By: Jamie Penick, MMATorch Editor-in-Chief
Gilbert Melendez is on a mission to prove himself as the best lightweight fighter in all of MMA, and on Saturday night he made one hell of a statement in San Diego.
Taking on Tatsuya “Crusher” Kawajiri in a rematch of their 2006 bout in Pride – a fight Melendez won by decision – Melendez made short work of the Japanese star, destroying him with a relentless assault and ending the fight by employing the new weapon in Strikeforce: elbows.
The fight consisted of Melendez swarming Kawajiri early and often, continuously staying aggressive and landing brutal punches that took their toll as the round wore on. Finally, after sending Kawajiri to the canvas with a series of strikes, Melendez battered him with a few vicious elbows on the ground and prompted the stoppage just 3:12 into the opening round.
With no signs of rust after a year out of action, Melendez made his statement with his performance in the cage, but he wasn’t done there. Speaking to Gus Johnson in the cage after the win, Melendez made his intentions clear for the future now that Strikeforce is under Zuffa’s roof.
“I think it’s time we unify some titles,” Melendez exclaimed. “Who wants to see me fight the UFC Champ here in this hexagon?
“I’m the number one lightweight in the world, I’m coming for that spot.”
Penick’s Analysis: Melendez looked absolutely fantastic in that fight Saturday night. Kawajiri’s no joke, and Melendez destroyed him. He might be the best lightweight fighter in the world, but he still needs to prove it against the current best in the UFC. He might just get that chance soon, and he’s going to be ready for the challenge, but you can’t do anything but admire the performance he put out on Saturday in San Diego. That was as good as he’s ever looked, and with elbow strikes now at his disposal, he’s one of the most dangerous and violent lightweights in the world, and I can’t wait to see him get his shot against the top end of the UFC lightweight division.