5 Defining Moments: Shinya Aoki

By Mark Raymundo May 24, 2019

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.

Exceptional Debut

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 Deep’s 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 Ikemoto and Keith Wisniewski.

Shooto King

On the strength of his strong showing at Deep, Aoki was signed by Shooto and it didn’t take long for him to shine in a field of talented Japanese fighters. After his TKO win over Kuniyoshi Hironaka, Aoki was awarded an opportunity to face Akira Kikuchi 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 MMA and Ultimate Fighting Championship lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez 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.

Failed Defense

When Aoki entered One Championship, 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 Folayang. The setback proved to be an eye opener for the Japanese who succumbed to knees and punches in the early part of round three.

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 Yakhyaev, Shannon Wiratchai 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.

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