Former ONE Lightweight World Champion Eduard “Landslide” Folayang hopes that his experience in competing against Shinya “Tobikan Judan” Aoki will be enough for him to take the win when they put a lid on their rivalry this week.
Folayang and Aoki will battle for the third time, this time on the lead card of “ONE on TNT IV”, which airs live this Thursday morning in the Philippines on 29 April at 8:30 a.m. on One Sports.
The 36-year-old was initially preparing for Yoshihiro “Sexyama” Akiyama. Unfortunately, though, the Japanese judoka sustained an injury during training camp, leaving Folayang with no opponent.
Coincidentally, Aoki’s opponent for the same event in “Super” Sage Northcutt also had to pull out. That left the two legends to face one another.
“To be honest the adjustment is tough. For the longest time, we’ve had our eyes set on Akiyama. And all of a sudden we have to focus on Aoki’s expertise, which is very different from what Akiyama brings to the table,” Folayang said.
“In Akiyama, we were expecting someone with a judo base who is willing to stand and trade with you. That all changes with Aoki, who’s a pure grappler in every sense of the way. It’s a really big shift for us, but we’re doing well so far.”
While the shift is certainly big, it’s not like Folayang is taking on an unfamiliar opponent.
“Landslide” and “Tobikan Judan” have competed in two high-profile main event matches in the past. Both men have taken one bout apiece from each other.
Folayang rose to international prominence when he stopped Aoki in his tracks in 2016 to win the ONE Lightweight World Title for the first time of his career.
Aoki evened the score two years later when he submitted Folayang in the first round and became a two-time ONE Lightweight World Champion.
With that in mind, these two guys are very familiar with each other leading into this third bout.
“We’re already preparing for what Shinya plans to do, and knowing him, he plans to get the fight to the ground as early as possible. Now we’re working double-time to prevent a battle on the ground, and we’re also working on what to do just in case we’re there,” Folayang said.
“On our part, we’re looking for ways to strike Shinya when the match remains standing. As much as possible, if there’s an opening for the finish, make no mistake that we’re going for that.”
For Folayang, as long as he doesn’t become too emotional — and as long as he has learned from his second match against Aoki — he will have a good position to end this rivalry on top. It could even put him on course for one more run at a World Title.
“Before that match, I already saw that he won via arm triangle against Ev Ting, but I became too confident that I can defend that,” he said. “I overlooked just how good Shinya is when he gets the opportunity. The moment he gets his hands locked together, you’re done. That’s one thing I truly overlooked.
“I also got too casual with my kicks, and that’s what Shinya capitalized on to get me to the ground. Against him, you don’t want to be on the mat. But that’s what happened and that’s what we want to avoid.”
Catch “ONE on TNT IV” on ONE Sports or ONE Sports+ at 8:30 a.m. Philippine Standard Time (PHT) on Thursday, April 29.
Both ONE Sports and ONE Sports+ will have an encore showing at 8:30 p.m. PHT on Friday, April 30.
Also, there will be an encore showing on TV5 at 12 a.m. PHT on Sunday, May 2.
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