Matches to Make After Strikeforce ‘Melendez vs. Masvidal’

By: Brian Knapp
Dec 18, 2011
How does Gilbert Melendez match up with UFC 155-pound champion Frankie Edgar? Tell us below.

Gilbert Melendez outstrikes strikers, outwrestles wrestlers and outgrapples grapplers. There can be no clearer sign of one’s completeness.

Melendez retained his lightweight championship with a lopsided unanimous decision over American Top Team’s Jorge Masvidal in the Strikeforce “Melendez vs. Masvidal” main event on Saturday at the Valley View Casino Center in San Diego. Scores were 50-45, 50-45 and 49-46 for Melendez, who finds himself on a six-fight winning streak.

The 29-year-old Californian attacked Masvidal, a respected standup fighter, with two-, three- and four-punch combinations throughout their 25-minute encounter. It was not the first time Melendez had beaten one of his counterparts at his own game, and, from all indications, it will not be the last. The Cesar Gracie disciple has made himself into a polished mixed martial artist, capable of throttling worthy foes in a blitz of ground-and-pound elbows or outlasting them in five-round wars of attrition.

Though UFC President Dana White intends to keep Melendez in Strikeforce, it figures to become more and more difficult to keep him out of the Octagon.

“It’s inevitable,” Melendez said prior to his bout with Masvidal. “I think some of the top fighters need to go to the UFC, and I’m one of those guys. The goal is to be UFC champ, and the only way to do that is by getting the UFC title.”

Perhaps the time has come. In wake of Strikeforce “Melendez vs. Masvidal,” here are half a dozen matches we want to see made:

Gilbert Melendez vs. Frankie Edgar-Ben Henderson winner: Simply put, there is nothing left for Melendez to prove or accomplish in Strikeforce. A brilliant all-around competitor with strong takedowns, savage ground-and-pound, effective standup and a limitless motor, he has outgrown the competition around him and proven himself fit for a leap to the UFC. Widely regarded as the number two lightweight in the world, he would become a title contender the instant the UFC introduces him to the 155-pound population. Edgar and Henderson will do battle in what has already been pegged as an early “Fight of the Year” contender at UFC 144 in late February. With all Strikeforce hurdles cleared, it makes perfect sense to make the move with Melendez now.

Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos vs. Ronda Rousey: Absent from the MMA scene for a year and a half, Cyborg returned with a vengeance. The Strikeforce women’s featherweight champion blitzed the overmatched Hiroko Yamanaka in 16 seconds, adding yet another victim to her list of devastating finishes. Some have wondered whether or not Cyborg can cut to 135 pounds, but, given her build, such talk seems bold at best and unrealistic at worst. Rousey, an Olympic silver medalist in judo, has raised more than a few eyebrows in her first four professional fights. She has submitted all four of her opponents in less than a minute, all by armbar. There may never be a more opportune time to make this fight. Strike while the iron is hot.

Caros Fodor File Photo

Fodor shocked Wilcox.
K.J. Noons vs. Caros Fodor: Noons has looked better, but, in his unanimous decision victory over Billy Evangelista, he showed off new weapons in his arsenal, including a perfectly executed double-leg takedown in the first round.

The former EliteXC champion carries with him some of the cleanest striking in the sport, and the fact that he appears unwilling to allow his game to grow stagnant should be taken as a positive sign. Fodor, a rising star at 155 pounds, made an emphatic statement in dispatching American Kickboxing Academy standout Justin Wilcox in 13 seconds. Wilcox had not been defeated since September 2008. A potent clinch fighter, Fodor could pose major problems for Noons in close quarters, just as Evangelista did.

Gegard Mousasi vs. Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante: Despite his inconsistencies in big moments, Mousasi remains one of the sport’s most skilled and dangerous competitors at 205 pounds.

Still only 26 years old, the former champion roughed up Ovince St. Preux for two rounds with accurate strikes on the feet, timely takedowns and heavy ground-and-pound. He nearly finished the former University of Tennessee linebacker twice in the first round. However, Mousasi ran out of steam down the stretch, ceded the third round and settled for a unanimous decision. Feijao returned with a bang in September, as he knocked out Yoel Romero Palacio in two rounds and rebounded nicely from his March defeat to Dan Henderson. A Mousasi-Cavalcante showdown for the vacant Strikeforce light heavyweight crown might make some sense at this point, with former champion Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal also in play.

Jorge Masvidal vs. Gesias “JZ” Cavalcante: Masvidal made a spirited run at Melendez’s title but came up short, as he was unable to deal with the champion’s relentless offensive output. A fighter like Masvidal will always be in demand, whether he remains in Strikeforce, moves to the UFC or finds a home somewhere else. The 27-year-old wields polished all-around skills that make him a threat to virtually anyone outside the upper echelon at 155 pounds. Should he stick with Strikeforce, perhaps a reunion with former American Top Team stablemate Cavalcante would pique his interest in the aftermath of his loss to Melendez.

Ovince St. Preux vs. Lorenz Larkin-Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal loser: St. Preux is a talent. That much is certain. However, his defeat to Mousasi exposed glaring holes in his game, as he was vulnerable to takedowns and oftentimes appeared lost on his back. Still, there can be no shame in losing to a former champion, and St. Preux will undoubtedly use the experience to his benefit. His stock does not figure to fall much, and he could find himself locked in the cage with the winner of the Larkin-Lawal matchup on Jan. 7.

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