Garry “The Lion Killer” Tonon entered the Singapore Indoor Stadium and the ONE Championship cage known as one of the best grapplers in the Western hemisphere.
On Friday, 26 May, he proved he may in fact be the best in the world.
The 25-year-old American submitted former ONE Lightweight World Champion Shinya Aoki at ONE: DYNASTY OF HEROES, in the organization’s first-ever Grappling Super-Match.
Going into this bout, Tonon was preparing both physically and mentally for the massive task at hand.
“I have competed in a cage before, obviously for jiu-jitsu, but it was very different considering the huge crowd, doing it for a very professional promotion, and against a legend of mixed martial arts, as well. There was a lot going into this that was new — a new organization to compete for, a new cage, new people, a new feel, and everything,” he explains.
“A lot about keeping yourself confident, calm, and less anxious before an event is keeping yourself comfortable. I believe we did the best we could to prepare, and obviously, I came away with the victory.”
Tonon started their match by rushing forward and pulling an open guard. From there, as he often does, he stayed unpredictable by changing levels and returning to his feet.
Aoki was quick to scoop up a single-leg takedown, however, and immediately pressed the American against the cage fence on top of a butterfly guard. It took some real effort, but “The Lion Killer” was eventually able to create a frame on Aoki’s face with his own forearm, and then pushed away from the fence.
The reprieve was short-lived, however, as the Evolve MMA representative soon shoved Tonon back against the cage, effectively killing the submission wizard’s hip mobility.
Unable to create angles for himself with basic lateral movement up against the cage, Tonon generated enough space to invert his guard, and then shot up a solid reverse triangle choke attempt around the arm and neck of Aoki.
The Japanese black belt then slammed his rival to the mat, but the younger grappler kept his wits about him and quickly transitioned, first to an arm bar, and then to another inverted triangle choke attempt. Aoki calmly defended the holds and pressed his opponent against the cage once again.
Tonon pushed himself away from the fence with his legs, and then got back to his feet before getting taken down once more, and returned to the cage fence. “The Lion Killer” worked to regain his footing. Once he did, he took hold of a front headlock, next pulling guard in search of a guillotine choke.
The cage limited his ability to cut a necessary angle to truly threaten with the choke, however, so the Team Renzo Gracie member worked up to his feet again.
From there, the American turned his back to Aoki and attempted to roll into a leg lock attempt, but the Japanese warrior was ready and pulled in Tonon’s hips, all while shooting his own legs away from danger.
The grandmaster known as “Tobikan Judan” took his opponent’s back on the mat with both legs wrapped around, and hooked in. Aoki switched his legs to a figure-four lock while hand-fighting with Tonon in an attempt to secure a rear-naked choke.
After holding the position for about a minute and a half, the Tokyo native lost control of Tonon, who escaped and stood up. “The Lion Killer” opted to switch his approach by looking for his own takedown, pressing Aoki against the fence on their feet.
Then Tonon once again changed levels with another scissor takedown attempt that Aoki deftly sprawled away from. The American next pulled an open guard in the center of the mat, stood back up and then clinched with his rival once more. Before anyone even knew it, the end came.
The former ONE Lightweight World Champion hit a whipping hip toss takedown on Tonon with just over eight minutes left in the match. That is where Tonon struck the deciding blow. He attempted a technical stand-up while underneath Aoki, but then inverted his body and rolled into a leg lock position.
Tonon wrapped up both of the Japanese legend’s legs, threatened each heel before latching onto the left one, and executed an inside heel hook that prompted Aoki to submit.