What’s next for Shinya Aoki after sparkling performance at ONE: KINGDOM OF HEROES?

Shinya Aoki is far from finished.

He proved that and then some on Saturday at the Impact Arena in Bangkok, Thailand. The Japanese icon needed just 57 seconds to score an impressive submission win over Ev Ting. Aoki has long been known for his grappling prowess and he wasted no time showing Ting that he would lean on his area of expertise in pursuit of the win.

Aoki shot for a takedown early in the first round and Ting attempted to subdue him with a guillotine attempt. The 35-year-old former ONE Lightweight World Champion used technique and power to muscle his way through the attempt to secure the takedown. Ting didn’t immediately release the grip, but Aoki was undeterred as he worked to transition to an advantageous position.

He brilliantly worked his arms in position near Ting’s head and neck, while tying up his opponent’s right arm. Aoki slid his body to Ting’s right side to increase the pressure of the head-and-arm choke, even though his feet were hanging partly in the ropes. Within seconds, Aoki had choked Ting out. Aoki sprang to his feet and immediately began celebrating the victory. He called attention to the insignia on the back of his tights.

You could tell this was a huge win for Aoki. During the post-bout interview, Aoki said, “I did what I could, and this is [the result] I got. This is who I am,” The victory was noteworthy for a number of reasons. Aoki earned his third straight victory, and each of them has come in the first round. He also set a ONE Championship record for most submissions in the lightweight division with five and produced the fourth-fastest submission in the weight class’ history.

Most importantly, the victory also earned him a shot at the lightweight title which is currently vacant. The title will be decided at ONE: CONQUEST OF CHAMPIONS on Friday, 23 November in Manila, Philippines. Former titleholder Eduard Folayang will face Aoki’s Evolve teammate Amir Khan. The winner of that intriguing matchup will defend the title against Aoki in 2019.

Shinya Aoki is already a legend in the sport as well as in the ONE Championship organization. He has won titles all over the world and he’s already had the aforementioned stint as the ONE lightweight champion. In fact, he held the title from April 2013 to November 2016 when he lost the title to Folayang via strikes in Singapore at ONE: DEFENDING HONOR.

Whoever is defending their title against Aoki will be doing it on the challenger’s home turf. Aoki’s title challenge will take place in his native Japan. It will be ONE Championship’s first event in Japan and the crowd is sure to be fired up to cheer on Aoki. Japan has long been a mecca for martial arts and the fans are sure to embrace the promotion and their hometown hero during this event.

Shinya Aoki hasn’t lost a match in Japan in more than nine years and he’s competed there on a number of occasions since with other organizations. There is no question, he will be a tough out for anyone he faces. Does he have a preference between Folayang and Khan–especially assuming he’s already faced and lost to the former? Aoki says no. “I like both opponents, so try your best and good luck,” he said.

Fans may feel differently. There is something intriguing about a rematch and Aoki-Folayang is a fascinating matchup of contrasting styles. With Aoki looking for redemption and another run as champion, the storyline leading up to this potential meeting is already written.

Until March, all eyes will be focused on November when Folayang and Khan meet to decide who draws Aoki for the clash in Japan.

This article first appeared on BJPENN.COM on 10/10/2018.