Shinya Aoki sports 18 first-round finishes on his resume. | Photo: Taro Irei/Sherdog.com
Editor’s note: In an effort to bring more attention to the global stage of mixed martial arts, this list does not focus on North American-based major promotions such as the Ultimate Fighting Championship, Bellator MMA and World Series of Fighting.
Shinya Aoki has decided to chart a new course.
The reigning One Fighting Championship lightweight titleholder will downshift to 145 pounds at One FC 11 “Total Domination,” as he locks horns with Cody Stevens on Oct. 18 at Singapore Indoor Stadium in Kallang, Singapore. The main card will be available via Internet pay-per-view, while the prelims will stream live and free to Sherdog.com.
One of MMA’s most feared grapplers, Aoki has delivered 22 of his 33 career victories by submission. The 30-year-old former Dream and Shooto champion last fought at One FC 8 in April, when he coaxed a tapout from Kotetsu Boku with a second-round rear-naked choke. Aoki, who holds the rank of black belt in judo and Brazilian jiu-jitsu, has posted 10 wins in his past 11 appearances, losing only to onetime Bellator lightweight boss Eddie Alvarez. Wins over Satoru Kitaoka, “Razor” Rob McCullough, Joachim Hansen (twice), Tatsuya Kawajiri and Gesias Cavalcante anchor his lengthy resume.
Stevens has spent much of his career traversing the regional MMA circuit in America. The 31-year-old Ohioan last competed at a Revelation Fight Organization event in August, when he earned a unanimous decision over “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 14 graduate Dustin Neace at the Richland County Fairgrounds in Mansfield, Ohio. Stevens has been finished only once in 17 professional appearances, and he has never been submitted.
The Aoki-Stevens scrap is but one under-the-radar matchup worth monitoring during the month of October. Here are nine more:
Legacy Fighting Championship 24
Oct. 11 | Dallas
Olympic medals lend a certain amount of credibility to athletes transitioning from amateur wrestling to mixed martial arts. The youngest American wrestler ever to strike gold at the Olympics, Cejudo has hit the ground running in MMA, finishing his first four opponents inside the first round. The 26-year-old last appeared under the Gladiator Challenge banner in May, when he needed less than two minutes to dispatch Miguelito Marti with punches. Hollis, 24, will enter the cage on the strength of a four-fight winning streak.
Championship Fighting Alliance 12
Oct. 12 | Coral Gables, Fla.
Sampo has emerged as one of the top flyweights not currently under contract with the UFC. The 29-year-old “Gremlin” captured the Championship Fighting Alliance’s 125-pound crown in January, when he utilized a fifth-round guillotine choke to become the first man to finish American Top Team’s Villa. Sampo has won six of his past seven bouts and will defend his title for the first time when he squares off with Thao at CFA 12. Thao has rattled off four straight wins and owns a pair of victories over Roufusport’s Omar Choudhury.
Road Fighting Championship 13
Oct. 12 | Gumi, South Korea
Nam and Kume will duke it out for the Road Fighting Championship lightweight title, as they collide for the second time in six months. Nam edged his Japanese counterpart via controversial decision in the Road FC lightweight grand prix final in April. Kume now has an opportunity to avenge the defeat, which snapped his career-best nine-fight winning streak. Nicknamed “The Korean Bulldozer,” Nam has yet to lose in six outings for the Road FC organization.
One FC 11 “Total Domination”
Oct. 18 | Kallang, Singapore
Unification bouts wield an energy all their own. Reigning One FC bantamweight champion Kim will clash with interim titleholder Fernandes in the One FC 11 main event, unifying their 135-pound straps in the process. Fernandes, who has won 13 of 14 fights since suffering back-to-back defeats to Urijah Faber and Norifumi Yamamoto, captured his interim championship with a unanimous verdict over Koetsu Okazaki in May. Kim, 21, won the inaugural One FC 135-pound title with a violent technical knockout against Leandro Issa a year ago. He has not fought since.
XFC 26 “Night of Champions 3”
Oct. 18 | Nashville
One of the top lightweights in the Southeast, Holtzman will defend his Xtreme Fighting Championships title against Carroll at XFC 26. The undefeated 30-year-old won the promotion’s 155-pound championship with a second-round TKO against John Mahlow in June. The well-traveled Carroll has already tested himself against high-caliber opposition, including former Ring of Combat champion Uriah Hall, “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 17 alum Clint Hester and UFC veteran Nissen Osterneck.
Deep “Tribe Tokyo Fight”
Oct. 20 | Tokyo
Chonan -- immortalized by his flying scissor heel hook submission of Anderson Silva in Pride Fighting Championships nine years ago -- will call it a career after he challenges Bellator Season 2 welterweight tournament finalist Hornbuckle in Tokyo. The 36-year-old “Piranha” has compiled a solid 6-3 mark since being released by the UFC after his unsuccessful stint in the Octagon concluded with a split decision defeat to T.J. Grant in April 2009. Hornbuckle, the current Deep welterweight champion, saw his modest two-fight winning streak halted when he was outpointed by Dennis Hallman on Aug. 30.
Fight Nights “Battle of Moscow 13”
Oct. 26 | Moscow
A two-time UFC heavyweight champion, Sylvia will try to avoid the second three-fight losing streak of his career when he travels to Russia to tackle the once-beaten Magomedov. Now 37, “The Maine-iac” has become something of a vagabond since exiting the UFC in February 2008, as he has suited up for 11 different promotions. The 6-foot-8 Sylvia last fought in May, when he was on the wrong side of a doctor’s stoppage against American Kickboxing Academy export Tony Johnson at a One FC show in the Philippines. Magomedov already holds a victory over one former UFC heavyweight champion, having downed Ricco Rodriguez in March 2012.
MMA Attack 4
Oct. 26 | Gdansk, Poland
Sajewski made a splash on the international scene in 2010, when he handed fellow Polish prodigy Marcin Held his first career defeat. While Held has since branched out to Bellator, the “Wookie” continues to ply his trade in his native Poland. The undefeated 22-year-old Sajewski will have a go at Murch in his first appearance with the MMA Attack promotion. All six of Murch’s losses have come by submission.
Cage Fury Fighting Championship 28
Oct. 28 | Atlantic City, N.J.
The vacant Cage Fury Fighting Championships lightweight crown will be up for grabs when AMA Fight Club’s Brenneman tackles Baker at CFFC 28. The 32-year-old Brenneman holds a perfect 3-0 record since being released by the UFC following consecutive losses to Erick Silva and Kyle Noke, having successfully downshifted to 155 pounds. Known for a punishing and relentless clinch game, Baker, 32, has not tasted victory in more than two years. Brenneman and the “Alley Cat” were originally scheduled to face one another in August, but an injury forced Baker to withdraw.