The grappling ace concluded his year with a dominant win over former teammate and close friend Satoru Kitaoka at the Dream New Year’s Eve show in Japan.
Everyone saw Aoki’s stellar ground game on display as he transitioned, twisted, and turned in every way to try and finish the durable Kitaoka.
What may have been most surprising, however, was Aoki’s improved stand-up. Over the years, the biggest criticism of Aoki’s game has been his lack of striking ability, but since working with the team at Evolve MMA in Singapore, he’s started to develop his stand-up, slowly, but surely.
Against Kitaoka, Aoki managed to grab a Thai clinch a number of times, and even slammed a knee into his opponent’s face, breaking his nose. Aoki pays extreme credit to his new team for the continued evolution in his fight game.
“It is 100-percent from my training at Evolve MMA and my new coaching team,” Aoki told MMAWeekly.com about his striking in the fight with Kitaoka. “Thank you to my coaches Chatri Sityodtong, Namsaknoi Yudthagarngamtorn, and all my training partners. Actually, every area of my MMA game has improved due to my training at Evolve MMA.
“The media keeps writing about my striking training in Singapore, but people don’t realize that I train every day with world champions in every discipline at Evolve MMA. My submission game has improved tremendously at Evolve MMA. And of course, my striking and takedowns have improved. I am a much more complete MMA fighter today and I will be even better in the future because of my team, Evolve.”
Despite the long strides that Aoki has started to make, he was still his own worst critic after the fight because he wasn’t able to put Kitaoka away. He had his former training partner in as many bad spots as a fighter could end up in during a fight, but just couldn’t find the finish.
“I am grateful for the win, but I am not satisfied because I did not finish the fight,” Aoki said. “My coaches thought that I would be able to submit or KO him. My style of fighting is to finish my opponents. I don’t like decision victories. However, Kitaoka is a very tough opponent. He is my good friend and training partner for many, many years. I trained very hard for this fight and I tried to use new things.”
When the fight concluded while Aoki celebrated, Kitaoka noticeably left the ring with little fanfare, or words for his former training partner.
It was well known before the fight that Aoki and Kitaoka were longtime friends, but it seemed as if there were hurt feelings once the night was over. Aoki is hopeful to speak to Kitaoka and mend any broken fences that may have happened because of the fight.
“I hope that our friendship will return back to normal. We practically grew up together. Only time will tell, but the victory was bittersweet for me. I wish that this part of our history becomes history. Kitaoka is a great guy and a great fighter,” Aoki said.
Now that he has built up this momentum, the biggest question right now is what’s next for Shinya Aoki?
There have been longstanding rumors of Aoki traveling to the United States in 2012 for a rematch with former Bellator champion Eddie Alvarez. That fight may have taken a hit, however, when Alvarez was defeated by new champion Michael Chandler in November.
Aoki’s mind is focused on fighting the best in the world, whoever that may be, and wherever that may be.
“I want to fight the best in the world. I will fight anyone, anywhere,” said Aoki. “I don’t choose my opponents. I fight whoever they put in front of me.”
Right now it looks like Aoki will next fight on the upcoming Dream/One FC co-promoted card currently slated for March 31 in Singapore. With the “Baka Survivor” training full-time in Singapore with Evolve MMA, he’s taking it as a chance to fight in his new home, and honor his new team.
“I would like to fight in Singapore in front of all of everyone at Evolve MMA,” stated Aoki. “Evolve MMA is the No. 1 MMA camp in Asia! Thank you Evolve! Thank you Chatri!”
It appears that after a busy 2011, Shinya Aoki is committed to a very busy 2012 as well and getting back to the top of the lightweight division.