Shinya Aoki was considered by many to be the favorite for this morning's bout with fellow Japanese lightweight star Tatsuya Kawajiri, but nobody could have expected the nature in which he would emerge victorious. It only took Aoki 1:53 seconds to finish off a vicious achilles lock that he twisted and mangled for nearly that entire duration. Kawajiri-- long considered the favorite to dethrone Aoki as DREAM's 155 pound kingpin, was left humbled and badly hurt. How quickly onlookers forget the same humility that Aoki felt after his five round drubbing at the hands of Strikeforce lightweight title holder Gilbert "El Nino" Melendez.
After his victory, Shinya announced that he would be facing Melendez in a rematch this September at DREAM.16-- a comment which is, thus far, uncorroborated by Coker and Melendez. It took all of that one minute and 53 seconds for people to find such a suggestion more compelling than foolish. What could Aoki have possibly learned in his first bout with Melendez to make him so hasty to have a return bout with a fighter who hasn't lost in over two years and dominated him for 25 minutes just three months ago?
Some would say that Aoki, who is emotional by nature, has proven in defeating a powerful wrestle-boxer like Kawajiri, that not only is he mentally unshaken by his April loss to Gil, but that he either feels confident about his new approach to that style of fighter, or that he is more at home in the ring against them. Some part of me feels that Aoki decided against wearing his magic pants at DREAM.15 to exhibit to onlookers, including Melendez, that he doesn't need them to successfully employ his all-world jiu jitsu assault. It might sound unreasonable to suggest this, but it's possible that Melendez is not as confident about a rematch as he possibly should be, given all of the above and his inability to finish Aoki in their first tilt.
I picked Aoki in their first bout and was sadly mistaken. Before the bell sounded this morning at the Saitama Super Arena, I would have called a rematch silly and picked Gilbert without hesitation. It didn't just take Aoki 1:53 to gain the confidence to bravely confront Melendez for the rematch he may have originally expected a year further down the road. I'm personally prepared to pick Aoki in their rematch and I can't wait for DREAM.16 if this fight does, in fact, come to fruition.