ONE: Folayang wary of Aoki heading into title clash

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 11 2019 06:27 PM

ONE: Folayang wary of Aoki heading into title clash 1
Eduard Folayang defends his lightweight belt against Shinya Aoki at ONE: A New Era. Handout photo

MANILA, Philippines – The stakes are high in the main event of ONE: A New Era, where defending lightweight champion Eduard "Landslide" Folayang meets divisional rival, Japanese legend Shinya "Tobikan Judan" Aoki.

The two combatants square off on March 31 at the iconic Ryogoku Kokugikan in Tokyo, in a battle for the belt.

The Filipino striker and the Japanese submission artist are both ready to headline the biggest event ONE Championship has put together. Folayang knows he has to put together the best performance of his career, and as such, is looking for an abrupt end to the scheduled five-round title tiff.

For Folayang, keeping focused on a legend he holds so much respect for is order number one.

"I have the utmost respect for Shinya [Aoki]," said Folayang. "In my opinion, he’s a terrific martial artist and a true martial arts hero. He’s been around for so long and he’s faced the best in the sport. I am certainly not taking him lightly."

"Shinya is and will always be a legend in my eyes. That being said, I’m preparing to take him out on March 31st. In my mind, I finish him within the distance," he added.

Folayang had beaten Aoki back when they first competed in 2016, but he knows he cannot take this rematch lightly.

The Filipino fighter acknowledges Aoki's much improved striking game, and is also wary of the Japanese' always-dangerous ground game. Folayang knows that the action will eventually hit the mat, and so, he is hard at work with Team Lakay head coach Mark Sangiao on coming up with a strategy to foil Aoki's plans.

"If he does successfully take me down to the mat, I have to remain calm and work to escape," Folayang said.

"The thing with Shinya is, if he’s able to bring you into his world, it can be extremely dangerous, especially if you panic. You are prone to making mistakes and trust me, he recognizes every opening," he noted.

Folayang intends to keep Aoki busy on the defensive end, and turn up the aggression this time around. A volley of punches and kicks are locked and loaded in Folayang's arsenal to prevent Aoki from even sticking a successful takedown.

He believes that his aggression and ability to keep Aoki on his toes will be the key to victory.

"I have to make sure my explosiveness is there in this bout," said the 34-year-old fighter.

"I have to be very aggressive and keep him on the defensive. He’s going to eat a handful of strikes if he tries to come close, that’s for sure," he added.

Dedicating the fight to his family, teammates, and countrymen, Folayang stressed his intent to finish the fight on his terms.

"I will do my best to finish this guy within the distance and not put the result in the hands of the judges," he promised.

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