Photo by Dave Mandel for Sherdog.com.
Rumors of a rematch between Strikeforce lightweight champ Gilbert Melendez and DREAM ace Shinya Aoki have swirled ever since Aoki's post-fight comments were mistranslated following a July submission win over Tatsuya Kawajiri. While the bout was never to materialize at September's DREAM.16, hopes were high amongst fans and Fighting and Entertainment Group officials alike that Melendez could be lured to Japan for a New Year's Eve date.
Unfortunately, according to FEG USA representative Mike Kogan per MMA Fighting, that won't be happening:
One of the major stumbling blocks is that Melendez's contract with Strikeforce is coming to an end, and while he does have a championship clause, which allows the organization to continue booking fights for him as long as he champion, it proved difficult to get him to fight in an another promotion without a finalized long-term deal.
According to Kogan, FEG will look to keep Aoki on the card against another opponent.
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"It's not a problem with anyone," Kogan said. "It's just a deal couldn't happen. Everyone is very upset."
After Melendez thoroughly dominated Aoki for 25 minutes less than eight months ago, it would also be understandable if "El Nino" and Strikeforce simply didn't see the need for a rematch at the present time. While the setting would change from the cage of Strikeforce to the ring of DREAM, the contestants' styles would remain the same, and it's tough to imagine the outcome being much different -- especially since Aoki has stated that the cage played no part in his defeat.
It'll be interesting to see where FEG goes from here, since Aoki has already eliminated so many potential contenders in the Japanese talent pool. One possibility is DEEP lightweight champ Katsunori Kikuno, who has been vocal about his desire to face Aoki and whose hard-hitting Kyokushin karate would provide an interesting stylistic foil to the spindly submission artist. If FEG wants a foreigner, they could bring Gesias Cavalcante back for a third bout against Aoki, since Strikeforce doesn't seem to keep "JZ" as busy as he'd like.