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History in the Making: Gilbert Melendez avenges his two losses, takes out Mitsuhiro Ishida and Josh Thomson

Weeks before he was gunned down in the middle of the Las Vegas strip, rapper 2Pac recorded the song "Hail Mary," the second line of which is, "Revenge is like the sweetest joy next to getting ..." Well, let's just say Shakur more than enjoyed spending time with the ladies.

Seeking revenge is a natural human reaction. Every person seeks to one-up whoever did the same to them previously. It's a basic, instinctual emotion and is one that needs to be actively suppressed if someone decides not to take the road to vengeance.

When Gilbert Melendez steps inside the Strikeforce cage for what will likely be the last time this Saturday (Dec. 17, 2011), he won't be seeking revenge against Jorge Masvidal; he has no reason to do so as the two have never met in combat before.

Instead, "El Niño" will be fighting for respect, something that is only earned by fighters outside the UFC through grit, toughness, and of course, wins inside the cage.

Revenge won't be on Melendez's mind, it hasn't been since nearly two years ago to the day when the champion defeated longtime rival Josh Thomson. Four months prior, Melendez had run through Mitsuhiro Ishida, the only other man to defeat him.

Let's take a look back to those two bouts.

After losing a five-round decision to Thomson, an immediate rematch was booked by the promotion. An injury forced the champ out so it was decided that an interim title match between "El Niño" and Brazilian Rodrigo Damm would take its place instead.

Even though the shallow Strikeforce roster was to blame, some pundits still called the fight a mismatch. As impressive as Damm's credentials were, he seemed ill-matched for Melendez, already a 16 fight and six year veteran of the sport.

Melendez proved those people right by putting the boots to his opponent and finishing him before the end of the second round. It was his first of what would be three wins in 2009 and sounded off the beginning of the "Melendez Revenge Tour 2K9."

With Thomson's leg injury still giving him trouble, the rematch between him and Melendez was once again put on hold. In a stroke of matchmaking genius, the brass at Strikeforce replaced "The Punk" with Ishida, the only other man who had bested Melendez. The Japanese fighter made a successful promotional debut a year prior and despite coming off a loss in Shooto, boasted an impressive résumé.

The first round saw both fighters implementing smart gameplans. One of few Japanese stars to boast good wrestling skills, Ishida looked to get the fight to the ground as soon and as much as possible. The American, not wanting to turn the bout into another wrestling stalemate, opted to defend the takedowns and punish Ishida in the stand-up.

It wasn't until the second stanza that "El Niño" began to pull away from his opponent. Mixing striking and grappling well, he kept Ishida on his heels, never allowing the Japanese veteran to get comfortable. Bleeding and battering going into the third round, it seemed the end was nigh for "The Endless Warrior."

Minute later, a takedown from Ishida was defended against perfectly by Melendez who began to batter his opponent's body. Punches, elbows, knees ... they all served as weapons in the American's arsenal. Before long, they took their toll on Ishida and the referee was forced to step in to prevent any further damage.

Melendez had done it. Nearly two years prior, Ishida had handed him his first professional loss. Now he stood inside the Strikeforce cage triumphant, his arms raised while ringside physicians attended to the Japanese fighter. But there was still yet some unfinished business he needed to tend to.

When "El Niño" and "The Punk" once again stepped inside the ring -- this time to unify both lightweight titles -- it was a rematch worth waiting for. Thomson came out as if the first round was actually the sixth of their previous bout and easily took the first five minutes from Melendez.

Not content to lose two in a row to Thomson, the interim champ came out in the second round and blasted him with a right that dropped "The Punk" to the mat. From that point, Melendez never looked back. Using intelligent boxing melded with perfectly executed takedowns, the interim champion became undisputed after 25 minutes of action. Since then he's bested Japan's number one 155-pounder Shinya Aoki and steamrolled another former foe in Tatsuya Kawajiri.

I sat down and spoke with Melendez during the UFC Fan Expo in October and he exuded what can only be described as a casual confidence. He spoke as if he was one of -- if not the -- best lightweights in the world. He just needed the opportunity to show everyone what he already knew.

With a win at Strikeforce: "Melendez vs. Masvidal", he'll likely get that chance against either Frankie Edgar or Ben Henderson.

How will "El Niño" do inside the Octagon?

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