When the new TV deal was struck between Showtime & Strikeforce there were some fighters specifically listed who cannot be moved to the UFC. Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez is one of these fighters. Since fans cannot do anything but watch him fight for the promotion, just enjoy it & be patient.
Fans would love to see Gilbert move to the UFC & take on the elite of the division. Gilbert is considered a top 5 lightweight in the world and many have him ranked even higher than that. For the near future there is no chance we will see him fight Benson Henderson, Frankie Edgar, Clay Guida, Gray Maynard or Nate Diaz. We will have to watch him fight Josh Thomson this Saturday & then another fighter some detractors will not consider a legitimate contender.
No fighter is unbeatable & therefore it is not certain Gilbert will walk over every Strikeforce opponent put in front of him. Granted, he will be a heavy favourite in his fights but we see monumental upsets every year. That is one thing that makes the sport of mixed martial arts so fascinating.
Gilbert himself would like to be challenged & prove to his doubters that he is in fact the best lightweight fighter in the world. He is taking a very smart approach & just focusing on his next opponent rather than worrying about things outside of his control. Josh Thomson defeated Melendez for the lightweight championship in June 2008, then year and a half later Melendez had his revenge when he won the championship back. They now face each other for the third time.
In both of those previous encounters the judges had to render a decision. Melendez has improved his game since that time & would like to put an exclamation point on the trilogy by finishing Thomson emphatically.
Some have questioned Melendez’s record but there are some very good fighters on his list of victories. The aforementioned Thomson, Tatsuya Kawajiri, Shinya Aoki & Clay Guida. With his style & skill set Gilbert matches up well against any lightweight in the world. One day it would seem likely Gilbert will have the chance to prove this but until then it is still a pleasure to watch a skilled striker wield his craft.
If Melendez wins Saturday night the question that will arise if who is next. One possible opponent is Gesias ‘JZ’ Cavalcante, but he must win his own fight Saturday versus Isaac Vallie-Flagg before that fight can be offered to him. With a 16-4 record & wins over Bart Palaszewski, Caol Uno, Michihiro Omigawa, Nam Phan & Vitor Ribeiro he has a very solid resume. He has not fought in almost a year so his bout this weekend will not be an easy one. If he can shake off the ring rust & win decisively he may be the next challenger.
The other likely contender from within the promotion is Pat Healy. He is riding a 4 fight win streak after defeating Caros Fodor in March. Pat has been fighting for over a decade & is tall for this weight class. He generally holds a reach advantage over his opponents & that can cause issues for his opponent. A fight between Healy & Cavalcante may be lined up if neither is chosen immediately for a title shot.
The likelihood of a UFC fighter moving to Strikeforce for a fight is very high. UFC President Dana White tried to line up BJ Penn for a title fight but he declined. Josh Thomson was then called upon to take that spot. We will not see one of the top 5 fighters come over as they are tied up with a UFC title run but there are a number of solid fighters who may be possibilities.
The winner of Donald Cerrone & Jeremy Stephens would be a good contender for Melendez. Other possibilities may be Melvin Guillard, Jim Miller, Anthony Pettis or Sean Sherk and all would prove to be exciting fights for the fans. The decision is Dana White’s to make in conjunction with Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker. The fans are demanding that Gilbert’s opponents be more difficult so the possibility of this could happen later in the summer or fall.
Gilbert is a fun fighter to watch from a fan’s perspective. He is someone who needs to be marketed & showcased to capitalize on his abilities while still in his prime. Some day he will make his way to the UFC & go on a run to the title. For now, there is no need to worry about that or complain about this opponents. Watch the man use his skills & appreciate him for the fighter he is. He is great & he proves it every time out.
Written by Mike McPhee
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