The Best Fights You've Never Seen: Shinya Aoki vs. George Sotiropolous - April Fool's Edition
Fans of mixed martial arts all appreciate fights like Forrest Griffin vs. Stephan Bonnar or Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira vs. Josh Barnett - grueling battles that test the technique, strength, and sheer resolve of both competitors. Some fans, this author included, also take a certain pleasure in fights aren't particularly good or bad, but are just plain funny.
For April Fool's Day, we will take a look at one such match, where one fighter possessed such a dominant skillset that his opponent could do nothing but be utterly overwhelmed - until he unleashed an ancient and mysterious technique.
George Sotiropolous is one of the lightweight division's better grapplers. A Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu blackbelt, the Australian had racked up an impressive 6-1 record featuring three quick submissions in various shows throughout Australia and Asia. He was touted as a prospect to watch and was looking to take a step up in competition and begin to make a name for himself internationally. Unfortunately for George, his next opponent was one of the few capable of completely handling him on the ground.
Shinya Aoki is one of the most devastating submission specialists in the world. A Judo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu blackbelt, Aoki developed a reputation for his relentless submission game, occasional with brutal results, as seen in his fight against Keith Wisniewski, where he broke his opponents arm with a standing armlock. Coming off a triangle choke victory over Jason Black at PRIDE 12, Aoki was eager to try out his improving leglock game and found the perfect opponent in Sotiropolous.
After this particularly amusing bout, both men's careers skyrocketed (to be fair, their respective ascensions probably didn't have a lot to do with this fight). Aoki has emerged as one of the best lightweights in the world, being ranked for long periods as highly as #2 in the world. He recorded the first gogoplata on a major show, choking out Joachim Hansen at PRIDE Shockwave 2006. Aoki later captured the DREAM lightweight championship by winning the rubber match against Hansen, who had beaten him in the tournament finals, and fought a champion vs. champion match against Sengoku lightweight champ Mizuto Hirota, breaking Hirota's arm with a brutal hammerlock submission. He attempted an ill-fated crossover to the US scene, losing a lopsided decision against Gilbert Melendez in Strikeforce, though he rebounded nicely with a quick submission over the world-ranked Tatsuya Kawajiri back in Japan. Aoki went on to fight a mixed-rules bout against kickboxer and costume player Yuichiro Nagashima at K-1 Dynamite 2010, a fight that was also really, really funny.
George Sotiropolous fought one match in Korean promotion Spirit MC, then became a household name as a contestant on season six of The Ultimate Fighter. An early favorite to make the finals, Sotiropolous was beaten in the semi-finals by Tommy Speer, but rebounded nicely, winning his first seven official UFC fights by beating the likes of Kurt Pellegrino, Joe Stevenson, and Joe Lauzon, and had established himself as a possible contender for the lightweight title. Unfortunately, his next fight against Dennis Siver did not go well, as Sotiropolous was unable to take the fight to the ground and was forced to stand with a superior striker, losing a decision and setting his title hopes back. He is next slated to take on fellow prospect Evan Dunham at UFC 132, though fans of funny fights can only hope that Zuffa's acquisition of Strikeforce means that these Sotiropolous and Aoki will have a (hopefully equally hilarious) rematch soon in the future.