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Measuring a Rankings Fall: Shinya Aoki Edition

In the wake of Shinya “The Man In Tights” Aoki’s TKO loss to “Mach” Sakurai at Dream.8, a lot of MMA pollsters are debating what this does to Aoki’s status in the lightweight division and his pound-for-pound ranking.  As we’ve said in the past, rankings are mostly useless speculation, but fun nonetheless, so we’ll entertain for the moment the idea that this is worth debating.  

When determining how Aoki deserves to fall in the rankings, you have to take a few different factors into consideration:

1) Quality of Opponent
The simple rule is, if you lose to a guy you were expected to lose to, you don’t suffer much from it.  It basically means you, like the Chicago Bears, are who we thought you were.  But if you lose to a guy you were expected to beat, like a Paulo Thiago, it can hurt you bad.  Sakurai is a solid fighter.  He’s been around forever, has beaten some good fighters and lost to some great fighters.  He consistently hangs around the perimeter of the welterweight top ten, so there’s no shame in dropping a fight to him, at least if you looked like you belonged in there with him.  Which leads us to our next variable…


2) The Nature of the Loss
Whether we admit it or not, how you lose means a lot.  A hard-fought decision loss might mean you don’t drop in the rankings, or, in the case of a heavy underdog like Takeya Mizugaki, it might even move you up a notch or two.  On the other hand, a quick knockout loss like the one Aoki suffered never really helps, especially when you didn’t show much of a chin in the process.  But then, it’s not as simple as if he lost to another lightweight…  

3) Fighting Out of the Weight Class
Aoki went up to welterweight, at least technically, to take this fight.  He didn’t see fit to put on much weight for the move, and we’re guessing he might have regretted that at around the same time Sakurai was sweeping him with all the effort required to get out of bed in the morning.  Still, he gets some points for going up and accepting the challenge.  Just like B.J. Penn didn’t lose his spot as the top lightweight after losing to the top welterweight in GSP, you have to cut Aoki some slack because of the difference in size.  Then again, Penn hung tough for four rounds before throwing in the towel, so we’re back to our first criteria, or possibly…

4) The Fluke Factor
The only way you get a break on a quick knockout loss is if people are willing to believe that your loss might have been a freak occurrence.  Urijah Faber’s status following his loss to Mike Brown is perhaps the best example of this.  Brown moved ahead of Faber in most people’s featherweight ranks, but Faber is still a fixture in the pound-for-pound rankings and Brown doesn’t always get mentioned.  So how is a guy considered a better pound-for-pound fighter than the dude from the same weight class who beat him?  The answer is, we’re not completely sure he could do it again.  

For Aoki, the Fluke Factor is probably no help.  This is his second loss to Sakurai, and by far the less impressive of the two.  You could potentially argue that Sakurai is to Aoki as Dennis Hallman is to Matt Hughes, but if you’re going to make that argument you’d better be a relative of Aoki’s.  Otherwise you just look stupid.

So what, if anything, have we learned here?  Aoki deserves to fall in the rankings.  Maybe not as a lightweight, since he technically didn’t lose as a lightweight (although Sakurai could probably make 155 with a week’s notice if he had to, which makes Aoki’s WAMMA title even more ridiculous), but he showed that if he is still a top ten pound-for-pound fighter, he’s hanging on to the tenth spot by his fingernails. 

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nippletwist- April 7, 2009 at 8:44 pm
i think the reason aoki should remain in the top ten p4p is not only because of his accomplishments, but because of his style. you can easily make the argument for him being the best jiu-jitsu practitioner in MMA. maia is the only other guy i can think of who is capable of racking up wins against elite competition using only his jiu-jitsu skills. who else has beaten the best of the best with pretty much only their jiu-jitsu?

who else has a ground game so feared and respected that they can chase their opponent around the ring with butt-scoots?

he's too unique to be left out of the top ten p4p. i think hanging him around the 9 or 10 spot is the perfect place for a guy like him.
Jonny5- April 7, 2009 at 8:25 pm
Neither Aoki or Faber were in my top ten p4p. Mike Thomas Brown is #10 p4p on my list(and I cant put Aoki or Faber ahead of him). As far as the LW rankings I leave Aoki rite there at #2 right behind Penn. So anyone else frustrated by the fact that the top 2 LW's have fought at 170 and lost in their last fight?
Danal White- April 7, 2009 at 7:52 pm
>when you didn’t show much of a chin in the process.

