Thomson Takes Strikeforce Title in San Jose
SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Josh
Thomson (Pictures) certainly picked the opportune
night to fight up to the potential that most within the sport knew
Shoulder surgery, its rehabilitation, a staph infection, and the
loss of his father over a year-and-half ago seemed to stack itself
firmly against the San Jose fighter. If you bought into Thomson's
pre-fight chatter, you might have thought the 29-year-old was
bracing himself for inevitable defeat against Strikeforce
lightweight champion and top-10 ranked Gilbert Melendez (Pictures).
But in front of a crowd of 7,488 spectators inside the HP Pavilion,
any hesitation that may have haunted Thomson (15-2, 1 NC) was
absent, as he cruised on to a shutout unanimous decision and the
The American Kickboxing Academy product established his confidence
with Melendez early on, pulling the former Pride star's legs out
from underneath him with a clean double-leg takedown. Melendez
(14-2) squirmed to his feet, as he would on every occasion he was
taken down, but Thomson was there to meet him and he was ready.
Thomson utilized effective lateral movement to thwart many of
Melendez's trademark looping hooks and circled to the outside
continuously to keep Melendez on the move. What power punches did
get through landed hard, but Thomson took his punishment with
pride, grinning a handful of times when a fist found its
Peppering Melendez with a persistent left body kick, Thomson later
added knees, uppercuts, and front push kicks to his onslaught as
Melendez continued to push forward. By the final round, Melendez's
mouth hung open as he was labored by a formidable pace. Knowing he
was behind on the cards, Melendez hunted down the punch he so
desperately needed to hold onto the belt he'd protected for two
years. The opportunity never came and Melendez dropped his second
bout in three fights.
Melendez's manager, Chris Sanford, said his client felt sluggish
and that he believed a change in routine following the
26-year-old's December loss to Japanese spark plug Mitsuhiro Ishida (Pictures) at Yarennoka hadn't taken well to
the usually aggressive enforcer.
While losses to Yves
Edwards (Pictures) and Clay Guida (Pictures) overshadowed his victories over
standouts like Hermes
Franca (Pictures) and Rob McCullough (Pictures), Thomson's victory over Melendez
certainly buoys him into top 10 territory.
"I always perform when there's a big fight on the line," said
Thomson, a 3-1 underdog Friday night. "It's the guys that aren't
supposed to beat me that I obviously have a harder time with. I
think anytime that you put somebody that's tougher in front of
somebody else, they rise to the occasion. That's the sign of a true
Strikeforce promoter Scott Coker said the event had been created to
showcase Melendez and Thomson, and no other fight on the card quite
lived up to the main event's bravado.
Light heavyweight champion Bobby Southworth (Pictures) (9-5, 1 NC) vindicated a November
2007 loss to Anthony Ruiz
(Pictures) (20-11) with a tedious
unanimous decision over five rounds to retain his championship
The pair's first encounter -- a non-title affair -- lasted only 52
seconds into the second round after Ruiz busted the 38-year-old
open with an alleged headbutt.
In their second go, Southworth controlled much of the action with
numerous takedowns over the entire 25 minutes. Both men engaged
little on their feet, which disconcerted the hungry San Jose crowd,
and the bout's pace slowed considerably as the minutes wore on.
Still, Southworth, who believed his indiscretions on the Spike TV
series "The Ultimate Fighter" still plague fans' perception of him,
had his moments early on with armbar and kimura attempts.
Sprightly underdog Nam Phan
(Pictures) (14-5) certainly won over
the fans, but couldn't get past the judges' scorecards, dropping a
split decision loss to Fresno favorite Billy Evangelista
(Pictures) (7-0) in a lightweight
offering. Phan's 5-foot-6 frame, which seems better suited for the
145-pound division, caused him problems early on as Evangelista
muscled him to the cage and wrangled Phan to the ground. Phan
remained pinned under Evangelista and his ground-and-pound barrage
nearly the entire round.
Phan fared worlds better in the second set, finding rhythm and
range with a jab-straight combination that connected a few times.
