Thomson and Kawajiri face off New Year’s Eve in Japan

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Josh Thomson on his way to outpointing Gesias Cavalcante. Photo: Esther Lin

Former Strikeforce lightweight world champion will meet perennial 155-pound contender and Japanese superstar Tatsuya “Crusher” Kawajiri in a fantastic matchup with world title implications on Dream’s annual year-end “Dynamite!!” card on December 31 in Japan.

Thomson (18-3, 1 NC), of San Jose, California, has won two in a row and ten of his last eleven starts. A victory keeps alive his chances of facing current Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez for a third time. Kawajiri (26-6-2), of Inashiki, Ibaraki, Japan, has been victorious in four of his last five starts.

In his last fight, the 5-foot-10, 32-year-old Thomson recorded a hard-fought, three-round decision over Gesias “JZ” Cavalcante on October 9, 2010. Since March 2006, the American Kickboxing Academy (AKA) team member has lost only to Melendez, and that came in a Dec. 19, 2009 rematch in San Jose that was later nominated for Fight of the Year. It was Thomson’s first fight in 15 months. Thomson outpointed Melendez in their initial encounter on June 27, 2008.

“I’ve wanted this fight forever,’’ said Thomson, who submitted (kneebar) Daisuke Sugie in his debut in the “Land of the Rising Sun” in July 2005. “He’s somebody that excites me.’’

A talented fighter known for strong wrestling and vicious ground and pound, the popular Kawajiri has been a staple in the Top 10 rankings. The 5-foot-7, 32-year-old had won four consecutive fights until suffering a devastating loss via submission (Achilles lock) to Dream champion Shinya Aoki in his last outing on July 10.

Kawajiri, who upended Cavalcante on points in May 2009, dropped a decision to Melendez in Japan on Dec. 31, 2007.

The matchup between Thomson and Kawajiri is yet another product of Strikeforce’s and Dream’s cooperation to exchange fighters in order to produce the most competitive bouts possible between the world’s top mixed martial artists.

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