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Sunday, December 20, 2009

CUNG LE VS SCOTT SMITH! KO HIGHLIGHTs and Gilbert Melendez fights Josh Thomson highlights & Strikeforce:Evolution Lightweight Championship fights

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King Mo Lawal vs Mike Whitehead fight video


If Josh Thomson was going to predict a scenario in which he’d lose his Strikeforce lightweight championship, it probably would have gone pretty close to what happened Saturday night at the HP Pavilion.

Thomson lost what is already being talked about as a match of the year candidate, losing to someone that he long considered a very good friend, Gilbert Melendez.

Melendez (17-2), who became Strikeforce interim champion in April while Thomson was on the sidelines all year after breaking his ankle twice, in April and August, won the five-round fight via unanimous decision on scores of 49-47, 49-46 and 49-46.

More From Dave MeltzerThomson-Melendez rematch worth the wait Dec 18, 2009 Coker reflects on Strikeforce's past, future Dec 15, 2009 ADVERTISEMENT

The win avenged Melendez’s five-round loss of the title to Thomson in the same arena last June. Thomson agreed to give Melendez a title rematch that night, but due to injuries, it took a year and a half for it to happen.

Both Melendez and Thomson thought Saturday’s fight was at a slower pace than the original fight, but to the 9,362 spectators it looked to be the opposite. The first fight figured on paper to be a battle between two evenly-matched well-rounded fighters, but instead it was a one-sided domination by Thomson.

This time, while Melendez clearly won the fight, it was everything expected out of the first fight and then more. There were a number of exchanges where both men just stood there toe-to-toe firing punches. Most of those exchanges saw both men stand there and absorb the damage until the fifth round, when Thomson was tiring and needed a finish and it was Melendez, who got the better of it, putting Thomson down. But Thomson came back late in the round with a takedown and getting Melendez’s back, before the men stood and traded big shots as the fight ended to bring the crowd to its feet.

“The punch in the second round didn’t hurt, but the punch in the fourth round (actually the fifth) was a punch to the head that knocked the wind out of me,” said Thomson. “In the second (the knockdown), I didn’t really feel hurt.”

While his face was all marked up, Thomson was all smiles when it was over, praising Melendez, a former good friend and training partner.

“We talked at weigh-ins and said we planned to have the fight of the night,” said Thomson (16-3, 1 no-contest). “I don’t think either of us saw our stock drop with a fight like this. I’m proud of Gilbert. He came back from a loss like a champion. I want to let him enjoy the night.”

“It was a war,” said Melendez, who became the first two-time champion in the four-year history of Strikeforce as a mixed martial arts promotion. “I’m ready for any champions from the UFC or Dream.”

Melendez noted that the fight was not fun, and at no time was he thinking that he may have been in the middle of the match of the year. He was only thinking he was sore and was glad for it to be over. He also was mad that he felt he and Thomson, by not being in the UFC, weren’t getting their fair respect in the MMA world, noting when he saw ratings where he wasn’t in the top ten, and Thomson was in the lower rungs of the top ten.

While there was immediate talk of a third match, which is likely to happen at some point, Strikeforce promoter Scott Coker talked after the show about going to Japan for the New Year’s Eve show and trying to put together Melendez vs. Dream lightweight champion Shinya Aoki and Thomson vs. Dream’s Tatsuya Kawajiri for the next show in San Jose. Although with the nature of the top Japanese fighters having to be available for the big events in Japan, and the availability of buildings and Showtime dates, the stars have to be aligned perfectly for such matches to happen.

“Gilbert won because he was the better man tonight,” said Thomson. “I want to make it clear so people don’t make excuses.”

Thomson said that all week, but it had been 15 months since he last fought, and his injuries didn’t allow him to run in training, which could have made the difference in the later rounds. The difference between the two fights? In the original, Thomson was the matador, teasing Melendez at every opportunity. This time, Melendez, who blamed himself for not training hard enough for the first fight, was in better condition.

After the frantic exchanges, and particularly late, Melendez’s conditioning seemed to be the difference. The wrestling of both men largely neutralized the other, but this time Melendez was able to connect on a far greater percentage of his punches.

“I trained for five rounds and expected to go a hard five rounds,” said Thomson.

On most any other night, people would be talking almost exclusively about Scott Smith’s comeback performance in ending the unbeaten record of local favorite Cung Le in what was the show’s main event.

Le (6-1) was the star the Strikeforce promotion, before MMA was legal in California and it was a kickboxing organization, was built around during the 1990s. An unbeaten San Shou fighter (a sport that combined kickboxing with takedowns, but no ground work), dominated the entire fight. He scored three knockdowns, and befuddled Smith with his usual array with side kicks and spinning kicks that are only supposed to work on the movie set, and not in MMA fights.

But it was evident even as he was dominating Smith that he was breathing heavily, particularly when he tried to slow the fight down in the second round, holding Smith against the cage in an attempt to regain his wind.

Le, now 37, hadn’t fought since March 29, 2008, and like so many fighters in the past who ventured into the movie world, came back and was missing the edge that he had when he was younger.

Like his classic fight in April with Benji Radach, Smith came back from almost certain defeat with a Hail Mary like finish, a hard left that suddenly put Le in trouble. After putting Le down a second time, after a few punches on the ground, referee John McCarthy stopped the fight.

“He caught me with a punch,” said Le immediately after the fight. I did my best. I fought my heart out and he fought his heart out. He just caught me with a punch. You win some and you lose some.”

The key blow was a left hook that came out of nowhere.

“My left hook is really my best punch eve though people think it’s my right,” said Smith. “He was waiting for the right and I brought the left hook in and caught him.”

“I think maybe I need someone to beat the hell out of me before I go out there,” said Smith (17-6). “I almost always lose the first round.”

Smith, who has made a career of providing memorable knockouts, one in UFC against Pete Spratt that is considered one of the greatest finishes in the history of that organization, the Radach fight, and this, given how badly he was losing the fight and was nearly stopped, being another one.

After Le’s first knockdown, he pummeled Smith with hard punches on the ground as Smith just tried to cover up. He blocked some punches and others were getting through. Many, if not most referees would have stopped it, and McCarthy told Smith he’d better get out of trouble, and the urgency of the situation got him back to his feet.

In the television opener of the Showtime card, Muhammad “King Mo” Lawal (6-0), a natural middleweight fighting as a 218-pound heavyweight, finished veteran Mike Whitehead (24-7) after knocking him down and finishing him with punches on the ground in 3:08 of the first round.

Mo, who came to the cage with a group of dancing girls, wearing a crown, and walking under an umbrella, was originally scheduled to face Whitehead at light heavyweight. However, Whitehead, who in the past has cut from as heavy as 275 pounds to 205, asked for the fight at heavyweight and came in at 261 pounds.

The U.S. debut of former Brazilian Jiu Jitsu world champion Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza (11-2, 1 no contest) was also successful, stopping former top five middleweight Matt Lindland (21-7) with an arm triangle submission at 4:18 of the first

Thoughts on the fights ??

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