MMAValor Store

The Aura of Shinya Aoki

| April 12, 2011 | 9:48 pm | Reply

This past Saturday, everyone’s favorite noodle-legged grappler returned to the cage and erased whatever bad taste was left over from his ill-fated New Years Eve Exhibition. Shinya Aoki stopped Lyle Beerbohm with a brutal neck crank a little over a minute into their bout; marking his first win under the Strikeforce bannner and his 27th win overall.

Aoki is a polarizing figure in MMA; his abrasive, cold demeanor is off-putting at times, but his ability on the ground demands respect. A black belt in both Judo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Aoki’s style is based solely upon taking his opponent down by any means necessary and applying pressure to whatever limb he chooses. Aoki’s style is one-of-a-kind and a hindrance at times, as evidenced by being completely shut down by Gilbert Melendez last year. If he can’t take you down, it seems, he has little to offer.

That said, he can take damn near anyone close to his size to ground with ease and fluidity. That, in turn, makes for some very intriguing matchups for Mr. Aoki; unfortunately, most of them have already occurred as Melendez, Eddie Alvarez and Tatsuya Kawajiri have all faced Aoki (he holds submission wins over the two latter). Realistically, a rematch with Melendez, who just had a superb return against Tatsuya Kawajiri, is a little premature, but a fresh matchup against former title-holder Josh Thompson is an appealing clash of styles. After that, though, it is hard to imagine a compelling storyline within the sport for Aoki to regain that momentum he held around the time he snapped Hirota’s arm in 2009.

Strikeforce merging with the UFC, now that both are under the Zuffa banner is a foreseeable action, but for Aoki, it could be a great way to showcase his grappling, or a doomed path in which his shortcomings play out against him. The question surrounding that is: Just how good is Melendez? If he were to triumph past the top competitors of the UFC’s lightweight division, then Aoki could make a legitimate run through the organization. But if Melendez is only as good as even the middle tier of the division, then there is little room for Aoki’s style to thrive as both an imposing force in competition and as a selling point. What he really needs is a dominating performance against a top opponent, much like his swift submission of Kawajiri in June of last year, to put a stamp on his consistency.

Aoki’s future is pending. He is still a young fighter, who, at 27 years of age, can still develop his game as a whole. No matter who he is fighting, he will always be at an advantage on the ground, and that is something to behold when forecasting exactly where someone who was conceded as the number two lightweight only a year ago will end up. The aura still remains, but the respect is something he must remain to diligent to regain.

Tags: , , , , ,

Category: Exclusive, MMA, Opinion, Strikeforce

About the Author ()

Leave a Reply