Kyle Terada, US PRESSWIRE
After 15 rounds of fighting between Gilbert Melendez and Josh Thomson, little is solved. Thomson won the first bout, Melendez won the rematch, and the trilogy fight at Strikeforce: Barnett vs. Cormier was nearly a tossup.
In the end, the judges scored it a split decision, with two judges scoring it 48-47 for Melendez and the third scoring it for Thomson 48-47. The fans seemed to believe Thomson deserved the nod, booing the decision.
Melendez had been considered a huge favorite to win handily, coming in as a 6-to-1 favorite.
He had to survive through several difficult situations to win. His most perilous moment came in the fourth, when Thomson scored a takedown, took his back and applied a rear naked choke. While he had his hands locked, he could never fully get his choking arm under Melendez's chin, and so Melendez eventually worked free.
The second half of the fight was definitely Thomson's, as he landed the heavier blows and marked up Melendez's face. The Strikeforce lightweight champ left with a badly swollen left eye after taking several uppercuts and a head kick in the final two frames.
Melendez couldn't really explain what went wrong late.
"I had control and started cupcaking it out there," he said. "It wasn't my best performance.
The early part of the fight belonged to Melendez.
After a slow-paced first round, he began to assert himself in the second. Much of the action came in sudden, violent bursts after periods of respectful distance. Melendez seemed to inch closer in the second round after figuring out the distance, and had the round's best sequence with a flurry, takedown, and strikes against the cage just after Thomson returned to his feet.
Melendez turned up his pace in the third, moving forward and putting Thomson on his heels. Thomson did get a brief takedown, but Melendez popped up to his feet in a flash and responded with a series of uppercuts. Melendez was the volume puncher, but Thomson did land a few power strikes, and by the end of the round, Melendez's right eye began to swell.
One note to the fight was that Thomson suffered multiple eye pokes, but the referee never deducted a point from Melendez. If he had, the scores would have made the fight a majority draw.
That could have led to yet another matchup between the two, a possibility Thomson seemed like he wouldn't dismiss.
"Who wants to see a fourth fight?" he asked afterward.
Melendez improved to 21-2 following his seventh straight win. Thomson fell to 19-5 with 1 no contest.
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