Melendez vs. Kato

Sep 28, 2007



In a move that may conquer the entire 18-34 male demographic in America, Strikeforce will promote its latest event from the Playboy Mansion this Saturday. Even better, they'll be streaming on Yahoo! starting at 9 p.m. PST/12 a.m. EST.

Personally, I'm just glad someone has decided to combine my love of Playboy's witty articles and MMA's sporting atmosphere. OK fine, I just wanna watch some modern day bionic women cheer on a bunch of dudes trying to beat up the first thing that moves. Is that so wrong?

For all of you who believe the Beastie Boys and are willing to fight for your right to party, read on and get ready to discover who is a contender for best afro in MMA and learn the secret unbreakable hold that will surely destroy the world. MMAnalysis, the impending apocalypse and Hugh Hefner envy … it's all here people.

Gilbert Melendez (Pictures) vs. Tetsuji Kato (Pictures)

Best known for his time in the Shooto middleweight division, Tetsuji Kato (Pictures) (18-7) was the Japanese equivalent of the Cleveland Browns as he failed to capture the middleweight (167-lb.) title despite being a perennial contender. A departure from Shooto saw diminishing returns for Kato who soon moved down to the lightweight division.

Contrary to what Joe Rogan will tell you, shedding weight is not like a trip to Odinsaker. For Kato, his journey through the lightweight division has been more like Chad Johnson's recent visit to the Dawg pound. Hopefully, the prospect of fighting in front of Hugh Hefner's genetically engineered Barbie doll army will right Kato's ship.

Knocking careers off course has been a specialty for Melendez, 12-0, since his days in the Shooto lightweight (143-lb.) division. A quick rise to the top of the division was stalled by then champion Alexandre Franca Nogueira (Pictures), who avoided top contenders like Ernest Hemingway avoided AA meetings.

The opportunity to compete in his native California was all Melendez needed to leave Shooto and sign up as the face of Strikeforce's lightweight division. In his most notable stateside bout, Melendez managed to outlast the perpetual motion machine known as Clayton Guida in a classic five round scrap to win the Strikeforce 155-pound title.

A return to Japan under the PRIDE Bushido banner saw Melendez cement his status as one of the sport's best pound-for-pound fighters with a come from behind decision win over former Shooto welterweight champion Tatsuya Kawajiri (Pictures). A different challenge awaits Melendez against the always-savvy Kato.

More of a straightforward top control grappler, Kato's best hope for success lies in avoiding Melendez's constantly improving striking and forcing him to work off his back. Corralling Melendez isn't likely given his superior wrestling and knack for forcing a frenetic pace that would make John Woo proud.

Even if Kato can manage a takedown against "El Niño," he has never been a great finisher and it would be difficult to imagine Kato smothering Melendez's offense long enough to steal a decision. Instead, look for Melendez to bully Kato in the clinch and overwhelm his Japanese counterpart on the ground with a steady stream of elbows and punches from the guard.

The punishment will take its toll on both Kato's face and his ability to defend himself prompting a stoppage late in the second round. Having established himself as a force in MMA, the only thing left for Melendez to do is avoid the barber and challenge Shooto star Mamoru Yamaguchi (Pictures) for title of best afro in MMA.

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