Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez continues his current run of dominance, as last night in San Diego he thoroughly outclassed tough Japanese fighter Tatsuya Kawajiri en route to his second official title defense and fifth straight win.
Perhaps because he saw that Cecil Peoples was refereeing his bout, Melendez took control of the fight at the bell, landing a stiff right hand early that wobbled Kawajiri and set the tone for the rest of the bout. From there, Melendez kept Kawajiri on the end of his punches — most effectively his straight right — and kept the powerful grappler off of him by slamming him with knees anytime he initiated the clinch. A brief ground scramble and a few more hard right hand/left hook combinations and Kawajiri was diving desperate for a takedown. Melendez sprawled, shoulder shoved him to his back and finished things with a technically proficient and vicious assault of elbows.
The Skrap Pack founder spoke with MMAFighting.com’s Ariel Helwani following his decisive first round victory about the fight itself and where he wants to go from here.
“I’ve seen his fights and I knew he was capable — it worked out a lot better than I thought,” Melendez admitted about his victory. “It was picture perfect. Like I said man, I just got a tough stable of dudes. They make me doubt myself, but when I go in there I realize how tough our team is.”
During his interview with Helwani, Melendez was clearly amped up to be working under Zuffa, LLC and for the opportunities he sees as now being possible. Even in the cage post-fight, Melendez’s mind was on the UFC and their champ.
“I’ll tell you what, I think it’s time we unify some titles,” Melendez said following his win. “Who wants to see me fight for that UFC title? Let’s unify them in my hexagon. I’m the No. 1 lightweight in the world, baby. I’m coming for the spot.”
Melendez elaborated on why he is more excited about facing Frankie Edgar or Gray Maynard than, say, Justin Wilcox or KJ Noons, explaining that he is still willing to face anyone that’s put in front of him in defense of his belt.
“They honestly don’t,” Melendez replied when asked if the Strikeforce lightweights excite him as much as those in the UFC. “But that’s part of being the champ: defending the throne … Obviously it’s more motivating to fight for the UFC strap, but sometimes fighting guys that you’re supposed to kick butt on, it gets a little harder. You know what I mean? But that’s part of being the champ and I would accept the challenge and rise to the occasion like I feel like I always do.”