Two-time ONE Lightweight World Champion Shinya “Tobikan Judan” Aoki from the Evolve Fight Team is one of the most dangerous mat tacticians of all time. But if you had to describe Aoki’s professional mixed martial arts career with one word, it might be resilience.
Through a career that has lasted over 15 years, Aoki has had some ups and downs. However, one thing is for certain, you can never count the Japanese legend out of any match.
When Aoki climbs back into the ONE Circle on 13 October as a part of the spectacular ONE: CENTURY dual-show, he’ll be looking for another massive victory in front of his hometown crowd in Tokyo.
Aoki is scheduled to face former ONE Featherweight World Champion Honorio “The Rock” Banario, a prominent Filipino fighter, and a Team Lakay veteran. The match is set up to be a thrilling battle. If it lives up to its potential, the bout could be the latest in a long list of memorable scraps in Aoki’s career.
But before Aoki climbs onto the biggest global stage of martial arts competition, it’s time to take a look back at his most compelling performances. Today, Evolve Daily shares the five most memorable bouts of Shinya Aoki’s career.
1) Akira Kikuchi – February 2006 – Captured the Shooto Middleweight Championship
Aoki’s career has been packed with championship wins and defenses of those titles. He began his professional mixed martial arts career in 2003, and three years later, he had won his first title. Aoki scored a decisive unanimous-decision win over his countryman Akira Kikuchi in the first of their two battles. Aoki won both matches, but this one was perhaps the more significant of the two. This victory officially kicked off a legendary championship career that saw Aoki rise to the top of the mixed martial arts world, especially in Asia, where he has become an icon.
2) Eddie Alvarez – December 2008 – Captured Inaugural WAMMA Lightweight Championship
Aoki and Eddie Alvarez have met twice, with each man claiming a victory over the other. Many fans of ONE Championship are hoping to see the two men meet in a rubber match. Aoki took the first meeting when he caught the eager Alvarez in a heel hook in the very first round. The match was highly-anticipated as Alvarez came in as hot as any martial artist in the world. However, Aoki’s master grappling and ability to capitalize on an opening proved to be the key to arguably his most impressive victory.
3) Joachim Hansen – October 2009 – Won DREAM Lightweight Championship
The championship-winning journey continued in October 2009 when Aoki claimed the DREAM Lightweight Championship with a victory over the fierce and legendary Joachim Hansen. Like Alvarez, Aoki had several meetings with Hansen over the years. In their three series, Aoki won two bouts, including this second-round submission victory via an armbar. Hansen had knocked Aoki out in the first round a year earlier, but true to form, the Japanese legend came back better than ever to exact his revenge, and it marked another incredible run by the man known as ‘The Grandmaster of Flying Submissions.’
4) Kotetsu Boku – April 2013 – Won ONE Lightweight Championship
You could make the argument that Aoki is the most significant competitor in ONE Championship history. His presence with the promotion dates back to the organization’s beginnings. Back in 2013, when the company was just starting out, Aoki became one of its first champions when he dethroned Kotetsu Boku. The card was called ONE: KINGS AND CHAMPIONS, and Aoki lived up to the title. His grappling just overwhelmed Boku. While Boku survived the first round, the second frame brought too much pressure and submission opportunity. Almost midway through the second round, Boku was forced to tap out to a rear-naked choke. This win marked the first of two ONE Lightweight World Championship runs for Aoki.
5) Eduard Folayang – March 2019 – Regained ONE Lightweight World Championship
In November 2016, Aoki looked like an unbeatable force in ONE. He’d won five consecutive matches. He was the champion and was coming off a first-round TKO win over the iconic Kazushi Sakuraba. But that success was soon followed by heartbreak. He ran into a whirlwind in Filipino and Team Lakay veteran member Eduard Folayang. “The Landslide” defeated Aoki via third-round TKO to win the ONE Lightweight World Title.
Aoki’s battled through some tough times as he followed up that defeat with a failed attempt to move up to welterweight when he lost to then-champion Ben Askren. Showing his resilience, Aoki battled back into contention with three straight wins, and he earned another shot at Folayang last March. This time, he was ready, and it showed. Aoki took Folayang down in the first round and locked in the arm-triangle choke submission.
Folayang wouldn’t tap out, so Aoki was forced to put him to sleep. Aoki had regained the title and had captured one of the biggest wins of his career.