A fresher Melendez gets his belt back

Clark Kent

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12-20-2009 12:33 AM:It figured to be war for the Strikeforce lightweight title and this time Gilbert Melendez wasn't going to underestimate Josh Thomson on the feet. He worked on his standup game and varying his strikes over the last 17 months. Melendez made marked improvement in his two fights during 2009 while Thomson kept having to pull out of the rematch with ankle and foot issues. The improved striking game of Melendez and ring rust on the side of Thomson was just enough to allow "El Nino" to grab a unanimous decision win, 49-47, 49-46 and 49-46. The five rounder had to be one 2009's 10 best fights. Cagewriter had Melendez winning 48-47 with Thomson taking round one and five. Melendez regained the Strikeforce lightweight title that he lost to Thomson in June of 2008.

"It feels great," said Melendez, who works out of Cesar Gracie's camp in Northern California along with Jake Shields and the Diaz brothers, Nick and Nate. "I just wanted to perform better than I did last time."

Thomson missed all of 2009 and at times it showed. He came out like gangbusters in the first three minutes but faded a bit at the end of the first round. Melendez's combinations took over the fight in rounds 2-4. He scored often by doubling and tripling up jabs and then following with a leg kick that would crush Thomson's lead leg. Melendez' looked faster and more accurate when the fighter engaged in all out exchanges. He landed the biggest punch of the fight towards the end of the second when dropped Thomson with a right uppercut.

Thomson didn't lean on the excuse of inactivity after the fight.

"He was the better fighter tonight. I don't want people making excuses for me. Right now it's Gilbert's moment. He had a [expletive] wonderful moment tonight."

There has to be a third fight in the future. But before that it sounds like Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker wants Melendez to face Japanese phenom Shinya Aoki on CBS in April. Thomson, if healthy may draw former EliteXC champ K.J. Noons in the first quarter of 2010.



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