It could be argued that the second-best bout taking place this weekend is not on the UFC 145 card but rather at Bellator 66 where Japanese submission-specialist Shinya Aoki takes on former lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez. The fight marks Aoki’s return to the United States after a year away, picking up a trio of dominating victories in the interim, while the 22-3 Alvarez is looking to bounce back from hard-fought defeat while also avenging a 2008 loss to Aoki.
Aoki recently opened up on the bout with Alvarez where he envisioned a different scenario unfolding than when they originally met where he submitted the Bellator staple in 92 seconds by way of Heel Hook.
“I believe Eddie Alvarez and I have both evolved as different fighters,” said Aoki in an interview with MMAJunkie. “I’m more confident in my standup skills with the hard training with Muay Thai champions at Evolve MMA gym in Singapore. And what makes Eddie dangerous is the power in his hands and his wrestling skill. He mixes these skills well and executes the game plan effectively.”
While Aoki and his adversary have changed in time since first facing off, so has the submission-savvy 28-year old’s motivation given the change in MMA’s landscape over the past few years.
“My main goal in this fight with Eddie Alvarez is to prove myself and Japanese MMA are still at the top level,” explained Aoki, making it clear he’ll do whatever it takes to achieve his objective. “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.”
Fans can catch Aoki-Alvarez on MTV 2 this Friday with the broadcast starting at 8:00 PM EST. Other bouts on the card include tournament pairings such as Lloyd Woodard-Rick Hawn and Vyacheslav Vasilevsky-Maiquel Falcao.
PHOTO CREDIT – BELLATOR