Yeah, she spent more time on the cage than in it. (Photo: Las Vegas Sun)
Since the late 90′s I’ve seen the same assertion rear its head on MMA email lists, usenet groups, and internet forums from time to time: The best fighter in the world isn’t in the cage or the ring. He’s toiling away in a South American coal mine or defending his land in Sub-Saharan Africa. His legend will never extend beyond the shores of his remote Pacific island and he’ll never be able to prove his abilities to the world. To a certain degree, this must be what life is like for Gilbert Melendez.
Finding out that your company is staying afloat and that your job is secure would normally be terrific news, but despite his admirable towing of the company line, you have to know that “El Niño” was gutted when he realized that Strikeforce wasn’t going anywhere and neither was he. The bright lights, big networks, and top paydays of the UFC will not be his. More importantly, neither is the opportunity to prove himself against the best in the world.
Strikeforce has thus far found Melendez the best competition available, but there’s no question that he’s outgrown his little pond. Bouts against ranked, or even credible, competition will be few and far between from here on out, which is why it’s all the more important that the champ make a statement with each and every punch. Last night he failed to do that. This is not to take away from Masvidal, as he is dangerous, but most consensus rankings place him somewhere in the mid-to-high 20′s. Melendez put together solid combinations and stayed out of trouble round after round, which was more than enough to convincingly win the fight. But right now he’s stranded out on that island. If he wants to earn the kind of attention and respect that he’s after, he’s going to have to light a massive fire and scream a little louder with his performances.
“Cyborg” Santos has a different kind of problem. If I was a female mixed martial artist I’d be investing in a compass and a rubber dingy and setting sail for some place uncharted. Dominatrix Hiroko Yamanaka found herself on the receiving end of a beating last night. Something tells me it was neither as enjoyable nor lucrative as her other gig. Keep in mind that Yamanaka wasn’t suggested to Strikeforce by a local fraternity—this was the #2 female fighter at 145lbs, and she got trounced in sixteen seconds. To paraphrase Dan Henderson: the question isn’t whether the fight was stopped too early, it’s whether it should have even started in the first place. Cyborg is talking about dropping weight in search of better competition. If that happens you can expect a sudden interest in a 125 lb. division to emerge. A match with bantamweight champion Miesha Tate may offer the Brazilian her best challenge. Another option being mentioned is a bout with MMA upstart Ronda Rousey. Rousey’s transition to MMA has nothing short of amazing thus far. Her lack of in-cage experience hasn’t deterred her from beefing with Miesha Tate, and while I think jumping into the deep end of the shark tank with Cyborg would be ill-advised, if “Rowdy” really wants to take the helm of WMMA then she needn’t cut carbs out of her diet just yet.
Noons came up short in the stand-up battle in round one. Neither man capitalized on successful takedowns, and as the two traded hands Billy Evangelista got the better of the exchanges. Noons wisely varied his attack with kicks and combinations in rounds two and three. It was enough to take those rounds but not enough to wipe the mocking smirk from Evangelista’s face. Noons faded in round three and nearly fell victim to a choke, but he survived and broke his two-fight skid.
Gegard Mousasi also managed to pick up his first win in three Strikeforce appearances, though “The Dreamcatcher” had been active outside of the organization. This was a big step up in competition for the streaking Ovince St. Preux, who came into the bout on an 8-0 run. Mousasi’s calm aggression and experience allowed him to control the former defensive end and come close to ending things more than once in the first round. OSP (so we’re officially running with that, right?) simply wasn’t ready for the next level, but he put Mousasi in more than one precarious position and shouldn’t be embarrassed by his performance. No, that dishonor falls squarely on the shoulders of referee Steven Davis, who not only threatened to stand fighters up when they had dominant positions but actually did so as they actively unloaded on their opponents. The words “piss poor” come to mind.
Full Results (via MMAWeekly.com):
Main Bouts (on Showtime):
-Gilbert Melendez def. Jorge Masvidal by unanimous decision (50-45, 50-45, 49-46)
-Cris “Cyborg” Santos def. Hiroko Yamanaka by TKO at :16, R1
-Gegard Mousasi def. Ovince St-Preux by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
-K.J. Noons def. Billy Evangelista by unanimous decison (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Preliminary Bouts (non-televised):
-Caros Fodor def. Justin Wilcox by KO at 0:13, R1
-Roger Bowling def. Jerron Peoples KO (Strikes) at 0:42, R1
-Devin Cole def. Gabriel Salinas-Jones by Unanimous Decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27), R3
-Eddie Mendez def. Fernando Gonzalez by Split Decision (30-27, 29-28, 28-29), R3
-Herman Terrado def. Chris Brown by Submission (Armbar) R3
- Chris Colemon (@chriscolemon)