Japanese submissions expert Shinya Aoki retained his lightweight title in the main event of ONE FC 19 in Dubai on Friday night, submitting Iran’s Kamal Shalorus in the first round by rear naked choke on a night that saw two new champions crowned.
In Shalorus, the slight Japanese faced a much larger opponent, a seasoned grappler and a veteran of the UFC, but he handled the Iranian easily. Aoki wasted no time in taking Shalorus down and worked to improve his position as Shalorus held his neck. When Aoki freed his head, he took mount. The challenger gave up his back when he tried to escape and Aoki sank the choke to end the bout 2 minutes, 15 seconds into the first round.
Aoki celebrated by performing pushups in the center of the cage as if to underline that he had barely broken a sweat, but in his post-fight interview, he was much more humble.
Photo courtesy of ONE FC
“To be honest, I was really scared going into the fight, so I practiced really hard for two months,” he told commentator Jason Chambers through a translator.
The win improved Aoki’s record to 36-6-0, with 24 wins by submission, while Shalorus fell to 9-4-2.
The other ONE FC champions on the card did not leave with their belts. The event’s two co-main events saw two titles change hands, with former US Olympic wrestler and Bellator MMA welterweight champion “Funky” Ben Askren making short work of Japan’s Nobutatsu Suzuki to seize the welterweight crown, while Mongolia’s Jadamba Narantungalag took the featherweight title with a dominating upset decision win over Japan’s Koji Oishi.
Photo courtesy of ONE FC
Askren went into the fight with Suzuki saying he would “take him down and keep punching him until the ref stops the fight,” and he did exactly that.
On paper, the bout was a classic grappler versus striker matchup, with the decorated wrestler facing a Kyokushin karate-based striker who had won 10 of his 11 victories by knockout.
However, the champion never had the chance to test Askren’s chin. Suzuki exhibited formidable takedown defense when he won his title against UFC veteran Brock Larson, but Askren was able to take him down almost immediately after the opening bell. Suzuki never made it back to his feet, enduring volley after volley of punches and knees until referee Oliver Coste stopped the fight at 1:24 into the first round.
The other co-main event lacked the fireworks of a quick finish, but Narantungalag claimed the title with a one-sided display as he broke Oishi down over five bruising rounds.
The fight began tentatively, with Narantungalag staking out the center of the cage and Oishi circling away from the Mongolian’s power hand, reluctant to engage, giving the round to Narantungalag by virtue of aggression and a late takedown.
In the second round, the challenger stepped up his aggression until he dropped Oishi with a straight right, leaping in with knees and punches to the grounded champion that almost finished the fight and left Oishi with his left eye swollen almost shut. Oishi rallied in the third, appearing to have the Mongolian hurt, but was unable to capitalize. Narantungalag recovered and continued to dominate, leaving Oishi fighting desperately in the final round, but outgunned. The fight ended with the Mongolian again raining punches on the head of a grounded Oishi and Narantungalag was awarded a unanimous decision.
On the undercard, former UFC standout Roger Huerta made a triumphant return to the cage after a two-year absence as he snapped a four-fight losing streak with a first-round TKO of England’s Christian Holley.
Huerta, a one-time rising star who was the first mixed martial artist to be featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated, was clearly a fan favorite.
Huerta was coming off a devastating knockout loss to Zorobabel Moreira in his ONE FC debut in June 2012 that had him contemplating retirement, but promised that the win over Holley heralded “Roger Huerta 2.0.”
The event was ONE FC’s first in the Middle East.
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