By MATT BOONE
MMANEWS.COM Staff Writer
The highly-ranked lightweight pride of Japan, Shinya Aoki, will be in action on September 25th for his next fight. Unfortunately for Aoki, the man standing across from him at the Nippon Gaishi Hall on 9/25 will not be Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez. Despite Aoki's attempts to lure Melendez into a rematch on the same date, Aoki will find himself competing against the man who derailed the last great Japanese-hope — Takanori Gomi — as he battles Marcus “Maximus” Aurelio at DREAM 16 in Japan.
DREAM officials confirmed the Aoki-Aurelio bout earlier this week, in what will be Aoki's second fight after losing in his North American MMA debut at Strikeforce: Nashville this past April. Aoki (24-5) last stepped into the ring at DREAM 15 on July 10th, defeating highly-regarded Tatsuya Kawajiri by submission in a fight that didn't reach the two-minute mark before Aoki injured Kawajiri's leg with a vicious achilles lock.
Aurelio (20-8) last saw ring-action at the Fight Festival 27 event, submitting the unheralded Niko Puhakka (an 18-10 MMA fighter) with a rear-naked choke in the second round of their March 13th fight. Prior to the FF 27 match, Aurelio's last appearance on a big-stage saw the Brazilian drop a split decision to Evan Dunham at UFC 102 in August of 2009. The split-decision loss isn't the worst blemish now that Dunham is a legitimate contender in the UFC's transitioning lightweight division. Unfortunately it was still the third-straight loss for Aurelio in the UFC, which leads to his return to Japan, the place he made his name with high-profile PRIDE Bushido victories.
Aoki-Aurelio joins Takeshi Inoue vs. Kazuyuki Miyata, along with an interesting Joachim Hansen vs. Hideo Tokoro bout, as three new fights officially announced by the DREAM promotion this week.
Already announced for DREAM 16, which is scheduled to air on HDNet in the U.S. from the Nippon Gaishi Hall in Nagoya, Japan on September 25th, is a grand prix tournament final between Gegard Mousasi and Tatsuya Mizuno to determine the new DREAM light heavyweight champion, a unique fight between Jason “MayheM” Miller and Kazushi Sakuraba and Michihiro Omigawa vs. Joe Warren.
Also announced to participate in fights on the 9/25 DREAM card are top fighters Kid Yamamoto, Caol Uno and Ikuhisa Minowa.