Shinya Aoki vs. Gilbert Melendez rematch could take place at DREAM 16 in September (updated)

Shinya Aoki speaks at the Strikeforce: Nashville post-fight press conference following his loss to Gilbert Melendez. Photo by Jack Bratcher /

It took Japanese lightweight superstar Shinya Aoki (24-5) only 1:53 to finish off Tatsuya Kawajiri (26-6-2) with an Achilles lock submission at Saturday’s DREAM 15 in Saitama, Japan.

The win enabled Aoki to retain his DREAM lightweight title and would serve as the perfect precursor for a rematch with Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez (18-2).

Aoki announced the rematch following  his win over Kawajiri. We have reached out to Melendez for confirmation but have yet to hear back.

Aoki is viewed as the cream of the crop of lightweight Japanese talent. In his first fight with Melendez at “Strikeforce: Nashville” in April 2010, the bout was as much about Japanese MMA vs. American MMA as it was about Aoki vs. Melendez or DREAM vs. Strikeforce.

Aoki was seen as the number two lightweight in the world prior to their first bout. However, Melendez put such a dominating five round thrashing upon the DREAM champion it left many wondering if Japanese MMA was on its death bed.

When Aoki was asked after the fight what Melendez’s victory meant in regards to which is better, Japanese or American MMA, Aoki simply said, “The result speaks for itself.”

Prior to their first fight, Aoki was ranked number two and Melendez was number eight. Currently, Melendez is ranked third and Aoki six.

Their first meeting was on American soil and Melendez’s Strikeforce title was on the line. In September, they will fight in Japan, and almost certainly Aoki’s DREAM title will be on the line.

Will Aoki really put his title up for grabs against a fighter who absolutely destroyed him just a few months earlier? And what will it mean to Japanese MMA if Melendez is able to come into their house and take home their champion’s crown?

Yes, Aoki won on Saturday, but it was against another Japanese fighter. He has already proven he is the best Japan has to offer. Now Aoki has to prove he is the best the world has to offer.

UPDATE: Until we get confirmation from Melendez, a rematch between he and Aoki for DREAM.16 has not been confirmed.