Japanese MMA legend Shinya “Tobikan Judan” Aoki is one of the most feared grapplers in mixed martial arts history.
The ONE Lightweight World Champion is a BJJ black belt under Yuki Nakai in Japan and trains with BJJ world champions at Singapore’s Evolve MMA. Unsurprisingly, he is now known the world over as one of the most talented submission specialists actively practicing in MMA.
Aoki has a stellar professional record of 39 wins and only 6 losses. Out of his 39 victories, a whopping 25 have come impressively by submission. That’s certainly a feat to admire, especially in the world of MMA. He has also won numerous grappling and BJJ tournaments throughout his career.
At 33 years of age, Aoki is a 13-year MMA veteran who has figured in countless cage classics, and has fought the toughest competition in Asia and beyond.
This Friday, 11 November at the Singapore Indoor Stadium, Aoki returns to the ONE Championship cage to defend his ONE Lightweight World Championship against the Philippines’ Eduard “Landslide” Folayang in a five-round main event bout at ONE: DEFENDING HONOR.
While his opponent Folayang is a talented striker, Aoki will look to apply his famous grappling techniques in order to successfully defend his belt. Let’s take a look at five of Shinya Aoki’s best submissions in his fabled career.
Aoki’s most impressive submission has come quite recently in a 2014 local bout against fellow Japanese fighter Yuki Yamamoto.
Yamamoto, looking to strike against Aoki, tried to keep the legendary grappler at bay with a few well-timed punches. Aoki, however, is a master at closing the distance and getting the single leg takedown. Once Aoki bridged the gap, he stuck to Yamamoto like glue and took him down to the mat.
On the ground, Yamamoto’s inexperience showed as he unfavorably gave up his back and Aoki saw an opening for one of the most creative submissions in existence — the ultra-rare Twister.
Yamamoto was literally left with only his right hand free, which in turn could only be used to tap out.
The Gogoplata has only been used a handful of times in the professional mixed martial arts. Ryusuke Uemura is known for being the first ever to successfully execute a Gogoplata in MMA in 2005.
Shinya Aoki however, obviously as talented as anybody when it comes to ground fighting, successfully won bouts using the Gogoplata on two occasions — against Joachim Hansen in 2006 and against Katsuhiko Nagata in 2008.
The Gogoplata is a form of a choke executed from the rubber guard for which Aoki is quite famous for. His long and flexible limbs allow Aoki to snake his shin and feet under an opponent’s neck, making this rare maneuver possible.
#3 Flying Triangle Choke
He isn’t called “Tobikan Judan” for nothing. The moniker, which Aoki has been known by for years, loosely translates to “Grandmaster of Flying Submissions”. One look at a Shinya Aoki highlight clip and you will know how he came about this unique nickname.
Aoki likes to ‘leap’ into submissions from the clinch — a common Brazilian jiu-jitsu gi technique. However, not many MMA fighters have successfully employed this type of strategy since it is very difficult to latch onto an opponent with no gi.
Aoki’s slim and flexible body composition actually help to pull of ‘flying submissions’ with ease. In 2006, Aoki executed a flying triangle choke on Clay French and it was an absolute thing of beauty.
Aoki needed just under four minutes in the very first round to submit French, and introduce the MMA world to the flying submission.
#4 Heel Hook
Heel hooks in MMA are quite common. Oftentimes, fighters get caught in simultaneous heel hooks, and it is just a normal occurrence when two high-level grapplers go to the mat and try to find openings.
However, rarely have fighters ever finished with heel hooks, unless of course your name is Shinya Aoki.
In 2008, Aoki took on current UFC Lightweight Champion Eddie Alvarez and needed a mere minute-and-a-half to nab an impressively quick heel hook submission.
Alvarez, known for his aggressiveness and high-level wrestling, tried to press the action against Aoki, moving forward behind a very stiff jab and punishing combinations. Like a true grappling master however, Aoki remained calm in the face of adversity and slowly bided his time, waiting for an opening.
As Alvarez launched a body kick, Aoki caught the kick with his hands and used that momentum to get Alvarez to the ground. Once there, Aoki found his ankle and hyperextended the joint to force the submission.
#5 Neck Crank
The rear naked choke is perhaps the most common submission in all of MMA. Fighters work to secure an opponent’s back and then utilize masterful wrist control and transitions to snake a forearm underneath an opponent’s chin to lock in the choke hold.
It sounds simple enough, however it can sometimes prove difficult to get an arm underneath the chin if an opponent plays great defense.
Shinya Aoki is one of those fighters who does not need to get that arm under the neck. What Aoki does is he places his forearm above an opponent’s mouth or cheek, and simply squeezes from there, putting pressure on the neck.
This puts anyone under intense duress, so much so that even if they are not in danger of getting choked out, they still tap from the sheer pain they experience. Aoki is a master of this move, having won using this technique a total of four times as a professional.