A couple of knees to the face proves nothing about your chin.

You might as well say that Jacare has a weak chin because Mousasi knocked him out with one upkick.

He wasnt Sliced falling backwards (or do we say Manhoefed this month?) which is what would be a good definition of a weak chin.
WalksInTheDarkness- April 7, 2009 at 4:07 pm
My one question is: Who has BJ Penn fought at light weight? And what makes him the number one light weight? In the past two and a half years, he's fought 3 light weights, Jens Pulver (who now makes feather weight), Joe Stevenson (who doesn't make anyone's top ten) and Sean Sherk. BJ Penn would like to think he could make the grade at welter weight and has found out that putting on extra fat doesn't help when it comes to fight night. His last three fights at welter weight have been losses (GSP, Matt Hughes and GSP). He gets very far on natural ability but when his cardio is called into question he is always found to be lacking.

As for Tyson Griffin and Sean Sherk, how about calling out a bunch of fighters that actually finish fights and don't just out wrestle their opponents. Sherk tried to stand and bang against BJ and looked like an amateur. Tyson Griffin is a trooper and works very hard for 15 minutes but does nothing with the position he gains (5 decision wins in a row says something about a fighter). It's not about the wins, it's about the finishes.

Now, Shinya Aoki. He As for Todd Moore (who's back Aoki ran up) and David Gardner (who's back he controlled for the entire fight), Aoki put on jiu jitsu clinics. He fights whoever the promoters put in front of him. He fought 7 times in 2008 and has already fought twice in 2009. BJ has fought three times in about the same amount of time. The UFC may own the best in the rest of the divisions but they have to understand that the best heavy weight and light weight reside outside of their organisation. If BJ Penn really wants to fight the best light weight in the world he'll have to move out of the UFC.
Anonymous- April 7, 2009 at 3:07 pm
By the way, I like the knees to the head. Imagine how many half-assed guillotine attempts and lay and pray fests it would prevent in the UFC. Bring it on.
Anonymous- April 7, 2009 at 3:05 pm
I think most are being too kind here...

Aoki got absolutely handled. Punked on the ground and knees and straight shots to the face to finish. Absolutely merked!!!!
Stuck at Work- April 7, 2009 at 2:29 pm
Aoki honestly should fall in the rankings, and that is ignoring the fact that he is horribly overrated. Quality of Opponent should drop him as I am pretty sure that he was the favorite in this fight. The nature of the loss should count against him because in 2 of the past 4 of his fights, and 2 of the last 3 of his fights against quality opponents, he has been knocked out spectacularly. Going up in weight shouldn't matter either, especially since you have to consider the fact that the only time Mach fights at welterweight is when he doesn't feel like cutting to lightweight. Most of his fights of note were fought at lightweight. Lastly, there is no fluke to this if you look at the fight. You can ignore the fact that Sakurai already beat him once, but going back to the earlier argument about the way he has been knocked out recently, its not much of a fluke. Its even less of a fluke when you consider that Sakurai beat Aoki at ground fighting, you know, the thing that he does so well that got him ridiculously overrated to begin with.

