When lightweight Shinya Aoki enters the cage tonight to take on Eddie Alvarez at Bellator 66 he’ll do so with the weight of a nation on his back. The submission savant is one of the few Japanese fighters still eliciting fear in his foes. As such, it’s extremely important to him to represent his region.

However, while his peers may know the deal, what Aoki lacks is the widespread respect of American fans who aren’t likely to have seen his mat-based mastery in the Far East. That too will be on his mind when he meets Alvarez at this evening’s event.

“My main goal in this fight with Eddie Alvarez is to prove myself and Japanese MMA are still at the top level,” said Aoki of the fight in a recent interview with MMAJunkie.

To prove his point Aoki is even willing to take it to the next level as he’s done before in the past, adding, “It doesn’t bother me when I feel my opponents’ bones break. But I’m not aiming to break the bones. I’m just looking for a win.”

Aoki is currently on an seven-fight winning streak with five submissions in the bunch giving him nineteen in his thirty total victories. Comparably, Alvarez will be looking to bounce back from a defeat to Michael Chandler in their instant-classic this past November.

Catch their match-up when the card starts up on MTV2 at 8:00 PM EST.


MMATraining Take: Aoki definitely has my respect, though I will say it’s nice to see him face a guy in the Top 10-15 of the division instead of some of the lower-tier opponents he’s had to face due to his contractual status in Japan. I know Alvarez is a heavy favorite but I think Aoki is worth laying some coin down. He’s one of the slickest grapplers in the sport and Alvarez is vulnerable in that area.