Strikeforce: Melendez vs. Masvidal Preview

We thought tomorrow night would be the last time that we ever saw the Strikeforce banner. However, Dana White last week announced that the brand would live on and I am actually happy about that. I’m hoping that they will operate it like they did the WEC to a certain extent, with the promotion focused on giving the sport’s future stars their first national exposure. I’m not sure what this will possibly do to the future of Bellator, but that’s for another time and column. For now, Gilbert Melendez makes what is expected to be his final defense of the Strikeforce lightweight title and Cyborg defends the Women’s Featherweight belt tomorrow night. Once again, Armando comes to my wrist’s rescue and does most of the legwork in this preview. I have a few comments that I’ll throw in after his well thought out analysis.

Heavyweight Bout: Devin Cole vs. Gabriel Salinas-Jones
Armando: Salinas-Jones is a big heavyweight, yet still has good enough jits and speed to choke out someone via Brabo in his first Strikeforce showing.  I’ve seen all I need to see here.
Casey: I’ll take the up-and-coming prospect over the convicted sex offender any day)
TJ: It really doesn’t seem like a good time to be a sex offender. not that it ever was, but still…

Lightweight Bout: Carlos Fodor vs. Justin Wilcox
Armando: Wilcox hasn’t lost since September 2008, and has beaten Vitor Ribeiro and was beating Gesias “JZ” Cavalcante prior to a vicious eye poke ended that one.  Fodor has fought at (and won) 2 events that Justin Wilcox has main-evented, and is looking to get his own time in the limelight.  Unfortunately, Wilcox is no joke, and will put himself into the mix at 155 with a win.
Casey: Wilcox has done better against better competition, despite looking like a smaller Scott Steiner in his Wikipedia pic

Lightweight Bout: Billy Evangelista vs. KJ Noons
Armando: Noons went from Welterweight champ w/EliteXC to contender for the Strikeforce WW title against a dude that he beat already.  Now?  0-2 in his last 2, and DESPERATELY needing a win.  Him and Evangelista share the distinction of losing their last fights to Jorge Masvidal, so at least there’s some commonality.

Evangelista’s lost was his first, and with wins against solid competition like Ryan Healy, Waachiim Spiritwolf, Nam Phan and Jorge Gurgel, he’s no stranger to beating top-tier dudes.  However, I think Noons’ speed, boxing and black belt in American Kenpo Karate will prove the difference.
Casey: Noons seems like a pretty popular guy to hate and a 3rd straight loss would justify it all. Oddly enough, both guys lost to Jorge Masvidal in their respective last fights.

TJ: Not sure on this one, but Noons was once a proven winner and I gotta believe he has another one in him

Light Heavyweight Bout: Gegard Mousasi vs. Ovince St. Preux

Mousasi is one of the most technically-sound fighters in the game today, and when he brings 100% to the cage he is top-tier.  Question is: which Mousasi will show up?  The one that plodded through a decision loss to Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal and a draw to Keith Jardine, or the one that finished Melvin Manhoef and Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza on the same night in September ’08?  If it’s the latter, then OSP is gonna have his work cut out for him.
St. Preux has taken it easy this year – it will “only” be his 3rd fight after fighting 6 times in 2010.  Win or lose, OSP has never fought anyone even remotely on the level that Mousasi is, so this will be a great chance for him to shine.  A win here would give him 9 straight, with 6 of those in Strikeforce, and you would have to think that he would be a great pick for a LHW title fight for one of 3 – THREE!!! – vacant Strikeforce belts with a win.
Casey: It’s OS-freaking-P. Who else would I pick? Dude’s fought 8 times in the last 2 years and has gone 8-0 over that span. Sasi is a huge jump in competition for him, however he hasn’t had a ton of luck in his recent trips to the US. He made Keith Jardine look great in their draw back in April.
TJ: I’ll echo Casey here and say that OSP has spectacular of late and almost impossible to pick against.
Women’s Featherweight Championship: Cristiane Santos(c) vs. Hiroko Yamanaka
Armando: Hiroko Yamanaka is not Ronda Rousey, therefore she doesn’t stand a chance.  There’s no one else in WMMA that even holds a candle to Mrs. Santos in ANY weight class: not Fuiji, not Coenen, not Tate, not LaRosa, not Kaufmman, and definitely not Hiroko Yamanaka.
Casey: Again, who else? Yamanaka’s running a 8-fight win streak and is the #2 ranked featherweight right behind Santos. But until someone shows that they can hang, it’ll be Cyborg and then everyone else in a distant second behind her at 145.
Lightweight Championship: Gilbert Melendez (c) vs. Jorge Masvidal
Armando: calls Gil Melendez the 2nd-best lightweight in the world right now. LIES.  The mark of the greatest fighter is not only being at the top of your game and continuously beating top opponents, but also to adapt to and avenge the select few that got the best of you.  Melendez’s only losses were to Mitsuhiro Ishida
I guess I need to talk about Masvidal too, right?  He’s a powerful striker, and as such has the well-known puncher’s chance, but Melendez is too good to just give an opening.  A win over Joe Lauzon is pretty awesome, but Joe Lauzon in 2005 is NOT Joe Lauzon today.  Melendez will grind out a W in what very well may be his last Strikeforce fight ever.
Casey: Masvidal has run roughshod over the rest of Strikeforce’s top lightweights. However, this is Gil Melendez and El Nino’s got a date in the Octagon next year. I’m thinking with Donald Cerrone as a title eliminator… Sorry Jorge, but as long as Gil’s still in the Hexagon, you’ll still be the guy that Toby Imada hit the inverted triangle on in Bellator’s first season.
So here’s the quick run down of every one’s picks. Also, for the first time in quite awhile, I’ll be liveblogging part of the main card on Saturday. Not sure how much yet thanks to some unexpected scheduling issues, but I’ll be on by the time the title fights hit the cage. 

Fight Armando Casey TJ
Cole vs. Salinas-Jones Salinas-Jones Salinas-Jones Salinas-Jones
Fodor vs. Wilcox Wilcox Wilcox Wilcox
Evangelista vs. Noons Noons Evangelista Noons
Mousasi vs. St. Preux St. Preux St. Preux St. Preux
Santos vs. Yamanaka Santos Santos Santos
Melendez vs. Masvidal Melendez Melendez Melendez

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