Gilbert Melendez once again proved that he’s the best lightweight fighter on the Strikeforce roster, as he defended his belt tonight against a game-as-always Jorge Masvidal.
Masvidal didn’t make it easy for Melendez to earn his unanimous decision, as he swelled the champ’s face with a constant jab. Aside from the jab and some occasional knees though, Masvidal was mostly tentative, inexplicably holding himself back from opening up. Against a relentless fighter like Melendez, that proved his undoing.
The champ won the fight by virtue of being the more aggressive battler of the two, always marching forward and putting his hands on the challenger. Though his face wore more signs of battle by the end of the five-rounder, Melendez had clearly done what he needed to in order to keep his belt. In Masvidal, El Niño repelled a wily and dangerous challenger, and he did so completely by virtue of his stand up skills, which not many expected.
“I had to do what I had to do,” Melendez said post-fight. “Jorge’s not the easiest match up, especially stylistically for me. I could kick Aoki’s butt and Aoki might tap him out in one round, know what I mean? This guy’s one of the toughest match ups for me and I beat him at his own game; I think I’m better than he is as a striker.”
Melendez explained that he worked tirelessly at sharpening his striking specifically because he knew that Masvidal would be working hard to shut down his takedown attempts and prevent him from making scrambles.
“Well, you know what? I knew he was going to be working the sprawl and brawl and I knew he was underestimating my striking,” he said. “I wanted to get the takedown, it’s just he’s not an easy guy to take down. He has really good movement, really good distance and really good length. And he doesn’t really walk forward, so it’s not really there. So, I had to do what I had to do. I was prepared for every scenario. I had to keep it on the feet. Things were working, I kept it there. He has to take my belt. This is my belt, he has to take it from me.”
With it looking like Melendez will be held back indefinitely to defend his title in Strikeforce, the champion called for Zuffa to bring the UFC fighters to him.
“Hey, you know what? I’m proud to be a part of Strikeforce and Showtime’s amazing, but they need to bring some guys over here to challenge me,” said Melendez. “I’d like to challenge the champ, whoever it is, in the UFC. Come to my Hexagon and let’s fight!”
Melendez improves to 20-2 in victory, extending his current winning streak to six straight. Strikeforce: Melendez vs. Masvidal went down at the Valley View Casino Center in San Diego, California.