Shinya Aoki (23-5 MMA, 9-2 DREAM) looks to make his first successful title defense when the DREAM lightweight champion meets Tatsuya Kawajiri (26-5-2 MMA, 6-1 DREAM) at DREAM.15.
DREAM officials today announced the July 10 title fight, which headlines the overseas card.
) first reported the bout in early April – a few weeks before Aoki fell short in a bid to take Gilbert Melendez's lightweight belt at the CBS-televised "Strikeforce: Nashville."
DREAM.15 takes place at the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan, and airs in North American on HDNet.
The Aoki vs. Kawajiri fight is one Japanese fans have long anticipated.
The lightweights have circled each other on the Japanese MMA scene for many years. They briefly were rumored for a "Dynamite!! 2009" meeting in December, but the event instead took shape as a showdown between DREAM and Japan-based competitor World Victory Road. Aoki faced Sengoku lightweight champion Mizuto Hirota at the New Year's Eve event and drew a firestorm of controversy when he broke Hirota's arm during the fight and taunted him afterward.
Kawajiri defeated Kazunori Yokota by unanimous decision in a fight earlier in the night.
In his most recent bout, Aoki made his Strikeforce debut and looked to penetrate the U.S. market when he met Melendez in April. The American fighter, though, dominated the fight for a lopsided unanimous-decision win. It was just the second loss in eight fights for Aoki, who won the DREAM belt via submission from Joachim Hansen in October.
Kawajiri, meanwhile, is on a solid streak of his own. Aside from a TKO loss to Eddie Alvarez in July 2008, he remains undefeated over his past eight fights.