This weekend is Strikeforce: Nick Diaz vs Paul Daley which will be Strikeforce's second card under the Zuffa banner and the first major card in April. The televised portion of the card opens with a fight between Shinya Aoki and Lyle Beerbohm. Aoki, who has not fought since his loss to Nagashima at Dynamite!! looks to rebound and win Japan's independence from being a United States colony. As one of the most controversial figures in Japanese MMA, it seems fitting to discuss the best and worst moments of the Baka Survivor's MMA career.
Shooto: The Victory of the Truth - Akira Kikuchi (February 17, 2006)
When looking at high moments of Aoki's career, the first fight that really stands out is his victory over the reigning Shooto Middleweight (168 lbs) champion Akira Kikuchi. The fight is arguably the most important with the significance being Aoki's first opportunity at fighting for a major title, but also because it was the jumping off point for his PRIDE career. Kikuchi had taken the belt from Jake Shields at Shooto 2004: Year End Show, which also happens to be the last time Shields was defeated in MMA. As the fight displayed, even while young in his MMA career Aoki had one of the most impressive guards around. The bout was also surrounded by controversy as Kikuchi's teammate Norifumi Yamamoto had physically assaulted a Shooto official. The UFC was actually scouting Aoki after this fight but the contract never came together and Aoki would make his PRIDE debut at Bushido 12 instead.
PRIDE Shockwave 2006 - Joachim Hansen (December 31, 2006)
The first time these two met, the fight wasn't the original booking. Aoki's Shockwave opponent was actually announced as Gilbert Melendez at Bushido 13; however, that fight never materialized in PRIDE. Instead, Aoki was booked against top 10 Lightweight Joachim Hansen, who was the betting favorite in the Shockwave fight. Hansen was widely considered one of the best lightweights in the sport with wins over most of the top international lightweight talent in the world. The fight didn't play out how anyone in MMA thought possible. The belief was that Hansen's grappling acumen would be enough to counter Aoki's dynamic guard and the fight would be won on the feet where Hansen had the far superior stand up. Instead, the fight was over within three minutes with Aoki synching in the ridiculous submission known as the "gogoplata". Unfortunately, the win didn't propel Aoki into the PRIDE title picture as the promotion closed up shop four months later.
Dynamite!! 2008 - Eddie Alvarez (December 31, 2008)
This fight was originally set to happen at Dream 5, as the finals for the Lightweight tournament. Alvarez was forced to pull out of the finals because of a cut he received in his semi-final match with Tatsuya Kawajiri. The fight instead took place on the largest stage in JMMA at Dynamite!! 2008. The match had the added significance of crowning the WAMMA Lightweight Champion, the best lightweight fighter outside of the UFC. The fight was short and sweet with Aoki climbing on Alvarez's back after catching a kick and then rolling for a heel hook. Alvarez tried to shake out of the submission but was unable to defend and was forced to tap, but not before he sustained damage to his knee. This fight catapulted Aoki to the top of the rankings as the consensus number two lightweight behind BJ Penn. The win also set Aoki up to be the top fighter in Dream, a role that may have gone to his head.
Dream 11 - Joachim Hansen III (October 6, 2009)
The staff at FEG was smart enough to book the rubber match between Aoki and Hansen after Aoki was unable to capture the Dream Lightweight belt at Dream 5, losing in the finals of the lightweight grand prix by TKO to "Hellboy". After defeating Eddie Alvarez at Dynamite and Vitor Ribero at Dream 10, the FEG officials felt it was as good a time as any to book Aoki and Hansen for the Dream belt. Aoki and Hansen fought longer than they had in their previous two fights combined with this match deciding who was the best in Dream's lightweight division. They battled it out for almost fifteen minutes when Aoki secured the arm bar victory four seconds before the end of the round.Iit was a gutsy win and the last second submission earned Aoki the Dream Lightweight title, further securing his spot at the top of the Lightweight rankings.
Dream 15 - Tatsuya Kawajiri (July 10, 2010)
This is the fight that was years in the making. Literally years. These two men were leading similar careers with both having come up and holding belts in Shooto. Both made the transition to Pride with the company having big plans for both fighters. They were supposed to fight in Pride but as previously stated, when Pride closed its doors, the fight never came to fruition. They were supposed to finally fight at Dynamite!! 2009 but that idea was scrapped when FEG and World Victory Road teamed up to put on a super event for New Years Eve. The format for the event changed to create a Dream vs Sengoku best of nine series. The two finally met almost a full year later at Dream 15 for Aoki's Lightweight belt. Kawajiri was the favorite going into the event with most pundits believing that his wrestling and heavy handed striking would overwhelm Aoki, as the champ struggled with grinding wrestlers in previous fights. Almost immediately, Aoki was able to grab a hold of Kawajiri's leg and worked an achilles lock to defend his belt in under two minutes. This fight is the biggest win in Shinya Aoki's career.
The worst moments of Shinya Aoki's career are on Head Kick Legend.