The match up will see former 2-time title challenger Koichi Aso (20-7-1, 13), the #1 ranked contender, take on first time title challenger Kazuki Matsuyama (13-7-1, 7), the #2 ranked fighter.
Of the two men it's Aso who is more well known. He's been a professional since June 2006 and has shared the ring with a who's who of domestic talent. He has fought to a draw with Valentine Hosokawa, suffered loss to Taisho Ozawa, twice, Shinya Iwabuchi and Hiroki Okada, twice, and holds wins over Yusuke Kikuchi, Kazuyoshi Kumano, Yoshitaka Katabami and Moon Hyun Yun.
Although those names might not resonate globally they do feature almost every notable Japanese Light Welterweight of the last decade, barring Yoshihiro Kamegai and Aso's Misako gym stablemate mate Keita Obara.
In the ring Aso is a rough around the edges pressure fighter, who brings the heat from early on and always looks to engage in a fan friendly battle. Sometimes that has cost him, as it in the opening round against Iwabuchi, other times it's kept him competitive in fights against more talented fighters, such as in the first Okada fight. Although not the most skilled, or the biggest puncher, few will double Aso's fighting mentality and he always comes to win whilst having a style that will always excite fans.
As for Matsuyama he's been a professional for a little over 7 years and has a very mixed record. He began with back-to-back losses before stringing together 6 wins to get his career off the ground. Sadly Matsuyama had another slide as he ended that run and suffered a trio of losses, including a notable set back to Masanobu Nakazawa in 2012. The streaky fighter bounced back again, winning 6 in a row, including a win over Masayoshi Kotake. That run ended in late 2015, when he was stopped by Shuhei Tsuchiya and he has since gone 1-1-1 with a loss to Daishi Nagata and a draw with Kentaro Endo.
At his best Matsuyama is quite limited. His poor recent form, with just 1 win in his last 4, would suggest he shouldn't be getting a title fight here, and although he can spring an upset it does seem like he's getting this fight more because no one else is seen as being quite ready for a title fight at the moment.
Aso might not be a huge puncher but with his style you'd have to favour him to over-whelm and break down Matsuyama. The style of Aso will give Matsuyama chances, but we don't think Matsuyama will be good enough to make the most of the openings he will be given, and will instead be stopped in the middle rounds.