Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez will attempt to defend his title for the third straight time this Saturday night against wily young contender Jorge Masvidal in a fight that he likely needs to win impressively to finally get drafted over to the UFC, but will not necessarily grant him entrance to the promotion.
Keeping an eye out for his legacy, Melendez knows that Masvidal poses a real threat to his goal of one day becoming the UFC lightweight champion, as a loss to the underrated 27-year-old would probably indefinitely prolong his stint in Strikeforce. He knows that standing between him and the bright lights of the Octagon is a hungry and dangerous fighter eager to finally get his due by beating the consensus number two ranked lightweight in the world – so El Niño’s been doing his homework.
“He’s someone I’ve been keeping on eye on for years,” Melendez told MMAWeekly, just days out from Saturday’s battle. “He’s one of those top 155 pounders that’s been in my circuit, which is outside the UFC circuit, for a long time. Someone who’s called me out, someone who I’ve almost fought, here and there, but something didn’t work out … someone I’ve studied plenty. … He’s a very long fighter, he has some really great straight punches, sounds like he has really good leverage, he’s pretty good at sticking and moving and scoring some points. He’s a very dangerous opponent. I think he’s one of those guys that’s been underrated for a long time because he’s outside the UFC circuit.”
For all of his talents and abilities though, Melendez doesn’t believe that his opponent will be able to match him in terms of savvy and sheer intensity, and that he’ll be able to drag him down deep before finally putting him away.
“I have experience. I’ve been training for five round fights for my last eight, nine fights and I’ve gone the distance four or five times,” said Melendez. “I’ve been the distance with some like Clay Guida, with great cardio, someone like Josh Thompson, with great cardio. I’ve been the distance with Shinya Aoki. My experience plays a big part. Also, when you look at my tapes, I’m not the same fighter. I break out a certain style for every fight and I’m constantly evolving. … But, mainly what he has to worry about is that I’m willing to take it to that dark place. I think a lot of fighters aren’t willing to take it there and I’m more than willing to take it there.”
Strikeforce: Melendez vs. Masvidal will take place this weekend at the Valley View Casino Center in San Diego, California. You can check out MMAWeekly’s full interview with Melendez below.