Shinya Aoki Excited For James Nakashima Fight

Shinya Aoki made his lone appearance of 2020 on Road to ONE 3: Tokyo Fight Night. However, at ONE: Unbreakable, he will be making his return to ONE Championship against James Nakashima. The former ONE lightweight champion last competed at ONE: Century in October 2019, where he submitted Honorio Banario in the first round.

Aoki’s opponent on January 22nd will be competing at lightweight for the first time. Nakashima went 12-1 at welterweight, before deciding to drop down a weight class. Speaking to ONE Championship, ‘Tobikan Judan’ acknowledged his opponent’s skillset and has said he is a versatile fighter.

“He is a well-rounded fighter,” said Aoki. “While nothing in particular jumps out at me, my impression of him is that he is well-balanced, both in terms of striking and grappling — just good all around. What I mean by nothing really jumps out at me, is you need to look at it from another perspective.

“Because nothing significantly jumps out at me, you don’t really know how to fight him. If you don’t know how to fight someone, you can’t just fixate on one aspect of their game. In other words, you can’t gamble. You can’t take a risk.”

“The Interesting Aspect Of Mixed Martial Arts”

There’s no question that Aoki is a high-level grappler who’s packs lethal submission skills. At the same time, Nakashima is an accomplished wrestler who competed at NCAA Division I level, in addition to being an excellent striker. The Japanese veteran believes that the variety in both their fighting styles will be what make their fight interesting.

“People may assume it will end up being a grappling match,” Aoki said. “But the interesting aspect of mixed martial arts is that, for example, if someone that isn’t a striker, goes against a good striker, and if their grappling skills are strong enough, they can apply pressure through their grappling skills.

“Based on that, the opponent’s striking skills become a weakness, and as such, it doesn’t end up being striking versus striking or grappling versus grappling. So, when people assume it’s going to be a grappling match, sure, it might be. But even historically, if two grapplers come together, it doesn’t always end up being a grappling match. It’s the same with two strikers coming together, it doesn’t necessarily mean it will be a stand-up fight.

“That is the interesting aspect of mixed martial arts. I don’t know what kind of fight it will be. I’ll have to face him and see. This is what makes it fun.”

First American Opponent In ONE

Nakashima was previously undefeated at 12-0 prior to unsuccessfully challenging Kiamrian Abbasov for the ONE welterweight title at ONE: Inside the Matrix 2. And Aoki believes the MMA Lab representative has the potential to become a contender in the lightweight division as well.

“After watching Nakashima’s last bout, he seems strong and I think he has the strength of a top contender,” said Aoki. “To be able to fight against a strong opponent, simply put, I’m grateful.

“As this is the first time I will be fighting a North American fighter on the ONE stage [since losing to Ben Askren in 2017], I’ve fought fighters from the US and beaten them before, but it’s something that I would like to do every few years or so. I’ll be 38 soon, so to be able to do something like this, I’m grateful, and to be able to take on a fight like this is exciting.”

Who will win when Shinya Aoki faces James Nakashima in the ONE: Unbreakable co-main event?

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