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Steve Cofield

Japan's rep on the line again with Alvarez versus Neer

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evotees to fighting in Japan got belted in the mouth back at Strikeforce: Nashville. Those who swore by Shinya Aoki and his inflated spot in many pundit's lightweight rankings, looked like jackasses when Gilbert Melendez strolled by the Japanese legend in five rounds.

For some, before the fight, since B.J. Penn had lost his title at UFC 112, Aoki was all ready to take his "rightful place" atop the rankings.

Before the Melendez fight, on Twitter, we said that Aoki wasn't in our top four. Some followers went nuts:

Now we're not even sure if Aoki deserves to be in the top eight.

So what did the lackluster performance by Aoki say about fighting in Japan? You shouldn't judge the entire product by one fight but the Aoki flop didn't speak well for DREAM and Sengoku.

American Eddie Alvarez is another guy who's built most of his reputation on what he's done in Japan. So where do we go if Alvarez can't get by UFC castoff Josh Neer? Neer (27-9, 4-6 UFC) and Alvarez (19-2) hook up at 160 pounds tonight at Bellator 17. Neer's UFC losses (Gleison Tibau, Nate Diaz, Kurt Pellegrino, Nick Diaz, Josh Burkman, Drew Fickett) are from embarrassing but he's been a guy who just can't turn the corner. Alvarez should handle him easily, correct?

According to the USA Today/Bloody Elbow lightweight rankings, Aoki is now No. 7, down from No. 2. Alvarez, who lost to Aoki in 1:32 in a 2008 fight, also took a tumble in the rankings from No. 3 to No. 5. Neer is not ranked in the top 25.

An Alvarez win and it could set up a meeting with another UFC castoff Roger Huerta, who is also not ranked in the top 25, in spite of going the distance with both No. 4 Kenny Florian and No. 6 Gray Maynard.

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