Josh “The Punk” Thomson entered Friday night’s title bout against Champion Gilbert “El Nino” Melendez as a three and a half to one underdog. But for those that had an opportunity to watch the fight, you would have thought it was the other way around. Thomson controlled the fight from bell to bell and walked away as Stikeforce’s new Lightweight Champion.
“First off, I gotta say every interview I did before this they asked me if Gilbert was going to be the toughest fight I ever had, and I told them I didn’t think so. I take that (expletive) back, he’s the toughest (expletive) I ever fought,” said the newly crowned Champ.
Although he was a heavy underdog coming into the fight, the two former training partners were fairly evenly matched, at least on paper. The difference in the fight was clearly Thomsons ability to utilize kicks. He kept Melendez off balance all night by mixing in a variety of low, mid and high kicks. However, this was not Thomson’s initially strategy going into the fight.
“…I went into the fight trying to think that I’d have success with my takedowns, the whole fight was me trying to get him to over commit to his punches and get the takedown.” explained Thomson. ”So that was what I was focusing on, when he wasn’t shooting as much as I thought, it kind of through me off guard so it opened up my takedowns a lot more.”
The kicks provided Thomson with the added reach that he needed to keep the ever dangerous Melendez at bay. Melendez didn’t look like himself all night, as he continued to lose the stand up battle against the challenger, and was never able to successfully shoot on Thomson due to the kicks.
“I was just trying to go with the flow and see what happened. He was giving me little opportunities when he was reaching for the punches as I stayed on the outside, so I tried to capitalize,” said Thomson. ”Something Javier Mendez (Muay Thai Coach) had been working with me on for months now.”
There were many questions about Thomson going into the fight, having just recovered from shoulder surgery just a few month back, and the road to recover has been a tough one. However, last night’s win made it worth all the while.
“Makes it all the more satisfying that I went through all this adversity and came back and got the belt. Made it ten times more satisfying.”
For full results from last night’s Strikeforce event, click here.