Why DREAM Lightweight Champion Shinya Aoki Is a Top 10 Lightweight

Andrew GladstoneCorrespondent IAugust 30, 2010

After much criticism from fans and some members the media following the loss to Gilbert Melendez, one Shinya Aoki seems to be almost disqualified out of the top 10.

“Before the Melendez fight, on Twitter, we said that Aoki wasn’t in our top four," Steve Cofield of Yahoo Sports wrote.

“Now we’re not even sure if Aoki deserves to be in the top eight,” Cofield wrote following the Melendez loss.

Even UFC President Dana White said how Shinya Aoki isn’t top 10.

“I’m interested in anybody perceives to be one of the best in the world unless it’s like some of you guys that have some of those goofy rankings that are full of s***, other than that I’m not looking for Aoki right now,” Dana White said. 

“He’s not top 10, you guys are f***ing nuts,” White finished.

No offense to Dana White or Steve Cofield, but I respectfully disagree with their opinions on Aoki.

Aoki’s wins speak for themselves as he has defeated the likes of Bellator lightweight champ Eddie Alvarez, Tatsuya Kawajiri, former K-1 Hero's champ Gesias "JZ" Cavalcante, former DREAM lightweight champion Joachim Hansen (twice), former Sengoku lightweight champion Mizuto Hirota, former top 5 ranked lightweight Vitor Ribeiro, and UFC veteran Caol Uno.

Also, Aoki defeated Akira Kikuchi twice, who is the last person to defeat former Strikeforce middleweight champion Jake Shields.

In my opinion there is also a bit of a double standard when it comes to Shinya Aoki because Demian Maia was ranked in the top 10 even before defeating Chael Sonnen and nobody contested Maia’s ranking and it still is rare you’d hear anyone debate that Maia isn’t top 10.  Aoki has more top 10 wins than Maia, and both fighters are primarily grapplers, but Maia is top 10 and Aoki isn’t?

Now to play devil’s advocate a little bit here, Aoki was ranked #1 or #2 by many sites before he fought Melendez, so I understand why many felt Aoki was overrated. However, B.J. Penn was ranked as the #1 lightweight and now that he’s lost to Edgar twice. Both times Edgar shut down Penn’s best offense. Still, there isn’t really a giant parade of fans and critics saying how Penn was overrated. Penn is given the respect as a great fighter as he deserves.

I understand White’s frustration and anger at the DREAM lightweight champion as Aoki said, “Hey Dana White who purchased Pride FC listen! The top of MMA is Japan,” following his win over Hirota. However, Aoki is still a top 10 fighter and has the wins to back it up.

Some people will say what if Aoki goes to the UFC and then list opponents who can beat him. However, the same can be said about those same opponents if they fought him in DREAM. 

Hypothetical matches don’t disqualify fighters from the top 10 rankings, and if they really did, there wouldn’t be a fighter alive that is exempt from being disqualified from the list.

In the past three years Aoki has had 3 top 10 wins and 2 wins in the top 5 of the lightweight division (Eddie Alvarez, and "JZ" Cavalcante were ranked top 5 after becoming Hero’s champ).

I’m not saying Aoki is the best fighter in the world and I fully acknowledge how one-dimensional he is. As far as dominating UFC fighters go, I don’t honestly know how he’d do because he hasn’t been there. 

What I do know is that Aoki is certainly top 10 if not top 5 based on what he's done so far in the lightweight division. On top of that, Aoki has the one of the best styles of grappling in the sport.