DREAM Lightweight Champion Shinya Aoki recently revealed that he is among those fighters in MMA who are growing tired with the wrestling-first trend that is pervading the sport. Aoki spoke with MMAFighting.com in an interview where he criticized the American wrestling style of MMA and defended former UFC Lightweight Champion BJ Penn for his loss against Frankie Edgar.
“I am really a huge fan of BJ Penn, he is one of my favorite fighters,” Aoki said. “He lost by decision. When we look at martial arts in it’s most extreme form, we need to win by submission or knockout. In that sense, he didn’t lose. He lost that fight but he is still ‘the man’. He is still my favorite fighter.”
Aoki told MMAFighting that fighters who employ what is commonly referred to as the “lay and pray” approach to fighting are only looking to score a judges’ decision and have no desire to engage in any risky actions to get the finish.
“The American wrestling style – punching a little bit, getting a takedown and moving to side control to win the round has no risk,” the submission artist said. “It’s an easier fight. It’s just using the judges. They don’t even have to worry about injuries or anything like that. There is no risk.”
The Judo and Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt revealed that he is a fan of rival promotion the UFC but that he has been noticing the wrestling-heavy trend more within the eight-sided cage than anywhere else and that it is lowering the quality of fights in the world’s biggest mixed martial arts promotion.
“I’m a huge fan of the UFC, but I think that it hasn’t been very interesting lately,” Aoki said. “There are good fighters of course but not so many interesting fights. They punch a little bit, then get a takedown and every round is just a repetition of that.”
Aoki did point to several fighters in the UFC’s lightweight division whom he believes are exciting risk-takers that continually look for the finish; fighters of whom he claims to be a fan.
“I am a big fan of aggressive fighters like BJ Penn, Joe Stevenson, Kenny Florian, Melvin Guillard and Nate Diaz.. Everyone else is just wrestling and it’s not interesting at all,” said Aoki.
As for the overall state of the lightweight division in MMA, Aoki still holds Penn as the number one 155’er on the planet despite his two losses to Edgar and seems to only begrudgingly include “The Answer” on the list.
“BJ Penn, Eddie Alvarez, Gilbert Melendez, Frankie Edgar they are the top four. BJ Penn is still No. 1,” the controversial Japanese fighter said. “The most aggressive fighter is Eddie Alvarez. Frankie Edgar is the most defensive. When Penn lost, I didn’t lose my goal at all. It is difficult for me to see that he lost the fight.”