took another step on his quest to be recognized as the
world’s top lightweight on Saturday night, as “El Nino” outpointed
a game Jorge
to retain his Strikeforce
lightweight title at the Valley View Casino Center in San Diego,
Readily admitting that Masvidal presented a difficult stylistic
matchup prior to the bout, Melendez (Pictured; file photo) beat the
American Top Team product to the punch for the majority of their
five-round affair. Continually using a sharp one-two combination to
his advantage, Melendez took center-cage and displayed a
willingness to trade with his cagey challenger.
“I think everyone thought that [Masvidal had an edge in the
standup, and I was eager to prove everyone wrong,” Melendez told
Showtime Sports following his win.
While Melendez adjusted well to the bout’s vertical nature, the
Gracie student stated after the fight that his preferred game
plan was hindered by undisclosed issues during his preparation.
“Some things in training camp didn’t allow me to do as much
wrestling as I wanted to, so I knew I would have to strike with
him,” said Melendez. “I think that [Masvidal] is the toughest
striker I could fight at [lightweight], and I think I might be the
best striker in the 155-pound division.”
His striking success notwithstanding, Melendez did attempt to take
down Masvidal on occasion. However, the takedown defense of
“Gamebred” proved stout, forcing the champion to stand and
“He reacted well. He’s a long, tall guy, and he reacts fast. I knew
he was working hard on his takedown defense. He likes to sprawl and
brawl and keep it on his feet,” said the champion. “That’s where he
feels his best, and that’s the toughest matchup for me. I’m kind of
the same. I’m a sprawl-and-brawler.
“Usually [if I fight] a guy who is a better striker, I’m going to
take him down, and if he’s a better wrestler, I’m going to sprawl
him out,” Melendez continued. “This guy was tough to take down.
Ideally, it would have been nice to put him on his back, but things
were going well on my feet. I didn’t think I needed to force it. I
kept running with it, and things were going well.”
Now without a clear challenger on the horizon, it appears Melendez
will play the waiting game while Zuffa and Showtime executives
select his next opponent. Once thought to be on the fast track to
the Octagon and a potential showdown with
UFC lightweight titleholder Frankie
Edgar, it was instead announced this week that Melendez will
remain in Strikeforce for the foreseeable future.
With a super-fight in the UFC now apparently out of reach, Melendez
has another option on his mind: bring the UFC’s best to
“We’ll see [what’s next for me]. That’s on Strikeforce and Showtime
and the UFC. I’d like to bring some top contenders here from the
Noons looked great today and looks like the No. 1 [contender in
the Strikeforce lightweight] division.
“I have faith that Strikeforce and Showtime will bring me someone
tough to continue to prove myself in the sport. I’m very proud of
my performance, and I’m looking forward to my next challenge.”
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