DREAM import Shinya Aoki will get first crack at newly-crowned lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez when the Japanese submission fighter makes his stateside debut on the main card of the upcoming Strikeforce event planned for April 17 on CBS.
Josh Gross of SI.com tweeted the proposed match-up earlier today.
The bout is expected to serve as one of three championship contests on the promotion's upcoming trip to Nashville for "Saturday Night Fights" on CBS. While "El Nino" is putting his strap on the line, "The Tobikan Judan" will reportedly keep his title safe and sound back in DREAM.
Melendez (17-2) has been electric since falling to Josh Thomson in June of 2008. In addition to TKO wins over Rodrigo Damm and Mitsuhiro Ishida, the former PRIDE and Shooto standout avenged his loss to "The Punk" at last December's "Evolution" card from San Jose, taking the 155-pound title in the process.
The California native has been vocal about bringing Aoki to the States in order to test himself against the grappling wizard and cement himself as one of the world's top lightweights.
But is he biting off more than he can chew?
After an ill-advised trip to welterweight -- one that saw him get turned inside out by Hayato Sakurai at DREAM 8 -- Aoki moved back down to lightweight where he belongs, rattling off three straight wins and improving his record to 23-4.
While often criticized for his underwhelming stand-up, Aoki is a terror on the ground, having tapped such notable fighters as Eddie Alvarez, Joachim Hansen and Vitor Riberio.
The "Tobikan Judan" also showed a darker side on New Year's Eve, cranking a hammerlock until it snapped the arm of Mizuto Hirota at FieLDS Dynamite!! prior to flipping off the crowd on Dec. 31.
Needless to say that any similar action in Nashville would be unwise -- though you can bet Melendez will try to make sure he never gets the chance.
The Strikeforce event planned for April17 in Nashville is also expected to feature light heavyweight champion Gegard Mousasi defending his title against fast-rising prospect Muhammed "King Mo" Lawal. Jake Shields will also put his 185-pound belt on the line against UFC import Dan Henderson.
Stay tuned to MMAmania.com for more updates to the upcoming Strikeforce/CBS card as they become available.