Plus, he lost even with wearing the Aoki pants.
Imbecile- April 7, 2009 at 2:20 pm
Gay. Who cares about Aoki?
Poo Flinger- April 7, 2009 at 2:11 pm
I'll agree with some other posters here: Aoki is overrated. He may be entertaining to watch, but that does not mean he is a top 5 fighter.
aj- April 7, 2009 at 2:05 pm
I really don't think that Aoki is any less of a fighter for this loss. He got kneed in the head while fishing too long for a leg.... shit happens.
Craig- April 7, 2009 at 1:20 pm
Jugger makes a good point - your favourite fighter isn't necessarily a top 5 fighter. That's called nuthugging.
manutdfan- April 7, 2009 at 1:18 pm
Other than the fact that Brown is a f*ckin' BEAST, and dominated Faber, then Garcia, you're right on, Rich S.
Rich S.- April 7, 2009 at 1:15 pm
it's a combo of "Going up in weight" and "the fluke factor"..

i mean, can you REALLY lower Aoki in the ranks because he lost to a MUCH bigger and stronger opponent, in a weight class he doesn't fight at, and by a KNEE to the HEAD on the GROUND?

i'm sure if they rematched RIGHT NOW it would go to a decision.. it's just one of those things where the position was perfect for Sak and absolutely horrible for Aoki, and things went the way they went.. KIND OF LIKE FABER/BROWN..
825IVER- April 7, 2009 at 12:59 pm
He got "Urijah Faber'd."
My Fight Wiffa Cheeto- April 7, 2009 at 12:59 pm
"Judo Im right Says:
Tue, 04/07/2009 - 11:44
Agree with Slapjaw. Sorry CP, but Judo I was right when I said u overrate Aoki"

Now that's a gimmick that we can all agree is gay... as gay as Aoki's tights.

Sherk would piledrive this stick into dust. BJ... well, BJ would beat his ass so bad that Aoki's mom would attend an NSAC hearing.
THE FATASS BADASS- April 7, 2009 at 12:47 pm
Fuck all you ho's! Aoki is top 3 NON-UFC lightweight in the world!(Alvarez/Hansen/Aoki) Losing at WW doesnt mean shit really. I still think he's the tops *:D! Besides, things work differently in Japan. A loss to Sakurai wouldnt even sway Aoki fans there, they keep it Real...slanted.

*denotes the non homosexual nature of my emoticon still left over from grade 10!
Kleb- April 7, 2009 at 12:46 pm
His wins over the likes of Todd Moore and David Gardner solidfy him as the number 1 lightweight, discussion closed.
rockied- April 7, 2009 at 12:43 pm
It's tough to say he isn't top five when he really doesn't lose at lightweight to any of the top players. his loss to hansen was bad, but he had just fought i believe uno in a very compelling, hardfought fight earlier in the night. Aoki fresh against most any lw (besides bj) is an even betting line in my opinion, in most cases the tights wearing bisexual usually being the favorite
fedor a million ankles- April 7, 2009 at 12:27 pm
Aoki was right up there on my list of fighters I really wanted to see lose.

Take THAT nuthuggers!
Anonymous- April 7, 2009 at 12:07 pm
Sakurai can't make 155. The 160 cutoff in Pride was made specifically for him, and he's gotten bigger since then.
Jugger- April 7, 2009 at 11:53 am
Aoki is over-rated. Just because a guy is charismatic, and an absolute joy to watch doesn't mean you have to put him in your top 5. Listen, Aoki is my 2nd favorite lightweight (behind Hansen), and I love watching him fight... but I don't let that cloud my rankings. He's not top 5.
Judo Im right- April 7, 2009 at 11:44 am
Agree with Slapjaw. Sorry CP, but Judo I was right when I said u overrate Aoki
Hey Buddy- April 7, 2009 at 11:42 am
Hey Aoki, wanna cuddle? *Wink wink

*denotes the non homosexual nature of my winking....but not the cuddling
slapjaw ackrite- April 7, 2009 at 11:36 am
I think a Sherk or a T Griffin would beat Aoki. And the UFC would not allow his tights, which he obviously wears for better grip and control of opponents.

Glad to see this article from CP, known Aoki fans.
joejoe- April 7, 2009 at 11:27 am
Derekrva,
The UFC's elbows and cage would certainly take away from his advantages, it's been long known that jiu jitsu players have an advantage with typical Japanese rules. That being said players like Hazelett and Maia are showing an evolution in the game, Hazelett/Aoki would be beyond a barnburner.
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