Neither fighter did much during the 15-minute contest, and so it’s
no fun to argue the outcome, which had Overeem a unanimous decision
What was interesting — and what people will likely take with them
as this result fades in the distance — is Belfort’s reaction to
competing under the eyes of California State Athletic Commission
judges, whom he said have no clue how to score mixed martial arts
Susan Thomas Gitlin, an unfamiliar face to mixed martial arts
judging, had it three rounds to none for Overeem. (There is no
argument in favor of giving Overeem the first.)
While Gitlin had it 30-27 for the Dutchman, Steve Morrow (also a
relative newcomer to MMA) and Dan Stell (another fresh face) gave
Overeem two rounds to Belfort’s one.
Sherdog.com had it 29-28 for the 26-year-old Overeem, who raised
his record to 24-7-0.
“Somebody’s gotta help us,” said Belfort, recalling his
controversial decision loss to Tito Ortiz(Pictures) as another example of
ill-informed mixed martial arts judging; Sherdog.com scored that
bout for Belfort.
“Hey, let’s finish with those judges,” he continued. “Let’s put
real judges. People that understand the world of mixed martial
His complaints, at least on this night, may fall on deaf ears
because even though the Brazilian clearly owned the first stanza by
slamming Overeem to the floor and briefly taking back-control, his
game faded in the second and disappeared until the final 30 seconds
of the third.
Afterwards, Belfort said an injured left quad, which occurred
during the second period, forced him to step off the pedal. The
pain left the 29 year old with little recourse other than pulling
guard or flopping to his back — despite this he refused to come to
any other conclusion than easy victory.
“This is the second time I got robbed in the States,” he said. “The
first time was with Tito and now the second time with
As you might imagine, Overeem saw it quite differently.
“I was getting a little bit frustrated but I knew I was getting
some clear shots on the ground,” he said. “I knew I was hurting him
on the ground, so if he wants to drop back into guard and if I can
punish you there, of course I will.”
By the middle of the second, fans had a pretty consistent reaction
to Belfort’s tactics. Of course the boo birds weren’t aware that
he’d been injured.
A do over of an April 2005 PRIDE Grand Prix contest in which
Overeem submitted Belfort via guillotine choke, Friday’s fight was
for relatively low stakes.
Both fighters’ performances reflected that.
Having fewer tools at their disposal, said Overeem, took “the pace
of the fight away.” Belfort, meanwhile, enjoyed the rules — just
not the judging.
Tonight’s card offered a far different set of circumstances than
Strikeforce’s March effort when it made history as California’s
first regulated mixed martial arts card and set a North American
attendance record of 18,256.
But if Belfort (13-7-0) gets his way, tonight might be the genesis
of something far more important than attendance records.
“The problem with the mixed martial arts right now, we gotta
pressure the boxing commission because this is not a boxing fight,”
he said. “This is not a Muay Thai fight. They need to learn more
the grappling. I wasn’t pulling him to my guard and staying there.
I was sweeping him. I was mounting. I was getting the back. I was
hurting him with good shots from the top.”
So says Belfort.
But it is clear that since California began regulating MMA,
state-appointed judges have rendered their share of questionable
When asked if stateside judging would keep him from competing here
again, Belfort said he was unsure.
Melendez Takes Title
Tonight’s promoter, Scott Coker, knows now that when he signs
Clayton Guida(Pictures) to fight, he’s going to get his
For the second consecutive Strikeforce bout, the 24-year-old
lightweight from Johnsburg, Ill. went 25 minutes before a winner
could be decided.
Northern California’s Melendez officially took a split decision, as
judges Gitlin (50-45) and Morrow (50-45) had it a shutout for
Melendez. Meanwhile, Jon Schorle turned in a scorecard of 48-46 for
Guida, though he told Sherdog.com after the fight that Melendez won
all five rounds and that his scorecard was incorrect. Sherdog.com
scored it 49-46 for the new champion.
“Gil deserved it,” said Guida, who fell to 19-5-0. “In my eyes he
beat me five rounds to nothing.”
Melendez opened the championship fight by shutting the door on
Guida’s first two takedowns and putting the scrappy wrestler on his
back. Neither man could effectively hold the other down and
Melendez’s early advantage signaled the beginning of an exciting
With just over a minute remaining in the first period Melendez,
still undefeated at 10-0-0, landed the heaviest punch of the fight:
a diving right hand that plowed into Guida’s face just as he sat
Yet Guida kept coming.
In the second, he attempted to sink in a rear-naked choke while
clinging from the 23-year-old’s back.
“I thought it was over,” Guida said. “I thought I had him.”
As Melendez defended the choke, he moved Guida slightly to the
right, then reached back and grasped the former champion’s head,
flinging him like a soccer ball during a throw-in.
“I call it the ‘hoolahoop’: Swing ‘em to the front and drop ‘em on
their head,” Melendez said.
The floppy-haired Guida crashed headfirst onto the canvas and
appeared woozy moments later when the fight returned to the feet.
Melendez, now starting to counter, connected twice with left hooks
in response to lazy spinning attacks.
The third began much the same as rounds one and two. Shutting the
door on everything Guida could offer, Melendez appeared to take
full control of the fight. But halfway through the period Guida
offered signs of life, scoring with short punches while he moved
Melendez’s momentum had, at the very least, ebbed by the time
action moved into the championship rounds. But the former SHOOTO
145-pound No. 1 contender came out intent on reasserting control.
Stopping shots with regularity, Melendez stood in front of his
unrelenting foe and bounced punch after punch off Guida’s
In the fifth Guida continued with the gutsy effort that helped him
endure 20 minutes with Melendez, taking the top half of the round.
But a big double-leg takedown from the new champion stymied any
sort of late rally.
“I was prepared for a war,” Melendez said. “I expected a war. And
that’s what I got.”
Even in defeat Guida showed himself to be a legit threat at 155.
Yet against a fighter the caliber of Melendez, Guida could not get
away with relying solely on takedowns. The absence of elbows to the
head on the floor did not play a significant factor, as neither man
worked long enough from the top.