In a historical first, ONE Championship held a submission-only Grappling Super-Match – a pure grappling contest featuring one continuous round of 15 minutes. The only path to victory would be by submission, else the bout would be declared a draw.
Gracing the ONE Championship cage were two of the world’s top grapplers, Japanese martial arts legend Shinya “Tobikan Judan” Aoki and the United States’ Garry “The Lion Killer” Tonon. The two went head-to-head on the main card of ONE: DYNASTY OF HEROES, which took place Friday, 26 May, at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.
In an entertaining display of grappling mastery between two submission wizards, Tonon emerged victorious after catching Aoki in a heel hook halfway through the contest, and forced a tap from the former ONE Lightweight World Champion. The end came officially at 7:47.
The bout began with a thrill, as Tonon opened up with a flying armbar attempt, which Aoki evaded successfully. The Japanese legend then proceeded to take Tonon to the mat with a single leg takedown.
However, as one of the world’s most dangerous submission specialists, Tonon proved to be lethal in any position, as he immediately threatened with a reverse triangle choke. Aoki escaped, and the two combatants made it back up to their feet.
In his shining moment, Aoki made his judo skill apparent, taking down Tonon with a toss, rolling, and quickly latching onto the American’s back. The high-level grappling continued as Aoki threatened with a rear naked choke, but Tonon was able to stand back up.
However, Aoki was again able to utilize his judo to take Tonon down to the mat with a hip toss. That would prove to be his downfall. Tonon attacked Aoki’s legs, and in a flash, was able to secure the match-ending heel hook.
“That’s definitely where this train is headed next,” Tonon said, when asked if MMA was in his immediate future. “I will tell you though, heading into this bout we were prepared, but his (Shinya’s) experience shone through. I wasn’t sure I was prepared enough.”
Tonon had been toying with the idea of transitioning into mixed martial arts for some time now, and it appears the opportunity is right at his doorstep here in Asia. When pressed if he desired to tangle with Aoki again under mixed martial arts rules, Tonon was all for it.
“Give me a couple of buffer fights, and I’m ready to go. Let’s do it man!” Tonon concluded.
As for Aoki, it is a tough loss to swallow, although he lost to one of the world’s best. Speaking in his native Japanese, Aoki proceeded to thank all the fans who showed support despite his loss.
“Ever since I lost in November, I went through really tough times, but everyone around me supported me. I was able to overcome it. I really love everyone who supported me,” Aoki said.