Reigning Tachi Palace Fights bantamweight champion Ian Loveland is set to meet Shooto prospect Kyoji Horiguchi on Dec. 24 at Vale Tudo Japan 2012. confirmed the development Wednesday with Loveland’s management. Staged by Shooto promoter Sustain, VTJ 2012 will take place Christmas Eve at an as-yet-unannounced venue in Tokyo.

Loveland has won nine of his last 11 starts and enters the bout on the heels of two sizzling knockout victories. Since his 1-2 run in the UFC, the 29-year-old “Barn Owl” has captured the vacant TPF 135-pound strap by defeating Alexander Crispim in May, and defended it against Casey Olson in September. The Sports Lab representative has recorded finishes in 14 of his 16 professional wins.

A training partner of Kid Yamamoto at Tokyo’s Krazy Bee gym, 22-year-old Horiguchi has lost just once in nine pro outings, with that blemish coming in a January decision against Bellator vet Masakatsu Ueda. The 2010 Shooto rookie champ has rebounded with a March stoppage of established grappler Tetsu Suzuki and a July outpointing of Pancrase’s Manabu Inoue.

Held annually from 1994 to 1999, the Vale Tudo Japan series has featured a host of notable names, including Randy Couture, Frank Shamrock, Rickson Gracie and Takanori Gomi. The series was resurrected in 2009 and featured Gomi’s final appearance before signing with the UFC.

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