When people sit down and rank the best fighter in the world, the first thing they look at is the fighter's record and wins—the absolute reflection of his skills. This is ultimately what decides rankings and new contenders. However, people don't always apply this rule to every fighter in the world. Particularly to BJ Penn.
Shinya Aoki is a deadly submission devil hoping to take your arm home. He stands at 5'11" and fights at lightweight.
As a matter of fact, he's the best lightweight in the world.
Before everybody goes off on me, let me explain.
No other lightweight in the world has faced the incredibly tough opposition that Shinya has faced, and probably never will. He has fought everyone, including fellow submission experts to power punchers, as well as all-around gurus.
His reign of victories in the recent years have been against 2XJoachim "Hellboy" Hansen, Eddie Alvarez, Vitor "Shaolin" Ribeirio, Caul Uno, JZ, and Mizuto Hiroto, 2XAkira Kikuchi, and more.
During the same few years, BJ Penns' victories have come against Joe Stevenson, Kenny Florian, Sean Sherk, Jens Pulver, and Diego Sanchez.
Though Penns' victories have had some value, they aren't nearly as impressive as Aokis' wins.
Joe Daddy is a strong gatekeeper; Sean is a steroid-using old lay and pray wrestler, who forgot that he has wrestling; and Kenflo lost to Sherk and Diego Sanchez, but is still one of Penns' most legit wins. Also, Sanchez has sloppy striking, OK wrestling, and above-average jits. He's someone you would call "well-rounded," but doesn't have significant deadly skills in any area, which a good MMA fighter must have.
Aokis' wins, on the other hand, have been a mix of pure fury. While Aoki dosen't seem like he should win on paper, he almost always does.
BJ Penn is often credited for his amazing BJJ, but in reality, Aoki has much better MMA jits than Penn and is more effective in applying them. He has an abstract style that is hard to follow and nearly impossible to duplicate. Penn always uses the rear naked and sticks to the basics. Though I am not saying this is bad, it just shows the difference in styles. He has a one-dimensional mindset that does just average in MMA.
Many people have said that Shinya can't survive on just BJJ, but he has done more than just survive—he has excelled. In a way, he is like the legend, Antonio Nogueira, who wins even though at times his other game is lacking.
Recently, Aoki fought a fighter similar to Penn: Mizuto. Mizuto has deadly striking and stunning takedown defense. Aoki has none of his striking, and blew out his takedown defense. When on the ground, Aoki did what few people in the world can do.
He twisted Mizutos arm far behind his back, rendering him completely helpless. Then he started pounding his face in and could have finished it there, but decided to go for something different: a broken arm. While his post-fight celebration was a little bit over the top, fighting is a mean sport. Remember this: Mizuto is a former champion. Penn did beat his competitors, but in no way did it in this kind of fashion.
Aoki has proved himself across a wide variety of lightweights, and I truly believe the shark pool is over in Japan. While people may use the argument that Penn has been busy at WW, his recent record over there has been 0-3. Even though he's been up against strong fighters, this kind of record is laughable. Penn should stay at lightweight and gather all the wins he can before being considered the top of the heap.
Penn has lived on his star power by being in the UFC. Aoki has earned it, and should be called the No. 1 lightweight in the world by everyone.