He holds more top 10 wins than any lightweight past or present, and his résumé stands him in good stead to be considered the #1 lightweight of all time. The “Tobikan Judan”, Master of Flying Submissions, Shinya Aoki.
He is obviously on the brink of becoming a fully fledged One FC fighter, not merely participating in it as part of a co-promotion with DREAM in Japan. And the rumours of his next opponent are particularly juicy ones for the Asian MMA circuit; Roger Huerta, former UFC star and one of Phuket Top Team’s One FC stable; recent Strikeforce title challenger Jorge Masvidal, who may or may not be casting his gaze eastwards, Olé Laursen, the Filipino-Dane with a penchant for entertaining wars and brawls, and finally a man Aoki has already faced; current featherweight star and former #1 ranked lightweight Tatsuya Kawajiri, “The Crusher”!
Personally, outside of a Melendez rematch and an Alvarez rubber match, these are some of the most intriguing bouts Aoki could be thrown in. Huerta was a rising star and poised for greatness in the UFC, before a series of injuries, layoffs, and subsequent losing performances to such elite fighters as Eddie Alvarez and Gray Maynard, and finally a shock defeat in a tune-up fight to War Machine (which Huerta competed in with a broken rib) meant that his stock, which was riding the crest of a wave, plummeted to the depths of the ocean. But in One FC, the still immensely popular, entertaining and dangerous Huerta will undoubtedly make his name, and push on to the very top of the division again. A fight with Aoki – ranked between #2-#10 since 2006 – resulting in Huerta victory would make him an indisputable elite lightweight once more.
Laursen and Kawajiri are no brainers. Laursen is an entertaining K-1 style technical brawler, whereas Crusher – who has competed against K-1 great Masato in K-1 itself – is a wrestler but with heavy hands and a decent overall striking game. Crusher has already come a-cropper versus the wily submission artist Aoki, losing by heel hook merely a minute into their 2010 bout, but he is always dangerous, as his career renaissance at featherweight can attest to.
Masvidal is perhaps the most intriguing of all rumours. A former street brawler turned well rounded Mixed Martial Artist, Jorge was a contender in both Sengoku and Bellator before moving on to challenge for the world championship against the #1 lightweight in the world, Gilbert Melendez. While he lost, there is no shame in going the distance with the best current 155lbs fighter in the world, and Masvidal is a constantly improving, rugged, tenacious fighter. His wrestling and striking would be pitted against the incredible submission abilities of the Evolve man in Shinya, and with Masvidal still being considered top 10 talent, should that fight come to fruition, it would certainly be one of One FC’s more relevant fights with regards to Asian supermacy of a division, and even standing on the world stage. Masvidal vs. Aoki is a borderline top 5 fight, with the greatest lightweight in history facing a man who just came up second best to the current champion.
Either way, I look forwards to seeing The Tobikan Judan regain some of that confidence, and do what he always does after a high profile loss – go on a five-to-ten fight win streak and a divisional tear. Chok dee Shinya, chok dee old boy.