In just three days, Shinya Aoki will defend his ONE Lightweight World Title against Christian Lee at ONE: Enter The Dragon.
Aoki has a MMA record of 43 wins and 8 losses, and his first fight was back in 2003. The amount of experience under his belt is tremendous, and it may prove to be the deciding factor in this bout.
Lee first fought in 2015, and holds a 11 wins and 3 losses record. Out of his 14 fights, he has only gone the distance once against a familiar foe in Martin Nguyen, with whom he has still not beaten after two fights.
Aoki is also coming off four straight first-round finishes since May 2018, submitting Rasul Yakhyaev, Shannon Wiratchai, Ev Ting and Eduard Folayang. The Japanese star only went the distance three times over the last 20 MMA fights.
Aptly nicknamed ‘Tobikan Judan’, which translates to ‘The Grand Master of Flying Submissions’, Aoki has amassed a reputation for himself as one of the most exciting grapplers to watch in the ring.
Out of his 43 wins, 28 has come from submissions. Many pundits are both in awe and yet confused with Aoki’s fighting style; his heavy utilisation of grappling has modified his stand-up game completely to effectively take opponents down to the ground.
However, that doesn’t mean that the Japanese star cannot finish a fight with strikes – evident with his bout against Shannon Wiratchai where he managed to convert a half guard position into a full mount.
When on the ground, Wiratchai must have expected a triangle arm choke or joint-lock of some sort but Aoki instead unloaded elbows and punches on his head, and thus forcing the referee to call a stop to the match.
Aoki called out Lee, after winning the fight against Folayang, much to the surprise of most in attendance.
“He (Christian Lee) is the most promising athlete within Asia, and within ONE, so, I want to test myself against him,” said the 36-year-old.
For Lee, he may be young and talented but has some core weaknesses that can affect his match against Aoki.
Firstly, Lee is moving up one weight class. He normally competes in the featherweight division, which weighs up to 70kg. He has to put on 7kg to match Aoki in the lightweight division.
Moving up a weight class is hard, as can be seen with Conor McGregor’s fight against Nate Diaz.
Size advantage is a major factor in MMA, or at least until reaching the higher weight classes where it becomes less of an issue, exemplified by Daniel Cormier holding both the heavyweight and light heavyweight titles simultaneously.
And thus, McGregor’s eventual winning of the two division titles was voted unanimously as the most impressive two-weight win in the history of the sport, simply because of the marginally bigger difference in weight that he had to contend with.
This feat surpasses those of even legends such as Georges St-Pierre and Randy Couture.
Second, Lee’s strengths might be his downfall.
His knack for exciting finishes and determination to never quit might cost him the match.
Critics point out that when Martin Nguyen put him to sleep, it was commendable as he refused to tap out.
Aoki has broken not one, not two, but three arms in his history. Keith Wisniewski, Kuniyoshi Hironaka, and Mizuto Hirota have all felt Aoki’s wrath; albeit among other poor sportsmanlike accusations.
His explosiveness and relentless style of fighting makes him one of the most exciting prospects, but he cannot beat Aoki at his own game.
Lee has a tendency to also bring opponents down to the ground but in Aoki’s position, that would be the perfect environment he would want to conduct the fight in.
As much as Lee is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt, Aoki is an A-class Shoot wrestler and also a black belt holder in Judo and BJJ who can chain wrestler various combinations to wear him out.
Going to the ground would effectively end the match for Lee.
However, the weakness in Aoki’s game in glaring but nobody has been able to capitalise on it except Folayang in his first win over Aoki.
As Aoki’s stand-up game is wrapped completely around taking his opponents to the ground, Folayang times his knees and punches when Aoki attempts a shoot take-down.
Starting from the very beginning, that was Folayang’s game plan all along. He manages to clip Aoki in the third round during a take-down and finishes the fight seconds after it.
For Lee, his confidence is admirable but some might simply call him, ‘blinded by youth’.
“For me, the game plan is simple – just do what I do best, mix in all the ranges of martial arts, and find the finish wherever I see it.
“I feel I will finish Shinya Aoki in the first round, I will submit him or TKO him in the very first round,” he said during an interview.
Whether that may be the case, we will find out in a few day’s time.
Catch ONE: Enter The Dragon live at Singapore Indoor Stadium on May 17.
You can get your tickets here at https://www.sportshub.com.sg/ONEChampionshipLeave a comment