It goes without saying that a grappling match between two of the most exciting submission artists in MMA and BJJ is something special. Actually, it’s much more than that for BJJ and MMA fans – it’s like seeing their wildest (grappling) dreams come true right before their very eyes. And thanks to the wonderful people at ONE Championship, the dream will soon become a reality on May 26 at the Singapore Indoor Stadium in front of thousands of screaming fans.
Want to know what exactly makes Shinya Aoki vs Garry Tonon so exciting? Here’s why:
1) Both are devastating submission artists
DREAM Lightweight World Champion, former Shooto Welterweight World Champion, and former ONE Lightweight World Champion Shinya Aoki definitely isn’t one to shy from submissions. In fact, his nickname “Tobikan Judan” means “master of flying submissions” in English. Of his 39 wins, Aoki has won 25 via submission. And these aren’t your run-of-the-mill armbars. Aoki has pulled off some devastating submissions, including the spine-cracking twister and the infamous gogoplata.
ADCC, Pan American, World No-Gi Champion Garry Tonon on the other hand, has been racking up his fair share of wins in the grappling scene. With 41 submission wins out of 54 wins, Tonon is undoubtedly hunting for that submission every single time he steps on the mat. Most of these submission wins are heel hooks, a specialty of Tonon’s thanks to his coach, the legendary John Danaher.
2) Both always look for the finish
There’s no doubt that every time Shinya Aoki steps into the cage, the audience waits with bated breath to see which submission Aoki will pull off. Unlike most MMA fighters, Aoki is completely comfortable fighting off his back. This is a testament to his confidence in his BJJ and his ability to use his guard to end a fight. Aoki is particularly known for using the rubber guard to keep his opponent in place, a technique popularized by 10th Planet founder Eddie Bravo.
Garry Tonon’s lightning fast reflexes and willingness to put himself in precarious positions make for very exciting BJJ. Unlike other grapplers, Tonon will go for a submission, no matter what it takes – even if it means giving up a few points. Tonon is constantly attacking, waiting and baiting his opponent to give him that submission he so desperately wants. And if it’s a heel hook – all the better.
3) It will be interesting to see how MMA grappling works against submission based grappling
Although Shinya Aoki is a BJJ and Judo black belt and has competed in many grappling tournaments, grappling in the cage and submission based grappling are two completely different sports. Although some aspects remain the same, everything changes when there is striking involved. As a professional MMA fighter, Aoki has much more experience training MMA based grappling as compared to Tonon, whose grappling experience is purely submission grappling /BJJ based. However, it is interesting to note that UFC legend Georges St-Pierre has enlisted the help of Tonon in his training camp for his fight against Nick Diaz.
4) Both fighters have wins against legendary opponents
Shinya Aoki has solely focused on MMA for the majority of his career. Although he has participated in few grappling tournaments, his main focus has been his MMA career. Aoki has faced BJJ legends such as Kron Gracie, Marcelo Garcia, and Roger Gracie in grappling competitions. Garry Tonon is one of the most active competitors in submission grappling today, taking on super fights with the likes of fellow heel hook specialists Rousimar Palhares and Masakazu Imanari. Although both competitors have a long list of famous opponents, this will be the first time they will meet on the mats.
5) It will be an awesome fight between a legend vs an up-and-coming superstar
The name Shinya Aoki has long been synonymous with submissions. For 14 years, 33- year-old Aoki has been fighting professional MMA and finishing fights with various submissions. The much younger Tonon however, just received his black belt four years ago from Tom DeBlass and Ricardo Almeida and has only gained fame more recently. Although Tonon has quite a few wins (and over legendary grapplers as well including Gilbert Burns) under his belt, his career as a professional martial artist is nowhere as lengthy as Aoki’s. This fight will be an interesting showdown between old school and new school – a legend and an up-and-coming grappling superstar.
The ruleset for this match states that leg locks are permitted in this fight. It will be exciting to see Tonon try to pull off his specialty with a submission artist of Aoki’s caliber. It will also be equally exciting to see Aoki pull off a submission of his own, and establish himself as a submission artist capable of finishing a fight outside of MMA. Whatever the result may be, there’s no doubt that this will be the grappling match every BJJ/MMA fan will be talking about for years to come.