Visa issues will reportedly prevent Brazilian Willamy Freire from competing against Dream lightweight champion Shinya Aoki at Dream 17. Instead, Aoki will likely face former WEC lightweight king Jamie Varner at the event.
Sherdog.com confirmed on Friday with a source close to the negotiations that the bout "seems very likely" for the May 29 show, which will emanate from the Saitama Super Arena near Tokyo.
It was initially thought that former MFC lightweight king Antonio McKee would step in for Freire to meet Aoki, but it now seems that the 41-year-old is now off the bill. According to a separate source close to the event, McKee was in the process of making the proposed matchup official, and then was informed by the promotion that they had found another replacement.
Dream 17 will also feature the opening round of the promotion's tournament to decide Dream's first-ever bantamweight champion, as four tilts will be featured on the card, as will two unrelated featherweight bouts featuring Caol Uno taking on Akiyo Nishiura and Mitsuhiro Ishida locking horns with Joachim Hansen.
Varner, 26, has gone 0-3-1 in his last four bouts. After putting together a five-fight winning streak from 2007-2009, Varner had his WEC lightweight title lifted by Benson Henderson at WEC 46 in January 2010. Varner then followed that defeat by fighting hard-hitting Kamal Shalorus to a split draw five months later before dropping back-to-back contests to Donald Cerrone and Shane Roller, respectively. Varner was released by the promotion following his loss to Roller in December 2010.