Should Gilbert Melendez face the UFC Lightweight Champion to unify the UFC and Strikeforce titles this year?
RICH HANSEN, MMATORCH COLUMNIST
No 155 pounder in the world could have beaten the Gilbert Melendez we saw on Saturday night. Melendez is the best lightweight in the world, and has no competition outside of the UFC. The best lightweights that Strikeforce could set him up with would be either Josh Thomson or Shinya Aoki. And there isn’t anyone who wants to see those fights again. Get Melendez in the UFC and get him an immediate title shot. Barring that, get him Jim Miller, with the winner of that getting the next title shot.
JASON AMADI, MMATORCH COLUMNIST
The UFC and StrikeForce Championships should be unified, and Gilbert Melendez should get the opportunity to prove that he is the best lightweight in the world. However, the same obstacles prevent these things from coming to fruition that prevented them in the past; Strikeforce and the UFC are still two separate organizations.
It definitely makes all the sense in the world to unify StrikfForce and UFC championships, but if you rush into super fights, what is left? What purpose would the rest of the Strikeforce lightweight division serve? Title unification is in the future of Melendez and every other Strikeforce champion, but until the time is right, things really should remain business as usual.
ALVIN CARTER, MMATORCH SPECIALIST
If the complete merge is actually going to happen, which is most likely the case, it would make sense as far as having a superfight that could potentially make for a blockbuster of a PPV if it is promoted properly. Starting unifying with the Strikeforce Champs that have the least negotiating leverage early on might make for a smooth transition.
But, Zuffa is now profiting from two separate Lightweight Champions that are reasonably marketable. That is an ideal fiscal situation since we are at least one year from the eventual dissipation of Strikeforce as we know it. Each champ could have two or three more fights before the supposed natural course of fighter contract acquisition takes place.
MATT PELKEY, MMATORCH COLUMNIST
He should, provided he’s still the Strikeforce Lightweight Champion when he moves over to the UFC. He has a fantastic resume (even including his Strikeforce opposition) and he’s earned a crack at whoever the UFC champion is when the time comes. Unfortunately, just like with all Strikeforce fighters, its unlikely we’ll see any “unification” fights until the Strikeforce fighter’s contracts have run their course and they’re signed to UFC deals.
JAMIE PENICK, MMATORCH EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
Gilbert Melendez has as good, if not a better claim, to a shot at the UFC Lightweight Title based on his record, who he’s beaten and how he’s beaten them recently than any other lightweight under contract to the UFC. However, with precedent set already he needs to fight one fight inside the Octagon at the least before the UFC throws him into a title fight. It’s something that was brought up this week on our MMATorch Livecast at BlogTalkRadio.com/MMATorch, and with Jake Shields needing a fight to get a title shot despite an even better record and level of opposition than Melendez in this same time period, Melendez should have to do the same. That leaves us with one perfect fight for the UFC and Melendez, and even if it doesn’t happen in the UFC it could give him the title shot, and that’s a fight with Jim Miller. With Miller stellar record, and the fact that his only two losses are to the two men fighting for the title, a fight between him and Melendez would set up a number one contender fight. If Melendez wins that fight, he should fight for the title, regardless of whatever posturing Zuffa is attempting to pull with Showtime with the Strikeforce brand. Sure, they can’t look like they’re intentionally poaching the top talent, but it’s something they’re legitimately going to have to do unless they send a large influx of fighters from the UFC into the Strikeforce cage. Melendez shouldn’t be fighting anyone lower than Miller in the prime of his career off of that win last weekend. He should face the best of the best to give him a chance to prove what he’s been telling everyone for a while now, and that’s that he’s the best lightweight in the world. A win over Miller, even if it’s done in Strikeforce, should bring him to the opportunity.