Shinya Aoki A Welcome Addition To The Featherweight Division

Shinya Aoki An exciting piece of news emerged this past week as ONE FC lightweight champion Shinya Aoki tweeted out a picture of him stepping on a scale with the reading being not his typical 155 pounds, but instead 145 pounds. That’s right, Aoki is likely dropping to the featherweight division, and he’ll be a welcome addition to the 145-pound weight class if he does indeed make the move. Aoki is easily one of the best submission fighters in the world and one of the best lightweights in general, as he sports an ultra-impressive 33-6 (1 NC) record, with 22 of those wins by way of submission and a 10-1 record over his last 11 fights. In addition to being the reigning ONE FC, DREAM, and WAMMA (yes, I had to put that in there) champion, Aoki is also a world champion grappler and has won numerous awards in BJJ competitions. Although he’s no world beater on the feet, he’s still an excellent fighter and is always fun to watch compete because he always goes for the finish. However, while his ground skills are no doubt among the best in the sport, Aoki was never able to get to the No. 1 position in the world at 155 pounds because of his lack of a traditional wrestling background and elite striking. Look at his two most recent losses. Against Eddie Alvarez in Bellator last year, Aoki wasn’t able to get the takedown and instead had to stand and bang with one of the best lightweight boxers on the planet; the result, not surprisingly, was Aoki being beat up so bad on the feet his corner had to throw in the towel. And in his other recent loss, against Gilbert Melendez at Strikeforce: Nashville in 2011, Aoki wasn’t able to stop his opponents takedowns and, without being able to threaten with any of his fancy submissions from his back, he ended up losing a decision. Those two losses showed that Aoki is definitely a flawed fighter, but at 145 pounds those flaws won’t be so easily exposed and that’s why I truly believe Aoki has something big to offer to 145, perhaps even contending one day for the UFC featherweight championship. Although Aoki is currently locked into a deal with ONE FC, I don’t see why he would be thinking about switching weight classes if he wasn’t at least considering coming back over to the United States, where he is only 1-2 in his career. In ONE FC (and DREAM), Aoki has been getting favorable matchups against smaller lightweight fighters and he’s handled them all with ease. He doesn’t need the added bulk against the likes of Arnaud Lepont and Antonio McKee—who are the types of fighters he’ll continue to fight if he keeps fighting overseas exclusively—and that’s why I think he must be mulling over a return to the United States to make his UFC debut. I’ve always thought very highly of Aoki as a lightweight, but I knew when he lost to Melendez he would never be able to reach the top of the division. The loss to Alvarez only accentuated that point. But at 145, Aoki is going to be a beast. So I hope he makes the drop and signs with the UFC, and if he does, don’t be surprised if we see him fighting Jose Aldo for the title next year.

Written by Adam Martin.

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