Gilbert Melendez Survives Josh Thomson, Retains Strikeforce Lightweight Title

Gilbert Melendez eats a kick from Josh Thomson (Esther Lin/Strikeforce)

Champion keeps belt with split decision win over a game Thomson

After a pair of exciting fights in their history, the third fight in the Gilbert Melendez vs. Josh Thomson trilogy would get little argument from anyone as the best one yet.

In a back-and-forth five-round fight Saturday night in the co-main event of the Strikeforce show at HP Pavilion in San Jose, Calif., Melendez kept his lightweight title with a split decision win over Thomson.

Thomson, sporting a pair of wraps on his knees, possibly to disguise which knee was the one bothering him in a highly rumored training injury, looked comfortable early in the fight and had little problem standing inside to trade punches and kicks with Melendez. Melendez often looked for takedowns. But once on the ground, Melendez was typically back to his feet within seconds – and Melendez did little with the top positions when he got the fight to the ground.

Thomson, though, also worked to take his opponent off his feet – often utilizing a trip takedown to put Melendez on the canvas. Though Melendez appeared to be the more effective and accurate striker in the second and third rounds, especially, the fight was marked with three accidental eyepokes that Thomson complained about and got short timeouts for.

Thomson seemed to come on once the fight hit the championship rounds. And with at least one judge, he apparently took the last two frames and perhaps the first to win the fight. But with two others, Melendez did just enough to keep his belt.

After the fight, Thomson urged the crowd in San Jose, his home town, to not boo the decision – and even said he would love to have a fourth fight with Melendez.