After back-to-back losses to new lightweight champion Frankie Edgar, some people have began to believe that much of the mystique surrounding BJ Penn has worn off, and that he’s no longer the fighter he once was.
Don’t count DREAM’s often controversial lightweight champion Shinya Aoki amongst them however.
“I am really a huge fan of BJ Penn, he is one of my favorite fighters,” Aoki tells MMAFighting. “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 also praises other current UFC lightweight stars Joe Stevenson, Kenny Florian, Melvin Guillard and Nate Diaz for their ability to finish fights inside the distance.
With this in mind it’s no great surprise to hear that Aoki is amongst a growing and increasingly outspoken band of fighters who are less than impressed with a growing tendency for wrestlers to ‘lay and pray’ their way to decision victories.
“The American wrestling style – punching a little bit, getting a takedown and moving to side control to win the round has no risk. 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.”
According to the Japanese star a different philosophy to winning fights still remains in his backyard.
“Japanese MMA is totally different. We go for knockouts and submissions from the beginning and going for the decision isn’t an option.”
Aoki’s own record certainly backs up his claim – 16 of his 24 career wins so far came inside the distance, while Penn has 12 stoppages in 15 fights.
By way of contrast the UFC’s current No.1 contender Gray Maynard has just 2 finishes in 10 victories, while current champion Frankie Edgar has stopped 5 of his opponents in 13 career wins, with only 1 finish in his last 7 bouts.