Japanese grappling sensation and mixed martial arts legend Shinya Aoki
has built a career full of defining moments, and most of the time,
it involved his opponent tapping out.
Not many people in any sport have displayed shades of greatness in
their early years the way Aoki did. On Nov. 24, 2003, he joined
West Chofu Tournament and beat two guys on the same night to become
the overall winner in what were his first two professional fights.
What’s even more impressive is the fact that he tapped out both
opponents in the first round. His real test, though, came in his
third and fifth professional fights wherein he faced and stopped
tough veterans in Seichi
On the strength of his strong showing at Deep, Aoki was signed by
and it didn’t take long for him to shine in a field of talented
Japanese fighters. After his TKO win over Kuniyoshi
, Aoki was awarded an opportunity to face Akira
for the Shooto welterweight championship. “Tobikan
Judan” was not one to waste the chance as he defeated Kikuchi via
unanimous decision. He would beat his rival again in a hard-fought
match exactly a year later. Aoki didn’t stop his championship quest
at Shooto as he would later capture multiple world titles.
Champ vs. Champ
Aoki first faced future Bellator
Ultimate Fighting Championship
lightweight champion Eddie
at Fields Dynamite 2008 and won via heel hook. With the
victory, he earned the inaugural WAMMA lightweight championship.
However, he lost to Alvarez via knockout when they met at Bellator
66 in their 2012 rematch. That was Aoki’s lone appearance in the
Santa Monica, California,-based promotion.
When Aoki entered One
, many felt he would soon become a champion. The
Evolve MMA standout made sure the assumptions were merited as he
won the One Championship lightweight title in only his second fight
for the promotion. He submitted knockout artist Kotetsu Boku
in the second round. Aoki successfully and impressively defended
the belt twice before losing it to Filipino hero Eduard
. The setback proved to be an eye opener for the
Japanese who succumbed to knees and punches in the early part of
Getting Comfy With Rematches
Coming into his rematch with Folayang, Aoki had mixed results with
rematches. But this time, he made sure to win when it mattered
most. The Japanese had the confidence of a champion, having
previously stopped Rasul
and Ev Ting
. And on
the night of March 31, a little over a month before his 36th
birthday, Aoki recaptured the belt and he did it in stunning
fashion. The Japanese stopped Folayang with a first-round arm
triangle at One Championship: A New Era.