Shinya Aoki has been widely considered Asia’s best mixed martial artist, but on Friday, 26 May, he will enter the cage for a different kind of battle.
This marks the first appearance for Aoki since he lost his coveted ONE Lightweight World Championship to Eduard Folayang back in November. It may be a departure from his normal field of competition, but that is perfectly fine for the man known as “Tobikan Judan,” or “the Grandmaster of Flying Submissions”.
After all, grappling is his first love, and he has competed in numerous submission grappling matches over the years, including an exhibition bout against the famed Fedor Emelianenko. Now, he has a chance to showcase his Brazilian jiu-jitsu prowess in epic fashion.
However, getting the victory against Tonon will be a difficult undertaking. The 25-year-old New Yorker, who trains at the famed Renzo Gracie Academy, has spent the past four years competing against the best in the world.
A four-time Eddie Bravo Invitational Champion, he holds an incredible 55-19-1 record in grappling competition, with victories over the likes of Ralek Gracie, Vinny Magalhaes, and Gilbert Burns.
As this highly anticipated special attraction draws near, ONE’s trio of expert analysts weigh in and share their opinions on what is bound to be a modern-day grappling classic.
Rich Franklin, Mixed Martial Arts Legend And Former World Champion
These two grapplers are as different as night and day. Shinya is like a boa constrictor — with every little movement you give him, he just tightens more, inching his way to a superior position. Garry flows with his grappling style, and is very difficult to constrict, so to speak. It will be interesting to see which one of these two can impose their style and will on the other.
If Shinya is focused on mixed martial arts and trains six days per week, that is typically split between striking, takedowns, and his ground game. However, Garry is likely training six days per week on grappling, grappling, and grappling. Furthermore, a pure grappling match eliminates tools Shinya is accustomed to using, for example, his elbow strikes.
We are talking about two world class grapplers here, and we are splitting hairs between skill levels. Shinya has years of experience, and there is not much Garry can do that Shinya has not seen. This will be a real treat to watch since these two have clashing styles, but share many of the same tools — they both like leg locks. It is the small details between grapplers at the highest level that I appreciate.
Steve Dawson, Broadcast Analyst And TV Presenter
Firstly, it is going to be very technical. Enjoy the chess match, because there will not be any KOs here. Also, it is a marathon without a break. Fifteen minutes of technique, tactics, strength, and stamina. I love that ONE is doing this. It is a great change of pace, and a reminder of how the roots of mixed martial arts will always flourish and support the tree.
I do not believe Shinya will lose his head, and be tempted to break free from the more restricted rule set. But a sharp focus on the weapons in play will be needed, and this could be where Garry will have an advantage.
Shinya’s mind has been broadened with mixed martial arts. He will not be able to draw upon the broader techniques, but he will have overcome a wider set of barriers. Mentally, this should help the Japanese fighter. Even in the realms of grappling, he will have encountered more people who approach the sport from a variety of backgrounds, and this will give him invaluable experience.
I am a great believer that when you come home after an arduous trip away, the trials of home become less difficult. Shinya is returning to his home of grappling.
Mitch Chilson, Broadcast Analyst And Former ONE Championship Athlete
Shinya’s style is unique. He has a very cerebral approach to grappling. He will give up bad positions to catch you in strangles and joint locks.
His strength in mixed martial arts is his grappling, so he has been working on other areas in mixed martial arts like boxing and kicking. He is a gifted grappler, but has been spending a lot of time working on other things. He is a complete fighter.
Garry is an aggressive fighter with fast transitions. His biggest advantage is he spends all of his time working on one art. I like his rolling, and he moves so well. He is a high-level champion and he has won a bunch of high-level tournaments, so it is going to be interesting.