by Ken Pishna – MMAWeekly.com
As Pride’s New Year’s Eve show is coming together, Gilbert Melendez confirmed on MMAWeekly Radio that he will face Tatsuya Kawajiri on the Shockwave card.

It was expected that Melendez was going to be matched up with Japanese standout Shinya Aoki at Shockwave, so Kawajiri was a surprise to many, including Melendez. “I was assuming Aoki because at the last Bushido he called me out.”

But he’s definitely excited to fighting Kawajiri, currently ranked #3 in the MMAWeekly’s Lightweight Rankings. “He’s a great challenge and I think it’s going to be an exciting fight.”

Melendez continued, “It’s definitely the better fight for me. Taking nothing away from Aoki, but Kawajiri is highly ranked.”

Of course, there are questions surrounding Melendez’s health. He had to pull out of both the latest Bushido show and next week’s Strikeforce card due to bursitis in his elbow. Melendez didn’t seem too concerned though, “I’ll definitely be 100% by New Year’s Eve.”

Knowing that Kawajiri is a highly ranked for a reason, Melendez sounds ready for the challenge, “He’s definitely a well-rounded fighter. I have to be prepared everywhere. It’s definitely going to be a high-paced fight.”

With Melendez currently sitting at the #10 position in the MMAWeekly Rankings, a win over Kawajiri would be huge for his career. It looks to be the toughest challenge of his young career, but no one should be looking past him either. Melendez could easily end up being the toughest challenge of Kawajiri’s career as well.