9 Jun

by By R. Puno (Rachel_P_Esq@yahoo.com) (2006-06-16)

San Jose, CA, June 9, 2006 — It was obvious that the intent for the main event between Vitor Belfort and Alistair Overeem at Friday’s “Revenge‿ card was to launch STRIKEFORCE as a world class fight promotion. Ironically, it wasn’t the main event, it was the event’s only title bout, pitting Clayton Guida against Gilbert “El Niño‿ Melendez, that revealed STRIKEFORCE as the contender to rival the UFC, Pride or K-1 Heros.

Eagerly anticipated from the inception of the whispered rumors, the Guida-Melendez match superceded expectations and added an unforgettable chapter to the careers of both fighters. Gilbert Melendez’ manager and former contestant on Spike TV’s, “The Ultimate Fighter‿ show, Chris Sanford, barely able to contain his excitement stated, “I’ve been telling everyone that this fight had all the makings of a great fight. I think for the MMA fans that were here tonight, they’ll talk about and remember this fight for years and this fight has to make you a fan of both fighters – regardless, if you wanted Gilbert to win or Clay to win, or even if you didn’t care who won. Both fighters received a well-deserved standing ovation!‿

Clay Guida, the defending Strikeforce Lightweight Champion, whose unshakeable reputation as a tough as nails scrapper, was firmly established with his contentious fight against UFC and Pride veteran, Josh “The Punk‿ Thomson. Entering this fight, undefeated Gilbert “El Niño‿ Melendez, had impressively finished 10 of his 11 prior fights and embarked on his “rein of terror‿ by beating 3 consecutive, then-undefeated fighters in a row: Olaf Alfonso (WEC), Kaynan Kaku (ROTR) and Hiroyuki Takaya (SHOOTO), all top guys in their weight division for their respective fight organizations.

The fight of the night started with an exchange of takedowns with both fighters having some great slams to add to their highlight reels. Neither fighter was able to keep the other on his back for long. The highlight of the fight was in the second round when Guida took Melendez down and quickly took his back while Melendez tried to get back to his feet. With hooks in and the rear naked choke appearing to be firmly secured, Guida seemed to be within seconds of ending this fight, but the tenacious and ever-composed Melendez, displayed one of the best “in your face‿ escapes ever. Quite literally. By swinging Guida halfway around, Melendez was able to reach back and grab Guida’s head and then proceeded to launch forward and slammed Guida’s head into the mat almost knocking Guida out. From there, the fight was filled with not-stop action, however Melendez clearly outclassed the very game Guida with superior boxing skills and the ability get back to his feet quickly.

Guida dispelled rumors of being a fighter employing questionable tactics in his 5 round, 25-minute battle with Melendez and truly fought with the heart of a warrior. He just was not able to weather the storm of “El Niño.‿ Judges Gitlin and Morrow were consistent in their identical scores of 50-45 for Melendez. However, the veteran Judge Jon Schorle in a most bizarre move, submitted a score of 46-48 Guida. Impossible! The entire 10,374 in attendance booed the preposterous split decision.

This clash was a truly memorable encounter: thrilling, dramatic, fiery and yet, decisive. It will be remembered as much more than Gilbert Melendez’s well deserved crowning of the title, “STRIKEFORCE Lightweight Champion.‿ This event marks, as many who train with and have fought Gilbert Melendez already believe, a future icon’s entrance into battle with the baddest boys in the world at 155…

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