While mixed martial arts (MMA) fans have continued to grovel over the status of Gilbert Melendez, bemoaning the fact that he's yet to make his way over to the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), the Cesar Gracie trained slugger has continued to run roughshod over the Strikeforce lightweight division.
Save for one opponent -- Josh Thomson.
Indeed, the two have clashed three times now with last night's (Sat., May 19, 2012) sojourn in San Jose representing the third and final chapter in their thrilling trilogy.
And for the second time in as many attempts, it was Melendez who emerged victorious. But, no different than last time, it didn't come without a bit of controversy.
Follow me after the jump for our review of Melendez's split decision victory over Thomson.
It should be pointed out straight from the get-go that the large disparity in Melendez (3) and Thomson's (17) placement in the lightweight rankings is in no way indicative of how they actually match up against each other.
That's not just an indictment on the entire rankings system, but simply a way to suggest that every now and again a fighter comes along who simply brings out the best in another fighter.
Such is the case with these two.
Melendez never quite looked comfortable throughout the 25 minutes he was in the cage. The opposite applies, as well. Thomson never quite found his groove and while he had his big moments, like taking "El Nino's" back and nearly locking in a rear-naked choke, he was often backpedaling and searching for his spots, all too often never finding them.
That's why it was no surprise when the final horn sounded and the reaction on social media sites was split. Realistically, any scorecard could be defended. If you had it 48-47 in favor of Thomson, hey, more power to you. If you thought Melendez took it by the same score, yeah, that's cool.
Ultimately, two judges scored it for Melendez 48-47 while the other said Thomson won by the same score. The Fight Metric report released shortly after the conclusion of the event agreed with the judges, so the statistics back up the decision.
Yet, there is no consensus.
Naturally, this led Thomson to jokingly ask fans at the HP Pavilion if they wanted to see a fourth fight. Put on the spotlight right there in the cage, Melendez said, "Sure, whatever." Later, though, he told media members at the post-fight press conference that no, there will absolutely not be another fight between the two.
Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker also confirmed as much.
With that out of the way, and their paths never to cross again, it becomes time to look toward the future. For Thomson, he's got plenty of potential fights left in Strikeforce with up-and-coming opponents making themselves available all the time.
But it's a far trickier situation for Melendez.
I won't suggest he move over to the UFC simply because we know that's not going to happen, even if it should. But when you click on over to the Strikeforce website to cruise the list of 155-pound fighters on the roster, you realize rather quickly that there is not one single credible challenger to Melendez's title.
That means someone has to come in from the outside and believe it or not, if the stars align just right, there is a man who could be available to step in to fill the void.
Bellator will have the right to match any contract offer but, not unlike Hector Lombard, Zuffa can make it happen if they really want to and judging by Alvarez attending a recent UFC event as promotion President Dana White's personal guest, it's safe to say they want him in the fold.
Assuming that doesn't work out, UFC Matchmaker Joe Silva is going to have to part ways with one of his lightweights and send them over to see if they can make some noise in San Jose. Maybe Gray Maynard beats Clay Guida and they offer him a title shot against Melendez. It makes sense, considering he's not likely to be looking at a UFC championship showdown again anytime soon.
You Maniacs got any other ideas?
For complete Strikeforce: "Barnett vs. Cormier" results, including blow-by-blow, fight-by-fight coverage of the entire event as well as immediate post-fight reaction click here, here, and here.