Lightweight champ not convinced by Thomson win over Noons
Current Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez possesses the type of skill set that makes him a legitimate candidate for the top 155-pound fighter in the world slot, and apparently patience is an attribute he has to spare.
Melendez’s reign atop the division has been dominant, and while the opposition the organization has presented him in the past may not have been ideal, Melendez has always stepped up to the answer the challenge.
Saturday at Strikeforce: Tate vs. Rousey in Columbus, Ohio, the champion was on hand as a guest commentator for the bout between Josh Thomson and K.J. Noons that has been rumored to be a title eliminator. There was no official word from the promotion, but it was figured the winner would earn the opportunity to face Melendez later in the year. The champion has a history with both fighters, with two memorable wars with Thomson. And as a close friend of Noons’ nemesis Nick Diaz, the fight with “King Karl” would have been equally sellable.
Unfortunately, while both Thomson and Noons spoke about Fight of the Night-worthy performances before the bout, the action in the cage came up far short of the mark. The night’s co-main event may have garnered boos from the Columbus crowd, but Gilbert’s presence in the booth earned rave reviews. Melendez told HeavyMMA Thomson’s message about whipping “El Nino” in a third fight might be premature.
“I know that’s what he said, and he can try,” Melendez told HeavyMMA after the event. “I think he was trying to make me laugh. It was a good fight, but I wasn’t super impressed. Josh Thomson said it himself – that he looked like sh*t, and I don’t know if he was complete sh*t, but those were his words and I’ll let him be the one to say it.”
One of the biggest issues Melendez has faced as Strikeforce champion is being able to find a clear-cut No. 1 contender to stand across the cage from him. Before the fight between Thomson and Noons, most indicators pointed to the winner being next in line. But Melendez believes there is another fighter on the roster who should be considered.
“I thought (Pat) ‘Bam Bam’ Healy looked really good, and he might be more deserving of a title shot than Josh, in my opinion,” Melendez said. “Josh was losing in his fight against Healy, and he got a Hail Mary rear naked choke at the end. But it’s whatever to me. K.J. and Josh both lost to the last two guys I beat. I just smashed (Tatsuya) Kawajiri, and he beat Josh Thomson in his fight before this and (Jorge) Masvidal beat Noons. It is what it is, and I’ll fight whoever they bring me.”
The dust will have to settle on last weekend’s events before Strikeforce decides who will get the next title shot, and while Melendez doesn’t know who he will be facing next, he has his mind locked on a date when he’s returning to action – and wants it to be near home.
“I’m fighting May 19,” Melendez said. “I don’t know against who yet but I don’t care – I’m fighting May 19 in San Jose (Calif.). I need to stay busy and I’m going to be on that card. We’ll see, and I have to keep faith they will deliver. It would be nice if they could bring over some Top 5 competition, and hopefully there is something in the works. I talked to (UFC president) Dana (White), and he told me he would do me justice – and I have to have faith in what he says.”