By Dan Paulo Errazo
One of the most highly-anticipated rematches in recent memory is set to take place at ONE: A New Era when current ONE Lightweight World Champion Eduard “Landslide” Folayang of Baguio City, Philippines defends his title against Japanese legend Shinya “Tobikan Judan” Aoki. The bout is the headliner at the historic Ryogoku Kokugikan arena in Tokyo on March 31.
The two mixed martial artists first met at ONE: DEFENDING HONOR in November 2016 in Singapore. Then, Folayang defeated Aoki with a barrage of strikes to earn a third round technical knockout.
Scoring a shocking victory over one of the most decorated Asian martial arts superstars in history, Folayang knew that a rematch was unavoidable.
“I knew that I will someday cross paths again with Shinya Aoki ever since our first encounter in 2016. It is an honor to share the cage with him for the second time,” he said.
“Aoki has been on a hot streak ever since losing the ONE Lightweight World Title. I can tell that he is hungry to get the belt back, seeing his past performances against world-class competition.”
The Filipino martial arts pioneer became ONE’s first ever two-time lightweight world champion when he defeated Amir Khan via thorough unanimous decision last November in the main event of ONE: Conquest of Champions.
With this triumph over the Singaporean, Team Lakay was able to capture its fourth ONE World Title. Now that the holiday season is over however, “Landslide” is getting ready to face his next big challenge.
“I am already doing light training for my upcoming fight. After New Year, the real work begins. I am happy that I won last month, but it’s time to move on and take on the next challenge,” he stated.
Aoki has been on a hot streak since his loss to former ONE Welterweight World Champion Ben Askren in 2017.
Since the beginning of 2018, Aoki has continuously made a case for another crack at the lightweight throne. Although the division is deep with talent ready to challenge for the title, Aoki’s three big victories over the past 12 months have really sent a message to the entire division.
He started off with a triangle choke submission of Rasul Yakhyaev in May, and followed up that performance with a thrilling technical knockout win over Shannon Wiratchai. Finally, an arm-triangle choke victory over former ONE World Title challenger Ev Ting earned Aoki a shot at the ONE Lightweight World Title.
Not long after his victory over Ting, ONE Championship Chairman and CEO Chatri Sityodtong announced that Aoki would be competing for the lightweight belt when the promotion holds its first ever event in Japan in 2019.
That event is now penned in for the Ryogoku Kokugikan arena in Tokyo on March 31. Now that Folayang is booked to make the first defense of his title against a previous foe out for revenge, the Baguio City native is hard at work preparing for one of the biggest bouts of his career.
As such, he isn’t taking Aoki lightly by any means and says the challenger would be wise to do the same for him.
“Facing someone like Aoki is never easy, but I think I have a good understanding of his style and what he brings to the table,” Folayang concluded.
“I will expect a different Aoki in Japan, and he can expect the same from me.”