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Garry Tonon names Shinya Aoki and Christian Lee as the best MMA grapplers in ONE Championship

Garry Tonon (Center) believes that Shinya Aoki (Left) and Christian Lee (Right) are two of the best MMA grapplers in ONE Championship. | [Photos: ONE Championship]
Garry Tonon (Center) believes that Shinya Aoki (Left) and Christian Lee (Right) are two of the best MMA grapplers in ONE Championship. | [Photos: ONE Championship]
Ben Imperial

Having competed in both grappling matches and MMA, Garry Tonon understands that there’s a world of difference between the two sports. As such, he believes that Shinya Aoki and Christian Lee cannot be compared on the same parameters as pure grapplers.

In an interview with ONE Championship, ‘The Lion Killer’ explained that while he believes that he warrants consideration in terms of MMA grappling, Aoki should be ranked higher as he has vastly richer experience in the sport than he does:

“As far as MMA grappling is concerned, I think I'm like pretty close to the top of the list and maybe I would put Shinya above me just because he just has a lot more experience you know, but as far as integral skills are concerned… I think I've shown a lot in the Circle. I only have six fights now. But I think in the six fights that I did, there were some really sharp skills displayed."

While pure grappling matches wouldn’t allow strikes, MMA combines a host of other disciplines. Because of this, he believes that using grappling effectively in MMA takes a different set of skills, which someone like Christian Lee displays when he competes:

“You might even be able to include a guy like Christian Lee even though he's more of a well-rounded guy. I think he uses a fair degree of MMA grappling in his fights. He may not be like a submissions expert, per se. But there's a fair degree of grappling that he uses in his fights to a pretty successful degree, whether it be wrestling or grapple box, or whatever the case may be.”

Garry Tonon looks to claim his first MMA world title against Thanh Le

Garry Tonon is looking to prove that he’s not just a pure grappler anymore as he aims to dethrone ONE featherweight world champion Thanh Le at ONE: Lights Out on March 11.

Tonon has claimed multiple accolades in the grappling world and has successfully parlayed his skills while transitioning to MMA. The No.2-ranked featherweight is currently undefeated in six fights, with five not reaching the judges’ scorecards.

He will need every bit of his overall game’s improvement as he faces a dangerous striker in Le. The Vietnamese-American has a 100% finishing rate, with 11 of his 12 wins coming by way of knockout.

He claimed ONE featherweight gold by ending Martin Nguyen’s dominance in the division with a devastating barrage of punches.

At ONE: Lights Out, we will find out if Garry Tonon can win his first MMA world title or if Le can be successful in defending it in his first world title defense.


Edited by Harvey Leonard

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