Coming on the heels of a barn-burner of a Muay Thai fight at ONE X between John Wayne Parr and Eduard Folayang, the seemingly ageless Shinya Aoki returned to action against former UFC fave Yoshihiro Akiyama.
Billed as a grudge match between Japanese legends, Aoki vs. Akiyama was a clash between fighters at very different points in their respective careers.
“Sexyama,” always a fan favorite, was coming off a win over Sherif Mohamed — his first in years. At 46, Akiyama’s combat sports run was coming to an end; Aoki, eight years younger, was undefeated since losing his lightweight title to Christian Lee, and still had the chance to make one last charge towards a title.
Grudge match or not — that angle of the fight seemed to center around Aoki’s disdain for Akiyama’s celebrity status and acting career — the pair touched gloves and bowed ahead of the opening bell. Once underway, Aoki immediately worked for a takedown, then took the back with Akiyama still standing. He clamped on a body lock, and began working to get under the neck of Akiyama.
Before long, the choke was in tight, and Akiyama looked to be on his way out — but he was able to fight the hands and earn a reprieve! Aoki then looked to soften his opponent up with punches, only to be warned repeatedly for hitting the back of the head.
The boost in morale from fighting off Aoki’s submission attempts, however, did not negate the fact that Akiyama had carried his opponent’s weight for an entire round. He’d fight through a neck crank late in the frame, and at least survived to see the second stanza.
In round two, Akiyama fought off an early takedown, fired a spinning backfist, then fought off a second takedown attempt and reversed along the fence. Akiyama landed a right; back in the open, Aoki returned fire. Things opened up then, Akiyama landing uppercut after uppercut; Aoki dropped to his knees for a takedown, but Akiyama began unloading with a knee and short shots. The knee really had Aoki stunned, the follow-up punches were barely defended, and that was enough to send the ref in!
That knee from Akiyama was 🤑 Complete shift of momentum in the beginning of round 2. Sexyama is a legend!! 🤣 #ONEX pic.twitter.com/H563kZhk1N
— せいじ Seiji (@HarukoHitomi) March 26, 2022
Following the win, Akiyama was awarded a $50,000 performance bonus, and declared he’d bring “more sexy” to the fights moving forward. At age 46, in the biggest event in ONE Championship history, Akiyama brought sexy back, at least for one night.
Official Result: Yoshihiro Akiyama def. Shinya Aoki by TKO, Round 2, 1:50