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How Can We Take Shinya Aoki Seriously When He Doesn't Have a Chin?


Above: Sakurai vs. Aoki at Dream.8.

I love watching Shinya Aoki fight. He has such a unique style, and is such a submission wizard, that he'll always have a place in MMA. But at Dream 8, it was abundantly clear that while Aoki is a great submission grappler, he isn't a great mixed martial artist.

Aoki was knocked out by Hayato "Mach" Sakurai just 27 seconds into the first round of a fight that consisted of Sakurai kneeing Aoki in the face, knocking him cold and viciously pummeling him before the referee could save him. The fight showed that Aoki shouldn't have moved up from lightweight to participate in the Dream Welterweight Grand Prix, but it also showed that there's a simple game plan for beating him: Hit him, and hit him hard.

Also, memo to the people out there trying to claim Aoki is a better lightweight than B.J. Penn: Just stop. He's not. I don't care whether they're fighting at 155 pounds, 170 pounds or anywhere else, Penn would destroy Aoki.

This might come across as too negative, so let me repeat: I love watching Shinya Aoki fight. But I was wrong to list him in my top 10 pound-for-pound before, and I won't make that mistake again. Aokihas an exciting submission style, but he's a one-dimensional fighter.