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Sage Northcutt's first opponent since facial injury: Who is MMA legend Shinya Aoki?

Sage Northcutt (Left) and Shinya Aoki (Right)
Sage Northcutt (Left) and Shinya Aoki (Right)
TOP CONTRIBUTOR
Modified 25 Feb 2021
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Sage Northcutt is set to make a comeback against MMA legend Shinya Aoki at a One FC event on April 28, 2021. Super Sage was on the sidelines after he suffered severe facial injuries in his promotional debut against Cosmo Alexandre in May 2019. Northcutt's opponent Shinya Aoki is a well-known controversial figure in Asian MMA.

Who is Shinya Aoki?

Shinya Aoki is a Japanese mixed martial artist who has competed in Asian MMA promotions for most of his career, including Shooto, Dynamite!, Pride, Dream and One FC. Aoki had a short stint in American promotions Bellator and Strikeforce a decade ago. Despite being on the Pride FC roster at the time of the UFC-Pride merger, Aoki chose to sign with Asian promotions like most Japanese fighters for economic reasons.

A veteran of 56 professional MMA fights, Shinya Aoki made his professional debut in 2003 and holds a respectable 46-9 (1) record with championship titles held in One FC, Shooto and Dream FC. Irrespective of the outcome, the 37-year-old has fought some of his generation's best fighters and holds wins over legends Kazushi Sakuraba, Eddie Alvarez, Caol Uno and Tatsuya Kawajiri.

Aoki's short stint in American MMA was not successful as the Japanese lost to Gilbert Melendez and his former opponent Eddie Alvarez in StrikedForce and Bellator respectively.

Shinya Aoki vs Gilbert Melendez (Left) and Shinya Aoki vs Eddie Alvarez 2 (Right)
Shinya Aoki vs Gilbert Melendez (Left) and Shinya Aoki vs Eddie Alvarez 2 (Right)

How does Shinya Aoki fight?

Shinya Aoki is a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Judo fighter. He is a grappling ultra specialist who does not put an emphasis on other aspects of MMA. Aoki's grappling prowess and unorthodox submission techniques have earned him the nickname 'Tobikan Judan' which means 'grandmaster of flying submissions.' 30 of Aoki's 46 professional wins have come by way of submission. He was the second ever fighter to win by a gogoplata choke in MMA when he defeated Joachim Hansen in 2006, and is the only fighter to have two wins by gogoplata in MMA.

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Shinya Aoki is a competitor who started their fighting career in the ring fighting era of MMA. He struggled in the cage initially as fighting inside a tall cage adds several dimensions to fight game that do not exist in ring fighting.

Shinya Aoki is not a role model of sportsmanlike behaviour

One of the things that we love to watch in combat sports is a show of respect between fighters after the fight is over. Shinya Aoki is not someone who gives respect to their opponents when it is due. Aoki has been criticised by the MMA community for unsportsmanlike behavior in the event of a win.

After breaking Mizuto Hirota's arm to score a submission win in their 2009 bout, Shinya Aoki infamously celebrated the victory by showing middle finger to his agonized opponent. Aoki later apologized his actions but the still of the moment has become synonymous with his image.

Shinya Aoki showing middle finger to the downed Mizuto Hirota
Shinya Aoki showing middle finger to the downed Mizuto Hirota
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Aoki's last fought in January 2021 saw him defeat James Nakashima via submission in the first round. The win was his third straight since losing the One FC lightweight title to Christian Lee in May 2019. Aoki will attempt to extend his winning streak to four against Sage Northcutt.

The fight between Northcutt and Shinya Aoki is an interesting stylistic match-up. It is most likely going to result in a blow-out either way. Northcutt has a formidable striking game but lacks the necessary skill on the mat while Aoki is a grappling ultra specialist who has not worked much on his striking game.

Published 25 Feb 2021, 01:07 IST
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