Shinya AokiEarlier today, the Japan-based DREAM organization announced that Shinya Aoki will be competing in DREAM’s 2009 Welterweight Grand Prix.

The news might come as a bit of surprise considering Aoki traditionally competes at lightweight. Perhaps, his win over former welterweight Eddie Alvarez on New Year’s has given him a boost of confidence.

Aoki is considered an absolute wizard on the ground with his slick style of jiu jitsu, consistently submitting people in new and creative ways.

His stand-up is a different story though. He recently spent time in Muay Thai training his striking which is something he desperately needed. Sooner rather than later Aoki is going to run into someone with amazing takedown defense and he will have to win a fight on the feet. MMA fighters are just too well rounded and smart to keep playing into Aoki’s games.

Considering the welterweights he will be going against are bigger and stronger than his usual opponents, I predict getting the takedown will be considerably more of a challenge.

The first round of the tourney kicks off April 5th in Japan at DREAM.8. Also confirmed is Japanese MMA star Hayato “Mach” Sakurai. When more participants are announced we will be sure to pass it along.