Strikeforce: Josh Thomson vs. Gilbert Melendez Prediction

Strikeforce Lightweight Champion Josh Thomson vs.Gilbert Melendez

Odds: (-120 Thomson /-110 Melendez )

The main event of the evening is a Lightweight Title rematch between champion Josh “The Punk” Thomson and challenger Gilbert Melendez.  Last time these two met, Thomson captured the unanimous decision victory, but he has been inactive for over a year, and in the meantime Melendez has put together two very impressive wins, so this should be extremely competitive.

Melendez, who currently fights out of Fairtex Gym but has also spent a lot of time with Jake Shields and the Diaz brothers at Cesar Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, is a well-rounded fighter who is constantly improving and developing his game.  His standup is very good and gets better every time he fights it seems, but his best work is still done on the ground.  Melendez’s wrestling is dominant, he has an excellent top control game complete with powerful ground and pound, and his jiu-jitsu is also very good, although he mainly uses it defensively to avoid submissions.  In his last outing, he looked extremely impressive, avenging one of his two career losses in a one-sided stoppage of Mitsuhiro Ishida.  If he wants to avenge his other loss against Thomson, though, he is going to need to turn in the best performance of his career.

Josh Thomson, who trains out of the illustrious American Kickboxing Academy, is also very well-rounded.  His standup is not overly powerful, but it gets the job done, and like Melendez Thomson’s best work comes on the ground.  A powerful wrestler who can ride out fights from the top, Thomson is also a dangerous submission fighter who has caught some very high-quality opponents on the ground.  Currently riding an 8 fight win streak, and unbeaten since 2006, Thomson would appear to have momentum on his side, but injuries have kept him sidelined for over a year, which could present huge ring rust problems against someone as complete and aggressive as Melendez.

No matter how you approach it, this is a pretty even fight.  Both guys are intense competitors with complete games and a lot of top-level fight experience.  I think the deciding factor is going to be Thomson’s long layoff.  Not only is it going to manifest itself in some ring rust, which could impact Thomson’s performance, it is important to remember that while Thomson was out with injuries, Melendez was steadily improving and earned a huge win over Mitsuhiro Ishida.  Thomson will enter the ring less than 100%, and he will be facing off with the best Melendez yet. 

 I think Melendez’s standup and wrestling, both of which have been getting progressively better, are going to be too much for Thomson eventually.  This fight will go into the championship rounds, but eventually Melendez will take control from top position, using his standup to keep Thomson at bay and set up his own takedowns.  Eventually Melendez will overwhelm Thomson with strikes from top position to earn the TKO.

Fight Prediction: Gilbert Melendez via fourth round TKO