Strikeforce closed out 2011 with a star-filled card featuring two title fights.
The Lightweight title was on the line when highly regarded, Gilbert Melendez defended his belt against Jorge Masvidal. The two lightweights traded shots for 25 minutes and never really looked to take the fight to the ground. Melendez dominated from the opening bell with his much-improved stand up game. Masvidal could not get anything going and he never showed a sense of urgency late in the fight when he needed to. Melendez won by scores of 50-45, 50-45 and 49-46, leaving no doubt in anyone’s mind who the winner was.
In the other championship fight, top pound for pound female fighter, Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos defended her 145 pound title against unknown, Japanese female fighter, Hiroko Yamanaka. It took the champ a mere 16 seconds to drop her opponent twice and finish her off. Some might call the stoppage premature but it was clear that Yamanaka had nothing to offer in terms of offense.
I’m going to go through my thoughts on where each fighter on the main card broadcast should go from here.
Gilbert Melendez – Although I think it is unrealistic for Melendez to be considered the best lightweight on the planet, I do think he should be considered one of the best. He dominated Masvidal from the opening bell, but it wasn’t one of his best performances. At the end of the day, a win is a win though and Melendez definitely earned that. As far as his next opponent goes, I think he has two options. You could have him fight the Edgar vs. Bendo winner in a lightweight superfight, or you can have him stay in Strikeforce and fight either Foder or Noons. My guess is that they will have Melendez stay in Strikeforce and fight K.J. Noons. He has name recognition, he’s had a well known fued with Gilbert’s training partner, Nick Diaz and he’ll be able to give Melendez a challenge. If I had the choice though, I would have him fight the Edgar vs. Bendo winner. It’s a very intriguing fight and has the potential to sell a lot of tickets.
Christiane “Cyborg” Santos – There isn’t a female fighter on this planet that has the muscular body type or the intimidating presence that Cris “Cyborg” has. She ran through her Japanese opponent, who was a respective 12-1 in her own right. Which leads to the obvious question, who‘s next? The 145 pound women’s division is a very weak division overall. The top female talent, such as Miesha Tate, Marloes Coenen and Ronda Rousey all reside in the 135 pound division. Although it will be very difficult for her, the only marketable fights left for Santos are in the 135 pound division. The fight I want to see her in is against Ronda Rousey. Rousey is pretty inexperienced but she has shown a lot of talent in her short time as a fighter.
Gegard Mousasi – Mousasi was faced with a tough up and comer in, Ovince St. Preux. It was clear from the get go that Mousasi was too well rounded and too experienced for St. Preux. On the feet St. Preux looked intimidated and gun shy. On the ground it was clear that Mousasi was the much better fighter. He ended up winning the fight on all three of the judge’s scorecards and proved he’s ready for another shot at the light heavyweight title. I don’t know how Strikeforce plans on crowning a new champion since Dan Henderson vacated the title, but they would be crazy not to include Mousasi in their plans. I think he should face the winner of King Mo and Lorenz Larkin to crown the new champion.
K.J. Noons – Noons looked a little off against Evangelista. Sure, he won the fight, but he also missed the majority of the punches he threw. He found himself stuck in a few precarious positions as well. Evangelista was able to grab a hold of his neck a couple of times during the fight. I can’t dump on his performance too much though. He did win the fight after all. Like I said above, I feel like a Melendez vs. Noons fight is inevitable. It’s an exciting main event fight that a lot of people might want to see.
Jorge Masvidal – Masvidal spent the majority of 2011 impressing a lot of people with his performances of Billy Evangelista and K.J. Noons. This fight didn’t go so well for him though. Masvidal really didn’t offer much in terms of offense against Melendez. He spent the majority of the fight being out struck by the champ and lost every round in my opinion. I think the perfect fight for Masvidal at this point would be Caros Foder. Foder knocked out Justin Wilcox in only 13 seconds on the undercard of this event.
Hiroko Yamanaka – I’m going to keep this one nice and short. I don’t mean to sound disrespectful but she really has no business being in Strikeforce.
Ovince St. Preux – OSP still has a lot to learn in this sport. He spent the majority of the fight getting beat up by Mousasi but he showed hints of brilliance. He was able to reverse Mousasi several times and he even stole the third round in my opinion. It was clear that Mousasi was too much for him at this point in his career, but it was also a great learning experience. I think he should fight the loser of the King Mo vs. Lorenz Larkin match up.
Billy Evangelista – He looked much better than I expected him to look against Noons. I don’t know if that is because Noons was having a bad night or if Evangelista has improved that much. He looked much better on the feet than his previous fights. I think a fight with Josh Thomson would be a good fight for both men.