Strikeforce: Melendez vs. Masvidal takes place this weekend at the Valley View Casino in San Diego, California, and will see the long-overdue returns to action of Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez and Strikeforce women’s featherweight champion Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos.
Melendez will be taking on wily young contender Jorge Masvidal at the top of the card, while Santos will square off against the unheralded but very dangerous Hiroko Yamanaka in the night’s co-main event.
Take a look at FightLine’s brief preview of the bouts below, and don’t forget to check back tomorrow for our live, ongoing coverage of the event.
Gilbert Melendez vs. Jorge Masvidal
By every right, Gilbert Melendez should be making his way to the UFC with an impressive victory over Jorge Masvidal, but the recent Strikeforce/Showtime deal extension doesn’t leave things quite as clear as all that. What’s for sure is that Jorge Masvidal, a hungry and talented contender, will be looking to capitalize on all of the speculation over Melendez’s UFC future by taking him out and stealing his hype.
The consensus number two ranked lightweight in the world, Gilbert Melendez has been itching for the chance to prove to the greater public that he deserves to be considered the best in the world. While Melendez has been facing off against solid competition under the Strikeforce banner, demonstrating an aggressive, all-around attack that he can mold slightly to give different opponents more trouble, his true desire is to finally get his chance on the big stage in the UFC. He’ll have to divert his attention, at least momentarily, to Masvidal though, if he hopes to keep those UFC dreams alive.
Jorge Masvidal likes to say that he’s been robbed more times than a 7-11 and, while slightly hyperbolic, the man has a point. Masvidal is criminally underrated and has often wound up on the wrong side of close decisions. A smooth fighter with a gritty mentality, Masvidal has proven himself to be similarly well-rounded, but employs more fluidity where Melendez goes for intensity. Motivated to take a piece of what Melendez has got, the 27-year-old believes that he can defeat Melendez in every area.
Prediction: I expect Melendez to run into some trouble with Masvidal’s slick, in-and-out stand up, as well as with his reach and leverage in general. However, while I think Masvidal does possess the skill to upset Melendez, I believe El Niño will be able to drag Masvidal into a scrap and win the battle in the transitions. Melendez via unanimous decision
Cristiane Santos vs. Hiroko Yamanaka
This women’s championship fight will see two dominant battlers with only one loss apiece on their records tangle to determine the rightful holder of the Strikeforce women’s featherweight belt.
Cris “Cyborg” Santos will be returning from close to a year-and-a-half away from the sport, so there are question marks surrounding her conditioning and timing, but it’s important to keep in mind that Cyborg made her Strikeforce debut – in which she TKOed Shayna Baszler in the second round – after a two-year hiatus from the sport. Time and again, Santos overpowers and out-techniques her opponents to dominantly secure victory, proving without a doubt that she’s currently the best female fighter on the planet.
Hiroko Yamanaka has courted far less attention than the champion, on account of spending the entirety of her career competing in Japan, not always against the most well-known competition. Though she hasn’t faced all of the big names that Cyborg has, Yamanaka has managed to stay relatively as dominant, which is evidenced by her current eight-fight winning streak. Like Santos, Yamanaka has proven that she can do it all and possess inherent finishing instincts.
Prediction: Nothing about what we’ve seen of Santos’ character indicates that she’s the type to have let herself fall out of shape or too far out of rhythm during her time away from the sport. No doubt, she’s been toiling away in the gym, improving her skills. Though Yamanaka is certainly not an opponent to sleep on, Cyborg should be able to defeat her like the rest and continue her run of championship dominance. Santos via second-round TKO