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Saturday, December 19, 2009

WEC 45 highlights , who is going to win ? Cerrone or Ratcliff ? or Strikeforce: Josh Thomson vs. Gilbert Melendez ?


Donald Cerrone isn’t going to be named mixed martial arts Fighter of the Year, except, perhaps, by his family.
He probably won’t get a vote for it, either. He needs a win over Ed Ratcliff on Saturday at WEC 45 at The Pearl at The Palms simply to end the year with a break-even mark.
But if you’re the type that likes jaw-dropping action just about every time out, then Cerrone is most definitely your man.
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Cerrone entered 2009 with a 9-0 record, 10-0 if you count a 2007 victory that was erased and changed to a no contest when he tested positive for a diuretic. He goes into the Ratcliff fight with a 10-2 record, but there are few fighters on the World Extreme Cagefighting roster other than featherweight champion Jose Aldo who are more routinely exciting than Cerrone.
His loss to Ben Henderson in October is being hailed by some as the 2009 Fight of the Year. His controversial defeat to bitter – perhaps hated – rival Jamie Varner in January was Fight of the Night and was another one that was stunning in its brutality.
And he closed 2008 with a Fight of the Night effort in a win over “Razor” Rob McCullough.
Yet, as much as he’s become a crowd favorite, the crowd has little impact upon him as he’s fighting. He’s a fierce competitor who is constantly looking for a finish and that, more than trying to get a rise out of the audience, is what fuels him.
“I think I more feed off my opponent than anything else,” Cerrone said. “When I feel him getting weaker and tired, I’m more motivated to push harder and keep going forward. I really don’t feed off the crowd. You don’t even know the crowd’s there, to be honest. It’s crazy.
“It’s hard to explain. You see them when you walk out, but once you start fighting, you have no idea (that they’re there). You’re so into the zone and focused on what you’re doing you don’t realize it.”
His fight with Henderson was an MMA classic that featured all aspects of the sport: There were huge punches and kicks landed, numerous submission attempts and fast scrambles.
Henderson won a close decision that was hotly disputed. Cerrone, a blunt speaker who never hesitates to say what’s on his mind, oddly didn’t disagree.
He said he thought Henderson won the fight, despite public sentiment that disagreed. In his view, the bout came down to how the first round was judged. Cerrone had a series of near-submissions, but Henderson managed to fight all of them off to survive.
“With the judging now, if you’re a wrestler and you’ve taken someone down and you control him, they’ll give you the fight,” Cerrone said. “It’s weird, but it’s like they don’t give you any points for submission attempts, points for getting up. It’s like a weird scoring system. It’s something they need to work on. But shoulda, woulda, coulda. There’s nothing I can do about it now.
“I had my 25 minutes to do what I could. I’m not going to complain and say I should have won. I’m going to be a humble guy and say, ‘Ben, good job. I think he won it,’ even if I don’t totally agree with it.”
One thing he’s certain of is the fact he’ll defeat Ratcliff on Saturday. He didn’t mince words in his assessment of how the fight will go.
Ratcliff, he said, isn’t in his league as a fighter and he’ll prove that on Saturday.
“I can pretty much win this fight anywhere,” Cerrone said. “My wrestling is better than his, my jiu-jitsu is way better than his and my standup, I’ve been doing it way longer than him. I don’t feel like he poses a threat to me in any area. I feel like I can end the fight pretty much where I want.”
He’ll get a much stiffer test if and when he gets the chance to meet Aldo, the dynamic featherweight champion. Cerrone isn’t planning a full-time move to 145, but said he can make the weight and would like to challenge several of the top featherweights.
That could set the possibility that he’ll fight for both the lightweight and the featherweight belt in 2010.
“That would be awesome,” Cerrone said. “But the bottom line in all of this is that I think it’s about big fights, more than anything else. I don’t want to fight guys that mean nothing. I want to take risks, to fight guys who are dangerous and who will get people talking. My whole motivation in this is to challenge myself and fight the best guys in the world.”



