4 Reasons You Just Can't Miss Shinya Aoki Versus Marat Gafurov

In a testament to its commitment to bring fans the very best in martial arts action, ONE Championship will present its second-ever Grappling Super-Match on Saturday, 20 January.

It is a showdown between two of the world’s best ground specialists at ONE: KINGS OF COURAGE in Jakarta, Indonesia, as former ONE Featherweight World Champion Marat “Cobra” Gafurov (15-1) meets former ONE Lightweight World Champion Shinya “Tobikan Judan” Aoki (39-8, 1 NC).

The epic submission-only battle is scheduled for a single 15-minute round, with the bout declared a draw if neither athlete scores a finish. 

Both men are expert BJJ black belts with very different styles, so you will not want to miss this thrilling contest. Here are five reasons why.

#1 Their Elite Championship Credentials

On paper, the statistics behind this thrilling grappling special are simply phenomenal, which should come as no surprise given they are two of the planet’s best martial artists, being former ONE World Champions.

Before reigning supreme in ONE, Gafurov was the former M-1 Global Featherweight Champion, a two-time Russia ADCC Grappling Champion, a national Dagestan BJJ champion, as well as a FILA World Champion in both grappling and pankration.

On the other hand, Aoki’s legendary career before his ONE debut saw him win belts in Shooto, DREAM, and WAMMA, as well as claim grappling titles including the ADCC Japan Grappling Championship and two All Japan BJJ championships.

Furthermore, they both hold the most submissions and world title defenses in their respective weight classes, and have finished almost all their cage wins via tap out – Aoki has 24 to Gafurov’s 11.

#2 Both Are Eager To Get Back On The Winning Track

Gafurov entered 2017 undefeated and with the ONE Featherweight World Championship around his waist, but late in the year, he lost his perfect record and his title belt. Last August, the Dagestani was abruptly stopped by Martin Nguyen’s signature overhand right after nearly submitting him a few times in the first stanza.

Now that “Cobra” has had a little time to regroup, he is ready to jump back into the ONE cage, and do so against elite competition. Furthermore, the 33-year-old will get to compete where he is strongest – in the grappling realm. He is also sure to be incredibly motivated to get his hand raised in the ONE cage again after losing for the first time ever as a professional.

For Aoki, he is coming off back-to-back losses for the first time in his nearly 15-year career. The Japanese judo and jiu-jitsu black belt dropped the ONE Lightweight World Championship to Eduard Folayang in November 2016, and then unsuccessfully challenged Ben Askren for the welterweight world title last November.

Aoki is a consummate winner, and has always found ways to rebound after his toughest moments. The 34-year-old legend now has the chance to get some momentum rolling his way in his area of strength, and does so against a top caliber submission wizard in Gafurov.

#3 It Is An Entertaining Clash Of Styles

 This contest features a pair of athletes with distinct grappling styles. Gafurov is a takedown machine with an incredible rear-naked choke attack, whereas Aoki is a solid black belt judoka who is dangerous with throws, and possesses one of the most flexible and dynamic guard games in the entire world.

Gafurov has dominated almost all of his opponents so far in cage competition, but he has yet to face an athlete with the grappling prowess of Aoki. And unlike those other bouts, this one will be strictly contested on the ground. 

Once the action hits the mat, we may just finally see how well the European juggernaut can stave off high-level submission attempts from a true BJJ wizard who is used to operating off his back. 

#4 Fans Will Enjoy A Full 15 Minutes Of Intense Action

A single round of 15 minutes is a long time to continuously compete for. As a result, this creates a slew of unanswered questions. How will each man respond to the marathon bout duration? Will they go for broke in hopes of not having to exhaust their engines? Will one or the other play a cautious game in order to reserve energy for an explosion of activity late in the contest?

Either man is capable of winning a scramble and scoring a submission quickly, but if neither gets the other in short order, it may come down to the respective warrior’s heart and gas tank.

Often, conditioning and fatigue end up making the crucial difference in evenly-matched contests such as this one. So, whichever competitor has best adapted to the submission-only grappling rules and match duration may very well claim the win.