Gilbert Melendez (14-1) vs. Josh Thomson (14-2) [for lightweight title]
With five straight wins in Strikeforce and an impressive ground game, Josh “The Punk” Thomson would be a credible threat to Gilbert Melendez’s Strikeforce belt, except for two things — he’s still recovering from shoulder surgery, and he and Melendez are longtime training partners, which means the champion already knows his game a little too well. It won’t be a gimme, but El Niño’s relentless aggression will likely win the day, as it usually does; though maybe he’ll go easy on his friend and let it go to a decision.
Bobby Southworth (8-5) vs. Anthony Ruiz (20-10) [for light heavyweight title]
205-pound champion Southworth actually lost his last fight against Anthony Ruiz, via TKO due to cut at “Strikeforce: Four Men Enter, One Man Survives” in November. For unclear reasons — and if you know, please enlighten us — the match was a non-title fight, and it set up tomorrow’s rematch for the championship. Though Southworth hasn’t fought since, Ruiz has scored wins against Jimmy Ambriz and Brad Imes. Submissions are Ruiz’s kryptonite (eight of his ten losses come from chokes and armbars), so Southworth would be wise to get it to the ground before he’s stuffed again by Ruiz’s sharp striking. Still, I see Ruiz taking it by decision and earning the belt he should already be wearing. Fun fact: Southworth picked up a no-contest against James Irvin at “Strikeforce: Revenge,” when both men fell from the cage at the 17-second mark of round 1.
Nam Phan (14-4) vs. Billy Evangelista (6-0)
With a mix of punching power and ground fluency, Billy Evangelista is a promising talent in the lightweight division, and Nam Phan definitely represents the next step up in competition for him. A Strikeforce newcomer, Phan is coming off of back-to-back TKO victories; he’s lost just twice in his last 11 fights, to Gesias Calvancante and Josh Thomson. Both guys will be coming out looking to prove themselves, but I’d have to give the nod to Phan based on experience.
Luke Stewart (5-1) vs. Joe Riggs (27-10)
It was originally supposed to be Shonie Carter up against Luke Stewart, but Mr. International broke his knuckle and Joe Riggs was sent to fill in. Riggs hasn’t been in the cage since his back exploded during his Strikeforce at the Dome bout against Cory Devela in February; he had spinal cord surgery shortly after, and I wonder if his return is still too soon, especially considering he took the fight on a week’s notice. All six of Luke Stewart’s pro fights have been in Strikeforce, all his wins are by stoppage, and he’s coming off his first defeat, a decision loss against Tiki Ghosn. It’s hard to call, but if Riggs is less than 100%, he’s going to have a tough night ahead of him.
Jeremiah Metcalf (8-4) vs. Raymond Daniels (0-0)
Metcalf is being given a third chance to prove himself in Strikeforce, after being submitted by Luke Stewart in October 2006, and again by Dennis Hallman last November; he’s riding a three-fight win streak in smaller shows and is ready to get back on that horse. Daniels has the hype behind him in this match. Undefeated as a pro kickboxer, he built up an 18-0 record in Chuck Norris’ World Combat League (check out some of the destruction here). The guy could be the next Cung Le, which works out nicely because Cung Le doesn’t seem to be particularly interested in being Cung Le these days. Daniels via highlight-reel knockout.
And the undercard looks like this:
Miesha Tate (1-1) vs. Elaina Maxwell (2-2)
Chris Cariaso (6-1) vs. Anthony Figueroa (4-2)
Jesse Gillespie (1-1) vs. Dave Martin (0-1)
Bobby Stack (4-1) vs. Jose Palacios (3-0)
Brian Caraway (4-2) vs. Alvin Cacdac (4-3)
Cyrillo Padhillo (1-2) vs. Jesse Jones (2-0)
Eric Jacob (1-3) vs. Alexander Trivino (1-0)
Jorge Interiano (0-0) vs. Travis Johnson (0-0)