Sunday, Dec. 18, 2011 | 1 a.m.
SAN DIEGO — The best lightweight in mixed martial arts may not fight in the UFC.
It’s a possibility that at least merits consideration as long as Strikeforce 155-pound champion Gilbert Melendez keeps plowing through opponents. Melendez cruised again Saturday night at the Valley View Casino Center, thoroughly out-boxing Jorge Masvidal to earn a unanimous decision (50-45, 50-45, 49-46) victory.
“I’m sick of saying it, I hope I can just keep proving it in the cage,” Melendez said of his ranking in the lightweight class. “I put it out there. I said I’m one of the top fighters out there and I’d like to prove that I’m No. 1.”
Melendez (20-2 MMA, 10-1 SF) has won six consecutive fights over three and a half years. UFC lightweight champion Frankie Edgar has the same number of victories, with a draw mixed in, during the span.
As recently as two months ago, a clash between Edgar and Melendez looked inevitable. But it won’t happen for at least a year after this week’s announcement that Strikeforce would stay separate from the UFC and its fighters wouldn’t cross over.
So it’s all empty speculation on who would win in a matchup between Edgar and Melendez, the consensus top two 155-pound fighters.
“We’re just looking for someone to kind of claim the throne,” Melendez said. “I’m trying to do that.”
Melendez expressed frustration toward anyone who didn’t find the victory over Masvidal impressive. Although he didn’t come through with a stoppage, Melendez routed Masvidal at his own game.
Masvidal (22-7 MMA, 4-1 SF) is a precise striker who’s reached the top of Strikeforce by beating opponents standing up. Melendez decided against using his wrestling and slugged it out on foot with Masvidal for almost the entire 25-minute bout.
“I thought I’d be defending takedowns, but he only shot two or three takedowns the whole fight,” Masvidal said. “It was a big surprise for me.”
The uneasy question hanging around Saturday night was what’s left for Melendez to prove in Strikeforce. He’s easily beaten the best the organization has to offer.
Two of the better 155-pound fighters Melendez hasn’t faced in Strikeforce scored victories on the undercard, as K.J. Noons beat Billy Evangelista by unanimous decision and Caros Fodor knocked out Justin Wilcox in 13 seconds.
But neither Noons nor Fodor have championship credentials at this point. Noons is 1-2 in his last three fights, and Masvidal destroyed him this year. Fodor has only eight bouts, going 7-1 since he started fighting two years ago.
Melendez mentioned the possibility of bringing a UFC fighter into Strikeforce immediately after his win, but recanted the comment and regarded it as something unlikely to happen in the post-fight press conference. Right now, Melendez is a fighter in need of a challenge.
“I’ve got to have faith that they are going to do what’s best for me,” Melendez said of the Strikeforce brass.
If Noons could win another fight like he did Saturday, he could emerge as the top contender. Noons and Evangelista gave the crowd a thrill with a back-and-forth kickboxing battle to open the televised card.
The fight reached its peak with 30 seconds remaining when Noons and Evangelista started talking in the cage while they winged punches at each other. Noons explained that he and Evangelista agreed to let their hands loose and not shoot for takedowns during the final stretch in hopes of giving the crowd a show.
“It seems like a lot of my fights always have talking in the ring,” Noons said. “But this one wasn’t (trash) talking.”
Melendez enjoyed watching Noons vs. Evangelista from his locker room.
“If I need to fight one of them, I will,” Melendez said.
Check below for results from the rest of the fights on the card.
Women’s featherweight champion Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos returned from an 18-month layoff with no ill effects. Santos knocked out Hiroko Yamanaka in 16 seconds.
Gegard Mousasi defeated Ovince St. Preux by unanimous decision. All three judges scored the bout 29-28 for Mousasi, who won the first two rounds.
Roger Bowling knocked out Jerron Peoples in their catchweight (180.5) bout. Bowling was motivated and angry after Peoples not only missed weight, but was also over their agreed catchweight of 179 pounds.
An inadvertent eye poke in the second round didn’t slow veteran heavyweight Devin Cole. Cole scored a unanimous decision victory — all three judges gave him all three rounds — over Gabriel Salinas-Jones.
Eddie Mendez grabbed a split decision victory (30-27, 29-28, 28-29) over Fernando Gonzalez in their middleweight scrap.
Herman Terrado defeated Chris Brown via submission (arm bar) at 4:05 of the third round in their welterweight bout. Brown controlled the first two rounds of the fight before succumbing to the submission late.