Most fighters would prefer not to test the submission skills of lightweight contender Shinya Aoki (26-5), but on the April 9 Strikeforce show in San Diego, Calif., Lyle Beerbohm (15-1) won’t be afraid to test Aoki on the ground in perhaps the biggest fight of his career.
Beerbohm is coming off of his first professional loss, a unanimous decision setback against the highly underrated UFC and IFL veteran Pat Healy at Strikeforce Challengers 14. It was an exciting, action-packed affair, but Beerbohm believes he did enough to win the fight.
“Yeah, I thought I won the fight,” Beerbohm told ProMMAnow.com. “I controlled most of the fight besides the two submission attempts he got me in.”
However, it’s always a bit risky to let the ringside officials pick the winner, and that’s why Beerbohm prefers to settle things himself. He’s only been the distance three times in his pro MMA career.
“That’s just the way it goes,” he said. “If it goes to the judges, sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. I don’t like to let my fights go to the judges.”
Although Beerbohm felt he did enough to win, he certainly wasn’t happy with how he performed in the fight. Instead of getting discouraged, though, Beerbohm is using the loss to improve.
“I learned a lot,” Beerbohm said. “I don’t want to sit here and make excuses, but I wasn’t happy with my performance. I definitely didn’t do what I needed to do. I’m a much better fighter than I proved that night, so I just want to get back into the cage and show everyone what I can do.”
In less than a month, he’ll have a chance to do just that against a guy that many would list as one of the five best lightweight fighters in the sport.
Aoki’s ground game needs no introduction. He’s submitted the likes of Eddie Alvarez, Tatsuya Kawajiri, and Joachim Hansen, and he isn’t afraid of getting fancy. Beating Katsuhiko Nagata in 2008 wasn’t all that huge of an achievement, but Aoki’s gogoplata — from the mount — impressed even the most jaded MMA followers.
However, Beerbohm has gone up against top-level Brazilian Jiu Jitsu practitioners before, including Vitor “Shaolin” Ribeiro and Rafaello Oliveria. He knows he has to play it smart, but Beerbohm also feels ready to match up with Aoki.
“I think my submission defense is good enough to where I can shut down great submission artists and go from there,” Beerbohm said. “So I learned a lot off of the Ribeiro fight, and Rafaello Oliveira…he’s a black belt and really good also.”
As good as Aoki is on the ground, his striking is serviceable, at best. But when asked if he expects to have an advantage on the feet, Beerbohm didn’t jump right out and shout, “YES!”
He thought about it carefully and patiently before answering. That’s the kind of methodical approach Beerbohm thinks he’ll need to avoid leaving Aoki an opening.
“I don’t know about an advantage; I think he’s pretty good on the feet, he’s OK,” Beerbohm said. “He doesn’t get hit a lot, he shoots in … you’ve got to fight Aoki really smart. If you just think you can come in and stand with him … you can’t just go in there and chuck punches at him or he’s going to take you down.”
Certainly, if Beerbohm has a choice, he would prefer to stuff Aoki’s takedown attempts and dictate the pace of the fight. Aoki has brought guys to the mat from the clinch and by shooting in form the outside, but Beerbohm doesn’t think Aoki will have much success getting him down from in close.
“He won’t be able to get me down in the clinch,” Beerbohm said confidently. “He might pull guard and then I’ll be on top, but he’s not going to be able to get on top of me from the clinch.”
Beerbohm has been able to use his own wrestling and grappling to take out many of his opponents. As good as Aoki is, Beerbohm isn’t afraid to employ the same strategy on April 9 if there is an opening.
“I’m not afraid to go to the ground with him at all,” he said. “Anybody that’s scared of somebody’s game, they’ve already lost the fight. I’ve got to be real careful, though, that’s for sure.”
Although he knows he has to be careful against Aoki, Beerbohm is excited about the opportunity to show he can battle Strikeforce’s best.
“Yeah, I think I’m one of the best lightweights. Gilbert [Melendez] is a step above anyone in Strikeforce. But I feel like I can fight with anybody.”
This summer a documentary is coming out titled “No Submission,” telling the story of how Beerbohm overcame drug addiction and became a mixed martial arts success. For more info on the film, go to NoSubmissionFilm.com. Also, you can check out his website, LyleBeerbohm.com, where he is giving away a pair of autographed Strikeforce gloves. Beerbohm asked to thank IronMaster.com.