Melendez defends lightweight belt in co-main event trilogy fight with Thomson
The Strikeforce heavyweight grand prix finally will get its conclusion next month.
Tournament finalists Josh Barnett and Daniel Cormier are official for a May 19 main event when Strikeforce returns to its former home base in San Jose, Calif. The promotion, along with cable broadcast partner Showtime, announced the card Monday night, along with the Barnett-Cormier main event and a co-main event lightweight title fight between champion Gilbert Melendez and Josh Thomson.
In addition, the promotion announced fights between former light heavyweight champion Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante and Mike Kyle, plus Bobby Voelker vs. Nah-Shon Burrell for the event. The main card will air live on Showtime on May 19 at 10 p.m. Eastern – though delayed on the West Coast, where the event is taking place. And the preliminary card, bouts for which will be announced in the coming weeks, will get a live broadcast on Showtime Extreme at 8 p.m. Eastern. Tickets for the event go on sale to the general public on Friday at 1 p.m. Eastern and range in price from $45 to $175. Additionally, members of the UFC Fight Club can purchase tickets early from 1-3 p.m. Eastern on Thursday, and UFC newsletter subscribers can get them in a presale starting at 3 p.m. Thursday.
The fight between Barnett and Cormier finally will crown a heavyweight tournament champion. The event started in February 2011 with an eight-man field that included favorites Fedor Emelianenko and then-champion Alistair Overeem. But Emelianenko was upset in the first round by Antonio Silva. Silva lost to Cormier in the semifinals after Cormier replaced Overeem, who was released from the promotion last summer after reaching the semifinals, only to eventually sign with the UFC. Barnett’s path to the finals comes with arm triangle submission wins over Brett Rogers and Sergei Kharitonov.
Cormier and Barnett won their semifinal fights in September, but Cormier has been forced out since then recovering from a broken hand – meaning the semifinals and finals will be more than eight months apart. The winner of the tournament is expected to get one more fight in Strikeforce’s heavyweight division, likely to crown the promotion’s final champion for the history books. After that, the division will officially be dissolved so Strikeforce can concentrate on the weight classes between lightweight and light heavyweight. In recent months, following that announcement, many of Strikeforce’s heavyweights have migrated over to the UFC.
“Strikeforce is coming back to where it all started – San Jose,” CEO Scott Coker said in a statement. “The Bay Area has some of the best fight fans in the world, and we can’t wait to get back with an event like this on May 19. With the heavyweight grand prix final between Josh Barnett and Daniel Cormier, along with Gilbert Melendez’s lightweight title defense against longtime rival Josh Thomson, you don’t want to miss this card!”
Melendez last fought in December, defending his 155-pound belt against Jorge Masvidal with a dominant unanimous decision victory. Melendez has been lobbying for a move to the UFC, but UFC president Dana White has said that will not happen and he would make sure Strikeforce mainstays like Melendez are taken care of. Strikeforce champions Overeem, Dan Henderson and Nick Diaz all made the move from one promotion to the other last year.
Against Thomson, Melendez gets a rubber match against the last man to beat him. Thomson took Melendez’s lightweight title in June 2008 with a unanimous decision victory. After Melendez became the interim champ, he avenged the loss with a unanimous decision win over Thomson to unify the title in December 2009. He has defended the belt three times since then.
The card will be the 60th in Strikeforce’s history and 19th in San Jose, where the promotion was based until it was purchased by Zuffa, owners of the UFC, last year.