ONE 165: Sage Northcutt pulls out, so Shinya Aoki taps John Lineker in open-weight bout

ONE 165: Sage Northcutt pulls out, so Shinya Aoki taps John Lineker in open-weight bout

After a bizarre circumstance in Tokyo, Shinya Aoki submitted John Lineker in the first round in a fight Lineker took on just a few hours’ notice. That’s the ending, but how it got there seems unique even for MMA.

Aoki (48-11) was set to meet Sage Northcutt (12-3) in a 170-pound bout at ONE 165. The fight was the top-billed MMA bout on a card that, like most for ONE, offered matchups in disciplines other than MMA. But shortly before the fight, Northcutt pulled out due to “unforeseen circumstances” involving his cornermen.

With no welterweight available to fight Aoki on that short of notice, Lineker (37-11), who most recently fought at 135 pounds, stepped up for an open-weight shot at what would likely have been instant legend status in MMA had he won. But three minutes into the first round, jiu-jitsu wiz Aoki thrilled his home fans in Japan with a face crank submission.

Northcutt posted on Instagram in the aftermath of his pullout and said his cornermen had “last-minute visa issues” and those two coaches were on the way back to the United States. Northcutt said ONE offered up another corner option for him, but he didn’t want to fight without his core team.

Northcutt did not elaborate on when his cornermen tried to arrive to Japan, but regardless of when they were trying to get there, they couldn’t, and that led to his decision.

“I’m sorry to all my fans and to my opponent Shinya Aoki for not fighting tonight,” Northcutt posted on Instagram. “There were some last-minute visa issues with two of my coaches and they are on their way back to the US right now. One Championship offered to help by giving me a world champion Jiu Jitsu coach for a replacement, but not having my coaches that I trained my whole camp with out there with me to compete against arguably the worlds greatest MMA submission artist of all time wasn’t going to be best for me. Thank you Chatri and One Championship for trying your best to make things work at the last minute. Again I apologize to Shinya and everyone that was tuning in. I know that One 165 is an incredible card with incredible world class talent that everybody will still enjoy.”

Northcutt was supposed to fight Aoki under the ONE banner in 2021, but pulled out due to COVID-19. It’s not yet known if ONE will try to put together an Aoki-Northcutt fight for a third time.

Story originally appeared on MMA Junkie