Eduard Folayang has vowed to make a statement when he defends his crown at ONE: A New Era on March 31 in Tokyo.
Taking on the legendary Japanese grappler Shinya Aoki, the man he stopped back in 2016 to claim the ONE Lightweight World Title for the first time, Folayang has promised to deliver another beating of the No.1 contender.
“I want to make another statement this time,” Folayang said.
“Of course, he will study the things that made him lose last time, so I probably need to be more innovative this time.
“I need to be more creative, but I will finish him.”
Last meeting Aoki in November of 2016, at ONE: Defending Honor in Singapore, Eduard Folayang carried out the perfect game plan, stuffing Aoki’s submission attempts and eventually securing a TKO victory in the third round.
But Folayang concedes Aoki will provide another stern test this second time around.
“Fighting him again will be a tougher prospect, but it’s exciting for me to face him again,” Folayang said. “A lot of things have changed. I lost the title but I was able to get it back. Shinya has had some tough challenges but he was able to tough them out.
“There’s been a lot of movement for both of us.”
Folayang has won eight of his last 10 bouts, including the championship match against Singapore’s Amir Khan on November 23, while Aoki has collected three victories on the trot since his loss to former welterweight champion Ben Askren.
Now a more rounded fighter, Folayang stressed he needs to surprise Aoki.
“I have to become more innovative,” Folayang said. “I have been working a lot on my wrestling and ground game, so there have been some major improvements compared to last time.”
Although more confident on the mat, Eduard Folayang has declared his intent to keep the bout on the feet.
“That’s his world,” Folayang said of submission specialist Aoki. “As much as possible, I don’t want to go where he will have the advantage.
“Of course, I need to be prepared that if the fight does go to the ground that I have the confidence and strategy to get up again.
“I will not be passive in defending on the ground. I can’t let him dictate terms. And if I get the chance, then I will also try to submit him. I need to do something to lessen his confidence on the ground.”
In one of two co-main events in Japan, ONE Women’s Atomweight World Champion Angela Lee moves up in weight in a quest to become the first ever female two-division mixed martial arts World Champion.
Standing in her way is Chinese powerhouse Xiong Jing Nan, ONE Women’s Strawweight World Champion.
In addition, two-division ONE World Champion Aung La N Sang will defend his middleweight strap against Japanese contender Ken Hasegawa in an epic rematch of their 2018 Bout of the Year contender, this time on the challenger’s home turf.
This article first appeared on BJPENN.COM on 1/11/2019.