Former ONE Lightweight World Champion Shinya “Tobikan Judan” Aoki is considered one of the most best grapplers in the world.
The bout, which takes place at the Jakarta Convention Center in Indonesia, will be contested in a single 15-minute round. The only way to victory is via submission or referee stoppage, or the result will be declared a draw.
What makes the contest intriguing is the fact they were the most dominant world champions in their respective divisions, having reigned with both the most submissions and title defenses in ONE lightweight and featherweight history.
Aoki, a judo and BJJ black belt, has long been renowned for his grappling expertise, being an ADCC Japan champion and a two-time All Japan champion. Plus, 24 career submissions claimed him the Shooto, WAMMA, DREAM titles in the cage.
In Gafurov, he faces a fellow black belt who is a Dagestan BJJ Champion, a two-time Russian ADCC Grappling Champion, and a World FILA Champion in Grappling and Pankration. That’s on top of his M-1 Global title, and 11 career submissions in the cage.
Needless to say, these two world-class champions will certainly provide fans with a shot of technical mastery. Before he climbs into the ONE cage to meet Gafurov, let’s take a look back at five of Aoki’s greatest grappling performances.
#5 Twister Against Yuki Yamamoto
There are so many ways Aoki can finish his opponents, because he has mastered so much of grappling that he knows every position on the ground. Aoki’s grappling awareness allows him to easily scout possible finishes, even ultra-rare submissions such as the Twister.
Against Yuki Yamamoto at IGF – Inoki Bom-Ba-Ye 2014, Aoki pulled off one of the most uncommon submissions in the sport with ease. While many fans were surprised at the outcome and didn’t realize what they just saw, for Aoki it was just another day at the office.
#4 Rear-Naked Choke Against Kotetsu Boku
In just his second bout for ONE Championship, Shinya Aoki challenged Kotetsu Boku for the ONE Lightweight World Championship at ONE: KINGS & CHAMPIONS. Although Boku is a tremendous martial artist in his own right, he was no match for the smooth ground game of Aoki. Although known for his great submission and takedown defense, Boku fell to Aoki quickly.
In addition, no one takes the back like Aoki does. When he gets the body triangle and snakes his arms around an opponent’s head, Aoki doesn’t need to be under the chin for the rear-naked choke. Most of the time Aoki just smothers the face or cranks the neck until his opponent taps. Kotetsu Boku was utterly powerless in trying to stop the Japanese legend.
#3 Flying Triangle Against Toshikatsu Harada
Although the majority of his game is focused on grappling, Aoki’s dominance on the mat is overwhelming. Opponents know he’s going to try and take the contest to the ground at any cost, yet they are unable to prevent it.
Toshikatsu Harada found out the hard way at IGF – Inok Bom-Ba-Ye 2013 that there was no stopping Aoki’s impeccable submissions. In a flash, Aoki leapt into a triangle and yanked on Harada’s arm until he tapped. It was a perfect showcase of how quickly things can end with the slightest mistake.
#2 Heel Hook Against Eddie Alvarez
With nearly 50 professional bouts on his resume and countless wins at grappling tournaments all across the globe, Shinya Aoki has faced the best of the best in combat sports. When he fought former world champion Eddie Alvarez in 2008 at K-1 Dynamite!! Power of Courage, Aoki took on a gargantuan challenge posed by the man known as “The Underground King”.
Although Alvarez’s heavy hands were apparent early on in the match, it was only a matter of time before things moved to the ground. Once there, Aoki truly shined. As soon as the bout hit the mat, Aoki grabbed a hold of Alvarez’s leg and never let go, quickly earning the heel hook submission.
#1 Gogoplata Against Katsuhiko Nagata
When talking about rare moves in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, the Gogoplata submission always comes up. Executed a mere handful of times in professional competition, the Gogoplata requires incredible flexibility and situational awareness. Thankfully for Aoki, his guard is widely considered one the most dangerous in the game.
There is just no respite from Aoki’s grappling game. Opponents have to constantly be on the lookout for a possible submission from any position. Because Aoki is such a master at using all four of his limbs to his advantage, opponents often don’t see the finish coming.
As Katsuhiko Nagata quickly found out at DREAM 4 in 2008, Aoki’s grappling chops were legitimate. During one exchange on the ground, Aoki comfortably went to work as expected. After spending some time in mount pounding on Nagata, Aoki showed off his flexibility by snaking in his right foot across Nagata’s neck, completing the rare finishing move.