When Aoki meets former ONE Welterweight World Title challenger James Nakashima of the United States this Friday night, the mixed martial arts veteran believes he knows exactly how to handle the confident American.
The two are set to clash in the co-main event of ONE: UNBREAKABLE, which broadcasts live from the Singapore Indoor Stadium in Singapore on 22 January.
“All of his skills are high on average. He doesn’t have any particular field that stands out and excels, but the balance of his skills are good. He does everything well,” Aoki said of Nakashima, in a recent interview with ONE Championship ahead of his next bout.
“I don’t think he has many weaknesses, but the fact that you are not outstanding in any field means, on the other hand, you cannot make a bold attempt in the bout. It means you can’t gamble or you can’t take risks.
“Martial arts doesn’t work like an admission exam for universities. Even if your average score is not great [in a fight], there’s a possibility that you can be successful just by excelling in one subject. I think that is his weakness,” he added.
Nakashima is a former ONE World Title challenger. The previously unbeaten American was most recently in the Circle with reigning ONE Welterweight World Champion Kiamrian Abbasov. Unfortunately, Nakashima fell via fourth-round technical knockout in a fight he was dominating from start to finish. After the setback, Nakashima decided to move down to lightweight where he drew Aoki.
With a whopping 28 submission victories in a career that boasts of 45 wins, Aoki believes his grappling superiority is enough to offset anything Nakashima brings to the table.
“The complicated thing about mixed martial arts is that, for example, when a person who is not good at striking faces an opponent who is good at striking. If the person has strong grappling skills, the opponent will have pressure from the grappling,” said Aoki.
“By doing so, you can negate your opponent’s striking ability. So, when people say this is a matchup between grapplers, my reaction is like, ‘Well, that’s certainly one of its aspects.”
ONE: UNBREAKABLE is ONE Championship’s first live event in 2021. The main event features a ONE Super Series showdown between ONE Bantamweight Kickboxing World Champion Alaverdi “Babyface Killer” Ramazanov of Russia, who defends his world title against #2-ranked bantamweight kickboxing contender Capitan Petchyindee Academy of Thailand.
Known as arguably the most dangerous grappler in all of mixed martial arts, “Tobikan Judan” feels he has all the tools necessary to put together a solid performance, and perhaps give the fans something special.
“I’ve been doing this [mixed martial arts] for 16 or 17 years, so I’m confident I can make something good. I can make it worth watching. I can make it like a story of good novels with great structure, quick getaway, build-up, climax, and a great ending,” said Aoki.
“I want to make something that people can enjoy and talk about for a month or two after the bout. Hopefully, something the fans can savor for a longer time.”