Gilbert Melendez

Gilbert Melendez | “El Nino”
Ht: 5’9 – Wt: 155 – Age: 30
Born: California, USA
Fights out of: San Francisco, CA, USA
Team: Cesar Gracie Jiu-Jitsu | El Nino Sports
Overall Record: 21-2
Promotion: Strikeforce

2012 Forecast:
Gilbert Melendez is the current Strikeforce lightweight champion and quite possibly the best lightweight fighter in the world. Melendez made his MMA debut in the WEC in 2002. Melendez won his first 3 fights in the promotion, the latter of which earned him the inaugural WEC lightweight championship. Melendez soon vacated the title in order to compete in Japan’s Shooto promotion. “El Nino” went 3-0 in Shooto, defeating Hiroyuki Takaya and Rumina Sato. Melendez returned back to California where he signed with a new promotion, Strikeforce. He won his Strikeforce debut against Harris Sarmiento before facing off against Clay Guida for the Strikeforce lightweight championship in a 5-round war of a fight that saw Melendez walk out the split decision winner. Melendez signed with PRIDE shortly after winning the Strikeforce title, winning both of his PRIDE fights, including a close decision victory over veteran Tatsuya Kawajiri. Melendez picked up another win in Strikeforce before suffering his first career loss to grappler Mitsuhiro Ishida via decision in Japan. Melendez returned home to Strikeforce, defending his belt against Gabe Lemley before facing off with Josh Thomson. Thomson defeated Melendez to win a unanimous decision and the Strikeforce lightweight title. Melendez headed to the sidelines for nearly 10 months before making his return against Rodrigo Damm for the interim Strikeforce lightweight title due to Thomson being sidelined with injuries. Melendez defeated Damm via 2nd round knockout before moving on to avenge his previous loss to Mitsuhiro Ishida, winning via TKO. Melendez only had one more career loss to avenge and it was against Thomson. Melendez faced off against Thomson to unify the Strikeforce lightweight title. This time, Melendez was the sharper of the two, winning the 5-round fight via unanimous decision. Melendez successfully defended his Strikeforce title against Japanese star Shinya Aoki, dominating Aoki via unanimous decision. Melendez was arguably the top lightweight fighter in the world following his win over Aoki as fans began clamoring for the possibility of Melendez signing with the UFC due to Strikeforce being recently purchased by Zuffa. Despite hints that Melendez would make his way to the UFC, Melendez eventually moved on to defeat Japan’s next top lightweight, Tatsuya Kawajiri. Melendez stunningly finished Kawajiri via 1st round TKO, once again raising his stock as one of the top p4p fighters in the world. Melendez defended his Strikeforce title once more in 2011, winning a unanimous decision over Jorge Masvidal.
Heading into 2012, Melendez looks trapped in Strikeforce. He has beaten every top contender in the division and the only challenges left are currently either signed by the UFC or Bellator. Melendez is without question a top-level talent and deserves better opportunities at this stage in his career. He is 29 years old and is likely right in the prime of his career. Instead of testing his skills against Ben Henderson or Frankie Edgar, he is relegated to fighting fringe contenders that are doing absolutely nothing for his legacy. Melendez has solid wrestling to go along with crisp striking. Melendez’s experience and conditioning are also huge assets. Melendez has been through plenty of 5-round fights and knows how to pace himself in championship-caliber fights. Melendez is battle-tested and would likely be the betting favorite against the current UFC champion should he eventually sign there.

Gilbert Melendez Fight Record

Overall Record: 20-2
2008-2011 Record: 7-1

2011 Record: 2-0
Win | Jorge Masvidal | Dec | Rd 5 | Sforce| 12/17/2011
Win | Tatsuya Kawajiri | Tko | Rd 1 | Sforce| 04/09/2011

2010 Record: 1-0
Win | Shinya Aoki | Dec | Rd 5 | Sforce| 04/17/2010

2009 Record: 3-0
Win | Josh Thomson | Dec | Rd 5 | Sforce| 12/19/2009
Win | Mitsuhiro Ishida | Tko | Rd 3 | Sforce| 08/15/2009
Win | Rodrigo Damm | KO | Rd 2 | Sforce| 04/11/2009

2008 Record: 1-1
Loss | Josh Thomson | Dec | Rd 5 | Sforce| 06/27/2008
Win | Gabe Lemley | Tko | Rd 2 | Sforce| 03/29/2008

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