Earlier this year, Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker announced that his steadily rising business was going to partner up with Fighting and Entertainment Group.
For those unaware, FEG is the parent company behind the largest kickboxing promotion in the world, K-1, as well as Japan's largest MMA promotion in DREAM.
While co-promotion is a scary thought among many fans and promoters alike (take Alistair Overeem's story, for example), the partnership has given birth to a number of blockbuster battles that could potentially take place in the next few years.
One of these potential super-fights could take the form of DREAM lightweight champion Shinya Aoki versus Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez.
Everyone's familiar with Aoki's strength; he wants to detach a limb from his opponent's body. In fact, his grappling ability is about the only strength that "Tobikan Judan" really possesses. Well, other than his remarkable ability to whip around his opponents like a rag doll with his judo black belt.
He's been involved in wars against some of Japan's best strikers; including his heel hook victory over the consensus number three lightweight of the world, Eddie Alvarez.
With Melendez's striking and jiu jitsu improving dramatically with every fight, it would appear that Aoki is looking to get more experience against skilled strikers. Enter Sengoku lightweight champion, Mizuto Hirota.
To some, an even stiffer test would have come in the shape of Tatsuya Kawajiri. He is of the top-five caliber in the lightweight division, and has the striking ability to test Aoki's biggest weakness, but that fight isn't going to happen.
At least not yet.
One major reason is probably the lack of training time each fighter would get, as both of their fights were announced so close to the show. Another possibility is that Coker and FEG president, Sadaharu Tanikawa, want to avoid another potential loss on Aoki's resume heading into his Strikeforce debut.
Any time you get a champion versus champion fight, there is an ecstatic buzz that festers and grows in size until the eventual showdown
Though we would get the same buzz with a fight between Kawajiri and Melendez, especially with both fighters having similar styles, it appears that Coker and Tanikawa have their minds set on the Aoki-Melendez bout to take place on Strikeforce, possibly airing on CBS in April.
The third and most logical reason the fight won't take place yet is that promoters enjoy big marquee matchups such as Aoki versus Kawajiri, but they also have to think about the future of their business.
A hastily put-together fight between DREAM's two premier lightweight stars wouldn't generate the same type of cash flow into the company. So expect this fight to happen in Japan sometime in 2010, surrounded by great hype, with the DREAM lightweight championship on the line.
In the meantime, Aoki prepares for his New Year's Eve fight with Hirota. While he is less dangerous than Kawajiri, Hirota possesses very heavy hands that could easily leave Aoki's questionable jaw shattered on the canvas.
Additionally, even though he prefers the stand up war, Hirota is comfortable in just about any position due to his Shooto background.
While it seems that Aoki still has the skills to dismantle the Sengoku champion, Hirota has the neverending drive and heart to come from behind and beat the greatest of fighters.
2010 will definitely be a huge year for Shinya Aoki.
That is, if he doesn't look past the dangerous and very capable Mizuto Hirota, who is looking to spoil his New Year's celebration party.