Dream champion Shinya Aoki will lock horns with Sengoku titleholder Mizuto Hirota in a showdown between two of the world’s top lightweights at K-1 “Dynamite Power of Courage 2009” on Dec. 31 at the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan.

Aoki last appeared in October when he submitted Joachim Hansen with a second-round armbar, avenging his technical knockout loss to the Norwegian in the 2008 Dream lightweight grand prix. The 26-year-old has posted five wins in six fights and holds notable victories over Vitor Ribeiro, Bellator champion Eddie Alvarez and American Top Team dynamo Gesias Cavalcante. Aoki has delivered 13 of his 22 wins by submission and has solidified his place as one of the most feared ground fighters in the sport.

Hirota, 28, has secured back-to-back quality stoppage wins over former Sengoku champion Satoru Kitaoka and Strikeforce veteran Mitsuhiro Ishida. A 2008 knockout victory against former International Fight League titleholder Ryan Schultz strengthens his resume, which includes eight finishes. Hirota has never been finished in 16 career bouts.

The Aoki-Hirota match was not the only high-profile tilt added to the K-1 mix on New Year’s Eve. Tatsuya Kawajiri will meet Kazunori Yokota in another pivotal lightweight bout.

The 31-year-old Kawajiri has won six of his last seven fights, the lone defeat coming to Alvarez in the 2008 “Fight of the Year.” He counts victories over Cavalcante, Ribeiro, Hansen and UFC veterans Per Eklund and Yves Edwards among his 25 conquests. Kawajiri last competed two months ago, when he stopped the overmatched Melchor Manibusan on first-round strikes at Dream 11.

Yokota will carry a three-fight winning streak into the match. The 31-year-old outpointed the respected Eiji Mitsuoka at Sengoku “Eleventh Battle” last month, maintaining the momentum he gained with a spectacular knockout of Schultz earlier this year. Yokota owns other noteworthy victories over Hirota and Sengoku featherweight ace Michihiro Omigawa.

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