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Scott Smith Hands First Defeat to Former Champ Cung Le

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Never count out Scott Smith.

Displaying the resiliency that has defined his career, Smith pulled out another come-from-behind victory to upset the previously undefeated Cung Le at Saturday's Strikeforce: Evolution at the HP Pavillion.

Coming into the fight, the former Strikeforce middleweight champion had never tasted defeat in over 10 years of kickboxing and MMA.

That all changed halfway through the third and final round when Le was caught with a left hook that rocked him. The 37-year-old Le did his best to persevere, but would soon collapse at the hands of Smith.

"He caught me with a punch," Le said. "He was the better man tonight. I did my best and he caught me."

However, prior to the finish, the fight belonged completely to the San Shou expert, who delivered a statement to Smith on his very first strike.

"He caught me with one midsection shot -- that was the very first kick he threw," Scott said. "So I was real worried about keeping my elbows in. That was the strategy in the fight, I was blocking the kicks with my elbows. My elbows are killing me right now."

Le, who missed almost two years of competition to pursue a second career as an actor, entered the fight as if he had never left. Le walked down the ramp to a spirited applause and standing ovation. Scattered around the arena were flags of Vietnam, where Le grew up until fleeing to San Jose in 1975. Le appeared on his way to pleasing his hometown fans yet again and almost did so conclusively in the opening round.

"He dropped me and had me rocked," Smith said. "I just tried to cover up and he landed some shots, but I blocked most of them. And after I came to my senses, he rocked me with another one. [Referee] Big John warned me a couple of times, so I knew I had to get up. I weathered the storm and I think he wore himself out a little bit and I was fortunate enough to get up and keep fighting."

Le picked apart Smith with a variety of spinning back kicks, side kicks, leg kicks and at one point, bravely throwing a spinning back fist followed by a spinning back kick.

By the third round, Le grew even more confident, and despite winning handily on the feet, Le, to everyone's surprise, went for and successfully took Smith down.

Smith regained his senses each time and shocked Le's loyal hometown supporters by showing off his a less-recognized specialty punch.

"My left hook is my best punch, it's not my straight right that I've been knocking everyone out with," Smith said. "So the plan was to faint that fake right and throw the left hook, and I've been working on that a lot."

Smith adds Le to his collection of comeback victories. His first one came at UFC's The Ultimate Fighter 4 Finale in November 2006 with an unforgettable knockout finish against Pete Sell, and repeated this past April against Benji Radach at Strikeforce's previous stop at the HP Pavillion. It's been name-making for Smith, but not something he's exactly proud of.

"I think I definitely need to change up my strategy up a little bit and maybe get beat up in the corner before I go in and fight," Smith joked. "I need to get beat up and get mad and have a sense of urgency to do good. I can't remember the last time I won a first round in a fight."

In the evening's only championship bout, Gilbert Melendez avenged a previous lightweight title loss to former training partner Josh Thomson in a last-minute entry for 2009 Fight of the Year lists.

Thomson said before the fight that he was expecting a different fight from Melendez because it's been a year-and-a-half since they last met, and he was right.

The first round suggested that Thomson would create the same problems for Melendez as he did last year, but Melendez found his rhythm by the second, dictating the rest of the bout by effectively wearing down Thomson's leg and outboxing him.

Melendez would win the last four rounds on two of the judge's scorecards, with a third judge Cecil Peoples awarding Melendez three rounds and ruling one a draw.

Melendez and Thomson are setting up a promoter's dream by having the score tied at one a piece, but after enduring the damage through almost Gatti-Ward-esque exchanges, a rubber match isn't quite desirable at the moment.

The first words out of Melendez's mouth at the post-fight press conference were: "There's gonna be third one, huh? I'm not looking forward to it.

"I'm cool with calling it even," Melendez later added, jokingly.

The two, feeling deserving of greater respect, would rather serve as representatives for Strikeforce's lightweight division.

"It's up to us to prove that we're the best 155ers," Melendez said. "Me and him are bad-ass. I think him and I can take out all the guys in the UFC, and I think him and I can take out all the guys in DREAM. And we're about to handle that right now."

Melendez could have his wish soon if DREAM delivers Shinya Aoki to the US as promised.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu magician Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza proved he could submit Olympic silver medalist Matt Lindland no matter the rules. Six years after tapping Lindland with an armbar in less than two minutes at the ADCC grappling world championships, Souza forced Lindland to tap again, this time with a head-arm triangle choke in four minutes and 18 seconds.

"I think I deserve a shot at the belt," Souza said afterwards, through a translator.

In the opener on the Showtime card, world-class wrestler Muhammed "King Mo" Lawal remained undefeated and a top prospect by knocking veteran Mike Whitehead out cold at three minutes and eight seconds of the first round.

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