Strikeforce Preview: Gilbert Melendez vs. Jorge Masvidal Headlines


By Jaime Feal

Showtime is the channel to watch Saturday. Presenting both world-class MMA and boxing on the same night is phenomenal. Fight fans will be glued to their television sets to watch another tremendous night of combat, starting with Ward vs. Froch at 9 p.m., and followed by Strikeforce at 10:30 p.m. Stay tuned to boxinginsider.com to follow all the action.

Lightweight Division (155 lbs.):

K.J. “King” Noons (10-4, 2-2 SF) vs. Billy Evangelista (11-1, 7-1 SF)

Noons possesses some of the best boxing in the division and has an advantage over almost anyone on the feet. In fact, he was the last man to defeat Nick Diaz, who has not lost in four years and will be fighting for the UFC welterweight championship in February. Noons’ glaring weakness is his ground game, a soft spot that was exposed by Jorge Masdival who repeatedly took down Noons in their last fight. Grounding Noons so he cannot out-strike on the feet has to be Evangelista’s plan if he is to succeed. Standing in the pocket with Noons is a death sentence for Evangelista, but he will be forced to as he doesn’t have the wrestling required to impose his will in this fight.

Prediction: K.J. “King” Noons wins by KO, Round 3.

Light Heavyweight Division (205 lbs.):

Gegard “The Dreamcatcher” Mousasi (31-3-2, 2-1-1 SF) vs. Ovince St. Preux (11-4, 5-0 SF)

This is easily the stiffest test in St. Preux’s career. The Knoxville, TN native and former linebacker for the University of Tennessee is undefeated in Strikeforce, but has never faced anyone near the caliber of Mousasi. “The Dreamcatcher” has vastly superior kickboxing and striking, and thus St. Preux will need to use his athleticism to turn the fight into a scrap. St. Preux must follow the blueprint Muhammad “King Mo” Lawal used to take Mousasi’s Strikeforce title in 2010; look to take down Mousasi constantly and put him on his back. Mousasi, still only 26 years old, has much to prove after not having captured a victory in Strikeforce since 2009. He is a better striker, jiu-jitsu practitioner, and despite his young age, much more experienced than St. Preux. Expect a hungry Mousasi to come out with a vengeance, while displaying his superior striking en route to a win.

Prediction: Gegard “The Dreamcatcher” Mousasi wins by TKO, Round 2.

Strikeforce Women’s Featherweight Championship (145 lbs.):

Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos (10-1, 4-0 SF) vs. Hiroko “Cat’s Eye” Yamanaka (12-1, 0-0 SF)

Women’s MMA once again takes center stage on Showtime as Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos looks to defend her belt against Hiroko Yamanaka. At this point there is no argument that Cyborg is far and away the best female 145 pounder on the planet. Coming from the famed Chute Boxe camp in Brazil, Santos is a brutal and fearless warrior, who has dominated every one of her opponents since dropping her pro debut in 2005. Particularly noteworthy was Cyborg’s destruction of the popular Gina Carano and her two subsequent title defenses against Marloes Coenen and Jan Finney. Hiroko “Cat’s Eye” Yamanaka is considered by many to be the #2 woman’s featherweight in the world, but Cyborg may be in a league of her own as no one has looked like they belong in the cage with her. Expect Santos to come out fast and aggressive, utilizing her vicious Muay Thai to quickly dispatch of Yamanaka.

Prediction: Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos wins by KO, Round 1.

Strikeforce Lightweight Championship (155 lbs.):

Gilbert “El Niño” Melendez (19-2, 9-1 SF) vs. Jorge “Gamebred” Masvidal (22-6, 4-0 SF)

Melendez is now Strikeforce’s most talented fighter and could be set to make the leap to the UFC if he wins this fight. Then again, he could retain the title and continue to be Strikeforce’s poster boy for the next year, as Strikeforce just renewed their contract with Showtime through 2012. Melendez has the best wrestling, by far, in the lightweight division of Strikeforce. No one on the Strikeforce Lightweight roster is on his level in terms of aggressive takedowns, cardio, awareness, and pure wrestling talent. Once he gets to the fight to the ground Melendez is adept at keeping it there and pounding his opponents. Masvidal will try to keep it on the feet but can’t match Melendez’s speed and pace. “El Niño” knows Masvidal has talented leg kicks and solid stand-up, and the much safer play is to simply outwrestle him. Melendez will ground and pound Masdival all night, and there isn’t much Masvidal can do about it. With it being a five round title fight, look for it to get more one-sided as Masvidal tires under the frenetic pressure of Melendez.

Prediction: Gilbert “El Niño” Melendez wins by unanimous decision.

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