Submitted by: Mike Afromowitz
Josh "The Punk" Thomson serving up a bowl of pain to Gilbert "El Nino" Melendez.
In a stunning performance that reminisced that of his teammate, Cung Le, three months ago, 29-year-old Josh “The Punk” Thomson (15-2) made the greatest stand to date in his seven year professional mixed martial arts career as he hammered superstar and longtime training partner, Gilbert “El Nino” Melendez (14-3), for five rounds to capture the Strikeforce world lightweight (155 lb limit) championship by way of unanimous judges’ decision at the HP Pavilion in San Jose, California last night.
Knockout artist Billy Evangelista (7-0) extended his undefeated run with a controversial, split decision win over Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu brown belt, Nam Phan (14-5) while Strikeforce World Light Heavyweight Champion, Bobby Southworth (9-5), retained his crown by earning a five-round, unanimous decision over Anthony Ruiz (20-11). Looking superbly fit, Thomson quickly shed doubts about his ability to function with a shoulder that had undergone recent surgical repair, as he fended off an early Melendez take down attempt before securing one of his own. From half guard position, Thomson began firing knees to the body before Melendez was able to reverse the position. After a failed attempt to secure Thomson’s back, Melendez stood up and took a knee to the body followed by a straight right hand.
In the second, Thomson turned up the heat and began unloading a stiff jab and more knee strikes to the body. Melendez responded with his own strikes, but Thomson soon rocked his opponent with a knee kick as Melendez shot in for a takedown. Thomson followed up an outside low kick with a single-leg takedown before the round came to a close.
The challenger continued his effective offensive strategy, landing straight punches and knees, early in the third stanza. Just when the fight appeared to have slipped out of Melendez’s hands, though, the champ came alive with two hard right hands before being taken down in the round’s final seconds.
Thomson deployed his jab, again, early in the fourth frame but, this time around, Melendez responded with a series of standing elbows that put the challenger on the retreat before Thomson landed a hard round kick to the body. Soon after, Thomson defended a Melendez flurry with a solid push kick and, at his first opportunity, secured a single leg takedown to gain side control. Thomson smoothly transitioned to take Melendez’s back and secured a rear-naked choke. However, Melendez escaped before the round ended.
While a noticeably tired Melendez desperately tried to rally in the final round, Thomson kept him off balance with a steady dose of push kicks, landing a final one to Melendez’s face before the final horn sounded.
All three judges scored the fight 50-45 in favor of Thomson, giving the San Jose resident his first world championship.
Complete Strikeforce Results:
Alexandre Trivino def. Eric Jacob – Round 1 (:37) – Submission (Armbar)
Jorge Interiano def. Travis Johnson – Round 2 (3:00) – TKO (Doctor stoppage)
Cyrillo Padhillo def. Jesse Jones – Round 3 (3:00) – Unanimous Decision
Bryan Caraway def. Alvin Cacdac – Round 1 (1:39) – Submission (Rear-naked choke)
Bobby Stack def. Jose Palacios – Round 3 (3:00) – Unanimous Decision
Chris Cariaso def. Anthony Figueroa – Round 2 (4:34) – Submission (Rear-naked choke)
Jeremiah Metcalf def. Raymond Daniels – Round 2 (:59) – Submission (Rear-naked choke)
Miesha Tate def. Elaina Maxwell – Round 3 (3:00) – Unanimous Decision
Bobby Southworth def. Anthony Ruiz – Round 5 (5:00) – Unanimous Decision
Billy Evangelista def. Nam Phan – Round 3 (5:00) – Split Decision
Josh Thomson def. Gilbert Melendez – Round 5 (5:00) – Unanimous Decision
Eric Lawson def. Jesse Gillespie – Round 1 (1:03) – Submission (Rear-naked choke)