Evangelista stole recovery time with a takedown attempt, then took
it back upstairs once his cobwebs had cleared. Landing a clean
takedown, Evangelista then corralled Phan onto to his back to
finish out the clock.
Phan delivered a spirited round three swinging for the fences, then
nailed Evangelista with a knee that sent his mouthpiece flying.
However, Evangelista's takedowns snapped much of the momentum the
smaller fighter built. Evangelista earned 29-28 marks from judges
Marcos Rosales and Abe Belardo. Nelson "Doc" Hamilton believed Phan
was the victor with a 29-28 score.
Miesha Tate (Pictures) (2-1) stifled Cung Le (Pictures)'s prized female student Elaina Maxwell (Pictures) (2-3) with a takedown at the top
of the first and second rounds, then hopped to mount just as
In the first, Maxwell utilized her longer bottom limbs to trap
Tate's head and stall an armbar attempt off until the final
seconds. Though it appeared Maxwell had tapped from the hold, the
women continued into the second round, where again Maxwell
scissored Tate's head from the bottom to stave off defeat. Tate
relinquished mount to free herself.
In the third round, Maxwell halted Tate's charge at the fence,
while the Washington fighter continuously dropped levels to try and
drag Maxwell down. After a restart, Maxwell stuffed the second shot
and took Tate's back. The San Jose product could not find a finish,
clearing the way for Tate to take home a deserved 29-28 unanimous
Seasoned 9-4 middleweight Jeremiah Metcalf (Pictures) didn't give debuter Raymond Daniels (Pictures) even an inch to put his
kenpo-shotokan-American tae kwon do background to the test. Daniels
was soundly bodylocked and dumped to the mat at the opening bell;
the World Combat League veteran managed to survive the first round
underneath his experienced opponent. Metcalf found full mount much
faster in round two, then whacked away with hammerfists until
Daniels handed over his back and the rear-naked choke only 59
Followers of bantamweight Anthony Figueroa (Pictures) (4-3) were undoubtedly
disappointed after the local draw spent much of the bout on his
back, unable to unload his machine-gun fists. But opponent Chris Cariaso (Pictures) (7-1), also with a small
contingent in attendance, dumped Figueroa to the mat on every
occasion and controlled position amply. Cariaso found full mount in
both stanzas, and finally latched on the rear-naked choke for the
tapout at 4:34 of the second.
Lightweight Bobby Stack
(5-1) gained momentum as his bout wore on with Jose Palacios (Pictures) (3-1). Stack completed numerous
takedowns to keep Palacio away from his strengths standing,
ensuring a 29-28 unanimous decision across the cards.
Cowboy Karate's Brian
Caraway (Pictures) (9-2) sported a solid ground game
once his bout with Alvin
Cacdac (4-4) hit the canvas. Moving from knee-on-belly to
taking Cacdac's back, Caraway dug his spurs in and finished with a
rear-naked choke 1:39 into the first round.
Cyrillo Padhillo (1-0) was
in the driver's seat for two rounds of play, utilizing low kicks
and takedowns that gave Jesse
Jones (2-1) all he could handle until the final set. In the
third, Jones floored San Francisco's Padhillo with a scorching
right. Still, Padhillo found the fire to reverse into guard and
finish strong. Padhillo earned a unanimous decision with scores of
29-28 (twice) and 30-27.
Though slowed by Travis
Johnson's persistent left high kick in the first round, light
Interiano (1-0) soon found his one-two range and had his
suddenly gun-shy opponent on the run. A red gash leaking underneath
his right eye, Johnson (0-1) declined to come out of his corner for
the second round.
In a middleweight bout that followed the main event, Eric Lawson (Pictures) hardly broke a sweat in handling
overmatched opponent Jesse
Gillespie (Pictures). The Concord, Calif., native took
Gillespie down, swam to mount, then had his hooks and a rear-naked
choke in before the San Jose local knew what hit him. The sequence
lasted all but 1:03.
In the night's opener, Alexandre Trivino (2-0)
finessed his way to the ground by jumping to his back, then
efficiently found the armbar to submit Eric Jacob (Pictures) (1-4) a cool 37 seconds into the
GRRRR!!!More on Sherdog.com Mobile