Gilbert Melendez (file photo) crushed Tatsuya Kawajiri on Saturday. | Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
Make no mistake about it: when Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez enters the cage, he is single-minded in his purpose.
Following the successful defense of his title against challenger Tatsuya Kawajiri in the co-main event of Strikeforce “Diaz vs. Daley” on Saturday night, “El Nino” elaborated on the in-cage demeanor that earned him his fifth-straight victory.
“I always have bad intentions when it comes to fighting,” Melendez said in a video interview on Sho.com. “I’m here to kill. Not to be a jerk, but that’s the way I fight. I saw a body with a blurry face and it was a big target. It didn’t matter who it was out there. I [was] trying to hurt him.”
Melendez previously met the “Crusher” in 2006, earning a hard-fought unanimous decision on Kawajiri’s home turf of Japan. Over four years later, the rematch did not resemble the original, as Melendez controlled the contest from the get-go. Initially landing a beautiful counter right hand that buckled the challenger, the Cesar Gracie product went for the kill and did not let up, battering Kawajiri across the cage and eventually finishing the job with some newly legal elbows from top position.
“It feels euphoric. I’m patient out there now and I don’t get too nervous. This is my job. I’m happy with my training camp and, win or lose, I can live with myself. When you work hard, there’s no pressure walking in there. That’s why I perform,” said Melendez.
According to the champion, he now understands the philosophy of using the right tool for the job, alluding to classical kung fu forms to illustrate the point.
“I’ve got weapons of all kinds. I’ve got a great muay Thai coach. I’m using knees, I’m using elbows. Whatever I need to do, I’ll pull it out,” said Melendez. “Now I understand [the style concept] of [kung fu], like tiger style or crane style. In MMA, I pull out different styles for different fighters. I used to think that was a joke, but now I understand.”
To that end, Melendez expected his foe to approach their rematch differently than the way Kawajiri did on Saturday. However, the champion simply adjusted his game plan and took what the challenger gave him.
“I’m a mixed martial artist. I’m ready for [multiple] scenarios,” said Melendez. “I thought he was going to come at me and charge me, but he waited, so we started playing a little bit of chess and we had our flurries, and I was able to pick my punches and land.”