When the pair first met at ONE: DEFENDING HONOR in November 2016, it was Folayang who authored a stunning upset to claim the ONE Lightweight World Title via third-round TKO.
It was a devastating defeat for the Japanese icon, but after a period of rebuilding, he came back better than ever in 2018 with three amazing wins against some of the division’s top competitors.
The Filipino hero was also outstanding last year, as he powered past two previously-undefeated challengers before he began his second reign as World Champion with another exhilarating display.
Everything we have seen from these rivals suggests we will witness an even more exhilarating encounter at the Ryogoku Kokugikan in Tokyo, Japan on 31 March.
Shinya Aoki's performance was ___ !Download the ONE Super App now ???? http://bit.ly/ONESuperApp
Posted by ONE Championship on Sunday, 7 October 2018
Aoki’s key to victory is to get a contest to the mat, and never before has he chased a takedown with such vigor than in his last two bouts.
If he follows the template of his matches with Shannon “OneShin” Wiratchai and Ev “E.T.” Ting, Folayang will not even get a chance to threaten him with his top-class striking.
Against Wiratchai, the Japanese hero shot on his Thai opponent within 10 seconds. Though both men stayed on their feet, Aoki did not let go until the bout went to the floor. That only took another 20 seconds.
Wiratchai did not enjoy a single moment of offense as his assailant worked into mount and unloaded with ground and pound for a perfect TKO.
Ting did not land a glove, either. He was down within 20 seconds, and choked out inside a minute.
Folayang’s Fearless Striking
Will Eduard "The Landslide" Folayang’s leg kicks be his ???? to victory in Tokyo?Download the ONE Super App now ???? http://bit.ly/ONESuperApp
Posted by ONE Championship on Thursday, 20 December 2018
Despite the threat of the takedown, “Landslide” may not be as cautious as you might expect.
The World Champion’s grappling defense is now so good, he can let his kicks and punches fly without fear. He can also use his kicks as a counter to stop shots in the first place.
They also accumulated damage and ensured Pahrudinov’s strength was sapped so much, he could not explode forward by the third round.
Of course, a flying knee was also the strike that signaled the beginning of the end of the first contest against Aoki, so do not rule out an all-out striking showcase from the Filipino.
Master Of Flying Submissions
Aoki’s “Tobikan Judan” nickname translates as “Master Of Flying Submissions,” and he has recently shown why.
His defeat of Rasul Yakhyaev at ONE: UNSTOPPABLE DREAMS showed, for the first time in a while, he is not afraid to get creative and pull something crazy out of his bag of tricks to get a match-up where he wants it.
Against the Russian, it was an incredible flying omoplata that got the ball rolling – and he chained his submission attempts from there to get the stoppage.
Combined with his relentless double-leg attempts, these unorthodox maneuvers could make the battle for Folayang stay upright a white-knuckle ride.
Folayang’s Powerhouse Grappling
Folayang is no longer a through-and-through stand-up athlete who does his best work from range. He likes to mix it up on the ground, too.
In the past year, he proved that sometimes attack is the best form of defense when an opponent tried to close the distance on him. Some of Amir Khan‘s forays forward were met with powerful slams.
From there, “Landslide” would traditionally retreat to a safe distance, but he is now starting to become more confident in taking top position, and dealing damage – even against grappling specialists.
The first match between Aoki and Folayang was a thrilling game of cat and mouse, but we all knew what each man wanted to do.
Now, that is not so clear, which could mean we will see these rivals meet in the center of the cage and put on a show for the fans in attendance in Japan, and the millions watching live around the world.