Of course DREAM lightweight champion Shinya Aoki will be making his North American debut this weekend when he takes on Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez. It's a fight that a lot of work and negotiating had to take place for this fight to come to fruition. Many question why DREAM would send their champion over to Strikeforce, being that Aoki is one of the more popular fighters in Japan. Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez gave some insight into how he sees the fight going down, and why he might be going to Japan to fight:
So you won't be looking to stand immediately.
No, no. I feel like panicking and (trying to) spazz out or something just gets you injured.
I've been there before. I've seen his style before. Obviously you won't know what Aoki feels like until you lock horns with him, but I've been in these situations. I've been in omoplatas. I've been in gogoplatas. I've been in the rubber guard, and I can feel like I can neutralize and handle it.
I mean, I'm definitely going to be nervous in there and it's not going to be easy, and he may catch me. But I won't panic and I will work in there.
Melendez said he plans to keep the fight standing the entire time, but spoke on what he would do if Aoki managed to get him to the ground. He also credits training with Nate and Nick Diaz, along with Strikeforce grappling ace and middleweight champion Jake Shields for helping him get ready for Aoki's ground game. Here Melendez speaks on the possibility of fighting in Japan:
Assuming that you beat Aoki and continue to be successful, do you have any interest in going over to Japan to fight again?
I think there already been talks about that. I think if somehow I'm successful against Aoki over here, they would probably like me to go back to Japan to fight him over there.
I'm up for it. Like I said, this is a great opportunity for me to get back in the top five. And if I can beat Shinya now, and maybe even do it twice, then I can really make a statement.
I'm a soldier. Scott Coker tells me to go out to Japan and represent Strikeforce, I will do it.
So that statement leads me to believe that DREAM may have some sort of clause in place in case Aoki loses. I mean he is fighting in a cage for the first time, on foreign soil, and will not have his magic pants available to him. So this could be the reason why DREAM agreed to Aoki fighting Melendez under the Strikeforce banner this weekend. Aoki has already said that he feels as though Japan MMA is riding on his shoulders so to speak, so this could be a way for redemption if he loses this weekend. Check out the entire piece via the link below.