Shinya Aoki cemented his status as the top lightweight in Asia by snatching the ONE Fighting Championship (FC) World Title away from compatriot Kotetsu Boku with a second-round submission win in the Singapore Indoor Stadium on Friday night.
Despite his status as the challenger, Aoki was a strong favorite going into the bout at ONE FC: “Kings & Champions,” as he was already the Dream Lightweight Champion and has beaten some of the best fighters in the world.
Boku won the belt with a victory over Aoki’s Brazilian teammate Zorobabel Moreira in October last year, but whereas Boku was able to come from behind to claim a knockout victory on that occasion, this time he was dominated from start to finish.
Aoki secured a takedown early in the opening round and attempted a series of submissions which Boku was forced to defend. The champion must have been relieved to hear the bell at the end of the round, but it proved to be a temporary respite, as he was taken down again at the start of the second stanza.
This time, Aoki was able to find a finish, sinking in a rear naked choke for the 22nd submission win of his career. The 29-year-old improved to 33-6-1 and, after claiming the belt, said he is ready to take on all comers in the ONE FC lightweight division,
“I cried after the fight because I was so happy. I fight alone in the cage, but it is a team effort and everything went according to the game plan that the Evolve MMA coaches set out for me. I am ready to defend the belt against whoever ONE FC want me to,” he said.
Earlier in the evening, the ONE FC Bantamweight Grand Prix semi-finals took place, with Kevin Belingon and Masakatsu Ueda booking their places in the final courtesy of impressive second-round stoppage wins.
Belingon, from the Philippines, knocked out Vietnamese Australian Thanh Vu in the second round, improving his record to 11-2.
Japanese veteran Ueda submitted former UFC lightweight champion Jens Pulver, also in the second round, to improve his tally to 16-2-2.
Belingon and Ueda will meet in the final in Manila next month.
ONE FC is expanding rapidly, firmly establishing itself as the most credible global challenger to the Las Vegas-based UFC and, speaking after the show, chief executive and owner Victor Cui confirmed that Taiwan featured highly on his list of future destinations.
“Our next event is May 31st in Manila at the SM Mall of Asia Arena and the next event after that is going to come very fast and it’s going to surprise everybody,” Cui said.
“After that our calendar is already set, we are back in Singapore and then Jakarta, Malaysia and we’re looking at South Korea, Hong Kong and Taiwan,” he said.