When Strikeforce announced nearly one year ago its deal with Showtime and CBS, Josh Thomson, the promotion’s lightweight champion, was in the position to make himself a national star.
One year and two broken ankles later, Thomson has to chalk up 2009 as a learning experience.
“I learned that my career could be over at any time, and that you have to save your money,” said Thomson, who gets back into the cage on Saturday night for the final Showtime MMA event of the year. “It was frustrating. I was hoping to fight on CBS this year.”
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Josh Thomson expects to go the distance when he faces Gilbert Melendez.(MMAWeekly)
His opponent at San Jose’s HP Pavilion is also a familiar one: Gilbert Melendez, who Thomson (16-2, 1 no-contest) meets in a rematch to unify Strikeforce’s split 155-pound title.
The two were good friends three years ago, trained together and never expected to fight each other. But they ended up as the top two lightweight fighters in the company and it became a natural match to make.
Melendez said that he’s not the type of person who can fight a friend, so he cut off the friendship.
“I have to dislike my opponent,” Melendez (16-2) said. “I’m not the guy who is going to high-five my opponent during the fight. It’s not me.” Thomson also learned a lesson about patience outside the cage that Melendez likely learned inside during their first match.
The first meeting between the two on June 27, 2008, also in San Jose, ended up as the biggest win of Thomson’s career. A significant underdog against a consensus-top 10 fighter at the time, Thomson was able to pick apart Melendez and negate his wrestling for five rounds in winning a straight 50-45 decision.
While watching the fight, it seemed like Thomson knew every move Melendez was going to make and when. Thomson had the edge in every aspect of the bout, handing Melendez the first and only one-sided defeat of his career.
“I didn’t perform to the best of my abilities that night,” said Melendez. “I had trouble sleeping because of it.”
But if Thomson’s instincts and premonitions were a key to winning the last fight, he said those same instincts tell him this fight is going to be nothing like the first one.
“I think it’s going to be way different,” said Thomson, known around MMA circles as “The Punk,” a nickname he admitted he probably once deserved but, at 31, is one he no longer embraces. “It will be nothing like the first fight.”
The only similarity is that he expects Saturday’s fight to go the distance.
“I think it’s going all five,” he said. “He’s super hard to knock out [Melendez has never been knocked out or submitted in his career]. He’s got a good chin. He’s got conditioning. I think my ground game is better than his. I got his back and was working for a choke in the fourth round (of the first fight).
“There’s a good chance it’ll go five rounds,” said the 27-year-old Melendez. “But I’ll be looking to finish. I’m not looking at sticking and moving and looking to win rounds. I’m going to throw every punch with bad intentions, with the idea of knocking him out.”
“What I learned from the last fight, if I’m going to be in this sport, I have to bring my ‘A’ game every time,” said Melendez, who trains out of his own gym in San Francisco. “Josh took it to me every round last time. Now I’m going to be more prepared. What I learned was I want to be a fighter and if I want to be a true fighter, I have to bring my ‘A’ game every time.”
Just minutes after their first match ended, Melendez asked for a rematch and Thomson said he was willing. With Thomson being a San Jose native and Melendez, who grew up in Southern California, but has lived in San Francisco for years, it was natural to bring the match back to San Jose, and it was set for April 11, when Strikeforce and Showtime did the first show on their contract.
Ten days before the fight, Thomson broke his fibula in training. He underwent surgery and had a plate and eight screws inserted. Thomson thought he had made a quick comeback and had signed for the next San Jose show, on August 15, on the Gina Carano vs. Cris “Cyborg” Santos undercard. But in late training, the fibula broke in a new place, just above the top screw, which he attributes to a rushed comeback in hopes of not missing such a high-profile show.
It has been 15 months since Thomson’s last fight. He admits when asked about potential ring rust that there is nothing you can do in training to replicate a real fight with thousands of people watching. But he’s modified his training. Thomson has eliminated most of his running to avoid unnecessary stress on the bad leg, trying to get his cardio from riding an Airdyne Exercise bicycle and lots of swimming. He also eliminated kicking hard in training until three weeks ago. But, he added, if he loses, none of this will serve as an excuse.
“I don’t want the media to make any excuses if I go out there and he beats me fair and square,” said Thomson. “I don’t want people thinking he beat me because I had all this time off or ring rust or whatever. I’m telling you right now, I’m 100 percent. I’m ready to fight. And if he beats me, it’s because he was the better fighter that night. There is nothing else to it. I want to make that clear to the media now, and to everyone who talks to me, and to all my friends, and even to the guy who comes up to me in an alley way and says something to me. I’m 100 percent. I’m ready to fight, and I’m ready to bring my title home.”
While Thomson was out of action, Melendez overwhelmed Rodrigo Damm to become interim lightweight champion. When the unification match in August fell through, Strikeforce brought in Mitsuhiro Ishida, who had handed Melendez his first career loss, via a close decision, on the 2007 New Year’s Eve show in Japan.
Melendez dominated Ishida in the rematch, winning via stoppage in the third round. But while he retained the interim belt, he never considered it a real championship, and wouldn’t even wear it to the ring in his last fight.
“That was awesome,” Melendez said about avenging his first loss. “I wanted to get them one off my chest for almost two years.”
But he said this is different, as he considered Ishida a fight that was close and he could have won, while admits he was completely dominated by Thomson. He also noted with Ishida, there was a simple game plan of keeping the fight standing, whereas Thomson you doesn’t have an obvious weakness to exploit.
Strikeforce promoter Scott Coker has talked about having the winner face Shinya Aoki, the lightweight champion of Dream, who is generally regarded as Japan’s top lightweight.
“The Japanese fighters don’t seem to do as well when they fight here,” said Thomson, about a match, where if he would win, would vault him up to near the top of most rankings in the division. “I match up well with him. I don’t think he can take me down and he can’t stand up with me.”

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