Shinya Aoki will defend his Dream lightweight title on New Year's Eve. | Photo: Taro Irei
Dream officials Friday announced that a rumored lightweight title confrontation between company kingpin Shinya Aoki and former Sengoku champion Satoru Kitaoka is now official.
Aoki is now the second announced champion who will defend his belt at the Saitama Super Area in Saitama, Japan, as featherweight titlist Hiroyuki Takaya will also put his belt on the line against Takeshi Inoue at the Dec. 31 event. Additionally, the promotion will hold the semifinal and final rounds of its ongoing bantamweight grand prix.
Known for his elite grappling skills and expertise off of his back, Aoki owns 19 career wins by submission. “Tobikan Judan” has won six straight fights since dropping a lopsided unanimous decision to Strikeforce champion Gilbert Melendez in April 2010, earning wins over Tatsuya Kawajiri, Lyle Beerbohm and Rich Clementi along the way. Most recently, Aoki finished former WEC champion Rob McCullough on Sept. 24, submitting “Razor” with a neck crank with only three seconds remaining in the first round.
An 11-year veteran of the sport, Kitaoka rides a four-fight winning streak heading into his showdown with Aoki. Following back-to-back losses in 2009, the 31-year-old has been perfect, most recently besting onetime UFC talent Willamy Freire by split decision at Dream 17. The grappling ace owns more than half of his 29 career wins by submission and has never been submitted in 48 career outings.