The co-main event of the Strikeforce: "Barnett vs. Cormier" fight card taking place tonight (Sat., May 19, 2012) in San Jose, California, featured a lightweight championship showdown pitting titleholder Gilbert Melendez against a man he had met twice before, Josh Thomson.
Indeed, these two tangoed in 2008 and 2009, respectively, splitting those bouts. Melendez wasn't just here to bring and emphatic end to the trilogy, however; he was here to prove once again he's one of the very best lightweights in all of MMA.
He may not have done that in the emphatic fashion he had hoped but he did manage to pull off a split decision victory by scores of 48-47, 47-48, and 48-47 to retain his lightweight championship. The fans in attendance loudly protested this decision by booing boisterously.
Melendez didn't mind, saying "I know some are booing but I got my boys cheering for me. I thought I won most of the rounds." All he needed were two judges to score him three of five and that's exactly what they did.
Early game was patience but Thomson was getting off with fast punches. Melendez played with him there but looked to get the worse of the exchanges. A trip takedown didn't result in anything and they went back to standing.
Melendez shot in for his first takedown and executed a double leg. Thomson used the fence to wall walk and managed to get back to his feet.
Once they reset, the striking exchanges were fairly uneventful. Melendez worked a clinch a few times but it was his late takedown that helped seal the round in his favor.
The second round saw Melendez get aggressive once again, shooting in for a takedown and mixing up strikes. Thomson was getting beaten to the punch consistently but wasn't throwing at nearly the same volume as his opponent.
Again, though, it was mostly slow rolling in the second. That is until an errant eye poke from Melendez seemed to wake Thomson up. Still, "El Nino" was too strong, pushing the action and earning yet another takedown.
"The Punk" tried to steal a late takedown but Melendez defended well and even landed a few elbows towards the end of the frame.
The third round was the best offensively for Thomson, though, as he finally started throwing hands that were finding a home. In fact, contrary to the opening two frames, it was Thomson who was walking Melendez down in key spots. That's not to mention a nice trip takedown, though he failed to capitalize on it.
That spelled trouble, too, considering Melendez finally started landing the lead uppercut he was throwing with such nasty intentions. There was a bit of restlessness from the live crowd after Thomson acted as though he was poked in the eye again but the referee wasn't having any of it and he immediately restarted the match.
By this point, Melendez was comfortable again and pushing forward with punches. Thomson opened that round strong but Melendez may get it on the scorecards for regaining the momentum in the final two minutes or so.
Into the championship rounds and both men still looked relatively fresh. Thomson landed a strong left hand early that looked to startle Melendez but once again, Thomson failed to capitalize on the opening. This led to a quick scoop slam takedown from Gil but they went right back to standing after "The Punk" wall walked back to his feet.
Thomson landed another trip takedown but this time, he came down with Melendez and ended up taking his back with both hooks. he then locked in a body triangle and worked hard for the rear-naked choke with around one minute to go.
Melendez defended with everything he had and managed to make it to the end of the round.
The final round began with the crowd having come to life and the momentum firmly on Thomson's side. There wasn't a ton of urgency early in the final frame, however, with neither man particularly strong in his offense.
Finally, they started working hard and throwing bombs at each other. Takedown attempts from both sides failed. Thomson got aggressive and started getting the better of the exchanges. Both men were still going strong with one minute to go.
Another late takedown from Melendez was stuffed and Thomson started pouring on punches. They reset and Thomson scored another trip takedown with just 30 seconds left. Melendez got busy from his back, throwing punches galore.
Thomson looked like he just wanted to ride out the rest of the bout on top with superior position while Melendez tried to stay busy.
After five rounds, any combination of judges scorecards would have been understandable. Ultimately, they sided with Melendez and he's still the champion.
Anyone still want to see him in the UFC?
Remember, too, to check out MMAmania.com's complete Strikeforce: "Barnett vs. Cormier" results and live coverage of all the night's action by clicking here.