Gilbert Melendez is a beast of a lightweight. | Photo: Dave Mandel
Gilbert Melendez’s blowout of Tatsuya Kawajiri on April 9 made two statements.
First, the Strikeforce lightweight champion made a strong case that he may be the best 155-pound fighter in the world. Second, the roster of potential Strikeforce challengers may be so thin and underwhelming that Melendez is likely to end up in the UFC a lot sooner than one may think. Otherwise, Melendez may be relegated to the same situation as Bellator Fighting Championships lightweight titleholder Eddie Alvarez, a wildly talented fighter with few viable challengers in sight.
At Strikeforce “Overeem vs. Werdum” on Saturday in Dallas, there were two developments that showed how bare the cupboard is for future Melendez title defenses. Jorge Masvidal gave a solid showing in his unanimous decision over K.J. Noons, but he seemed to tire some in the fight, despite the fact that he was never taken down and pressured and did not absorb a lot of punishment while standing. Plus, this was in a relatively laconic three-round bout. Melendez cruises through five-round fights with no visible drop-off in output, which definitely spells trouble for the Masvidal we saw against Noons.
Considering Melendez’s high-paced wrestling, deep gas tank and aggressive style, it is hard to imagine a fight between the two in which Masvidal would not be run out of gas.
Check out the Strikeforce 155-pound roster. Outside of a defense against Masvidal and a third matchup with rival Josh Thomson, there is not a lot to choose from in terms of providing the champion with anything less than a 5-to-1 underdog. Thomson faces the talented but raw Maximo Blanco on Sept. 10. Hopefully, their scrap will provide a challenger viable enough to face “El Nino.”