“In my day”, the announcement of a non-UFC fight was big news. After all, the UFC wasn’t the only game in town. Some of the sport’s biggest stars began outside the UFC: CroCop, Fedor, Shogun, Rampage, etc. The announcement of a non-UFC fight is now just big news to fight nerds like myself. But that doesn’t matter because today we’re getting a doozy.
According to ONE officials speaking with Ariel Helwani, we’re getting former(ish) blue chip prospect Sage Northcutt vs. former legend Shinya Aoki in April.
Sage Northcutt will face Japanese MMA legend Shinya Aoki at ONE on TNT IV on April 28, ONE officials told @arielhelwani.— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) February 24, 2021
The fight will be contested in the promotion’s lightweight division, which has a 170-pound limit. pic.twitter.com/MrSIkj8rT8
It’ll be in ONE’s lightweight division (170-pound limit, as mentioned above), where Christian Lee is the current titleholder — who knocked out Aoki two years ago.
No matter how much low-hum snark you’re hearing, I love this matchup. Aoki is on a three-fight win streak, and is not a veteran who ever truly fell out of his prime. He may not be capable of his performances of yesteryear (Eddie Alvarez, Joachim Hansen, Gesias Cavalcante, and yes...that one) but his brainy grappling is well suited for an aging veteran.
As for ‘Fists of Abercrombie Fury’ I don’t think Sage has done anything to tarnish his prospect reputation. He won his last three UFC fights, and then made the young man’s mistake of ‘trading’ with an aging, but elite kickboxer in Cosmo Alexandre. Nothing to be ashamed of: that’s just a lesson learned.