Gilbert Melendez Reportedly Set To Face Shinya AokiFollowing weeks of rumours, multiple sources have confirmed plans for Strikeforce Lightweight Champion Gilbert “El Niño” Melendez to battle DREAM Lightweight Champion Shinya “Tobikan Judan” Aoki in a 155-pound superfight on CBS. The fight has not yet been officially confirmed for the April 17th event, but an announcement is expected later today or tomorrow.

Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker had previously stated his intentions to set up the blockbuster Melendez-Aoki fight, which is expected to be the focal point of the promotion’s “huge” announcement within the next 24 hours.

Melendez (17-2-0) reigned undefeated throughout his first 13 fights and captured the Strikeforce Lightweight Championship for the first time in 2006. He would later lose the title in a lopsided bout with Josh “The Punk” Thomson two years later, but claimed it once again in a Fight of the Year candidate rematch at Strikeforce: “Evolution” on December 19, 2009. He had previously avenged the only other loss on his record when he stopped “The Endless Fighter” Mitsuhiro Ishida in August. Known for his well-rounded skills, Melendez has finished 11 of his opponents to date.

Aoki (23-4-0, 1 NC) became Shooto Middleweight (168-Pound) Champion in February of 2006, but came up just short in his bid to capture DREAM title gold in the finals of the 2008 DREAM Lightweight Grand Prix. A brief move up in weight met with disastrous results, as the colourful grappler was knocked out in just 27 seconds by Hayato “Mach” Sakurai, but Aoki finally claimed the major title that had eluded him when he submitted Joachim “Hellboy” Hansen in the pair’s October 2009 rubber match. He has since made frequent mention of his desire to compete in the United States.

While the bout has not yet been officially signed, Strikeforce had promised a major announcement today that was later revealed to be a third title fight for the April card. It is not currently known whether Melendez’s Strikeforce title will be the only one on the line, but it is likely that DREAM would not wish to have their title defended – and potentially lost – in a foreign country for another promotion. Win or lose, Aoki will almost certainly be a factor in future Strikeforce events.

Strikeforce returns to CBS on April 17th at the newly-renamed Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee. In addition to the planned Melendez vs Aoki matchup, Strikeforce Middleweight Champion Jake Shields will defend against Dan “Hendo” Henderson in the main event. Gegard “The Dreamcatcher” Mousasi will also put his 205-pound title on the line when he meets Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal.


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