championship.


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3. Shinya Aoki vs Honorio Banario

Shinya Aoki’s aggression meter was at maximum capacity when he locked horns with Honorio Banario at ONE: Century Part II in October 2019.

With a title defeat to Christian Lee just few months prior, the legendary martial artist impressed with his fastest victory inside the Circle.

He immediately closed the distance and dragged the Team Lakay exponent to the canvas off underhooks. From there, with the ball in his court, ‘Tobikan Judan’ pinned the Filipino warrior onto the canvas via his frame and worked on a brabo choke.

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With little room to breathe and a damaged gas tank, Banario was forced to eventually tap at 54 seconds into the contest.

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2. Shinya Aoki vs Eduard Folayang II

The stars couldn’t have aligned more perfectly when Shinya Aoki ran it back with Eduard Folayang on the promotion’s debut show in ‘The Land of the Rising Sun’ in March 2019.

The Japanese martial arts icon headlined the stacked bill, and it was aptly the start of a new era at ONE: A New Era, as he left the iconic Ryogoku Kokugikan in Tokyo, Japan, avenging his series with ‘Landslide’ covered in gold confetti with the 26 pounds of gold draped on his shoulder.

After dropping his world title to the Filipino warrior in 2016, many expected that the latter would have Shinya Aoki’s number on speed dial. That, however, wasn’t the case.

Aoki turned the tide in front of his hometown fans, staying away from the world champion’s counterpunches and leg kicks to force the Team Lakay athlete into reverse gear.

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When he had his opposite number on the Circle-wall, the grappling wizard slithered in with a body lock before expertly sweeping him off his feet.

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What came next was something routine out of a Shinya Aoki textbook – a submission attempt. In the end, his arm-triangle choke left Folayang unconscious at the 2:34 mark of the match as he heralded the start of his second reign at the top of the stacked lightweight MMA mountain.


1. Shinya Aoki vs Kotetsu Boku

Shinya Aoki is the most merciless grappler in MMA. If anyone needs proof, his world title win over Kotetsu Boku at ONE: Kings and Champions showed why he has long been regarded as the purest ground game wizard across the all-encompassing sport.

After leaving Arnaud Lepont gasping for air in his promotional debut, the veteran reminded the world that he wasn’t there to make numbers as he pressed for the kill from the start of their five-round tilt inside the Singapore Indoor Stadium.

The Evolve MMA star hung onto Boku like a backpack, pummeling strikes from the top to open up his rival’s neck. Various submission attempts – a neck crank, D’arce choke, and an armbar – threatened Boku’s reign as the divisional king.

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Still, the reigning king hung on. Not for long, though.

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‘Tobikan Judan’ found another takedown in the opening seconds of the second frame, and he did not return to his feet until the victory was secured.

As he did in the first, Shinya Aoki planted strikes on ‘No Face’s’ armor, prying open his rival like a can of tuna, before he forced open an opening to lock in the match-winning rear-naked choke at 2:01 of the frame.

Though his subject of retirement is still in the air, one thing remains certain – Aoki will make his clash against Northcutt at ONE 165 next year exciting from start to finish.

Catch the former ONE lightweight MMA world champion in action and the entire card live and for free on Sunday, January 28.

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Edited by
Tejas Rathi
 
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