ONE Championship will be returning to Japan with a big card.
Former top UFC prospect Sage Northcutt will face MMA legend Shinya Aoki in a lightweight bout under MMA rules Jan. 28 at ONE 165 in Tokyo, sources told ESPN on Wednesday night. The main event will be a five-round flyweight kickboxing match between ONE flyweight Muay Thai champion Rodtang Jitmuangnon and Japanese kickboxer Takeru Segawa.
The event and those fights are expected to be made official early Thursday at a news conference in Japan.
The card will take place at Ariake Arena, sources said. It will be the Singapore-based promotion's first show in Japan since 2019. Segawa is a major star in Japan. His kickboxing match with Tenshin Nasukawa drew 56,399 people to the Tokyo Dome in June 2022.
The Northcutt vs. Aoki bout was initially planned for April 2021, but Northcutt was forced out with lingering complications from COVID-19. Northcutt is a longtime karate practitioner with flashy kicks and electric offense. Aoki was once considered one of the best grappling specialists in the sport.
Northcutt (12-3) returned from a four-year layoff in May with a 39-second submission of Ahmed Mujtaba. The Texas native spent the time off dealing with the aforementioned illness, as well as facial fractures suffered in his ONE debut in 2019, a knockout loss to Cosmo Alexandre. Northcutt, 27, left the UFC for ONE as a free agent while on a three-fight winning streak.
Aoki (47-11, 1 NC) has lost two straight and has not competed since November 2022. The Japanese fighter is a former two-time ONE Championship lightweight champion and a former champion in the Dream and Shooto promotions. Aoki, 40, has been a pro MMA fighter for 20 years and was considered one of the best at 155 pounds in MMA in the late 2000s and early 2010s.