Gilbert Melendez has become somewhat of a forgotten man in the lightweight division. But "El Nino" remains one of the better talents in his weight class. Although he's been on a mission to reclaim his Strikeforce lightweight championship, the rug was pulled out from under his title hopes when champion Josh Thomson was forced to pull out of their long awaited rematch with an injury. Now the 27 year old finds himself with a chance to avenge his only other loss and obtain the interim lightweight title. Melendez utilizes excellent wrestling and really pushes the pace against his opponents. An impressive victory on Saturday would go a long way toward having his name mentioned amongst the world's elite lightweights again. Melendez has a professional record of 15-2 with 9 wins coming by way of knockout and 1 win coming by way of submission. The combined career winning percentage of the opponents that he has faced is 66.3%.
Mitsuhiro "Endless Fighter" Ishida makes a rare trip out West to try and earn an eventual shot at the Strikeforce lightweight championship. The 30 year old Ishida is a very solid fighter that likes to grind out wins against his opponents. Fitness and stamina are not a question seeing as how the majority of his wins have come by decision. Ishida has a professional record of 18-5-1 with 3 wins coming by way of knockout and 2 wins coming by way of submission. The combined career winning percentage of the opponents that he has faced is 61.4%
Although the Thomson-Melendez fight would have been preferable, this matchup will be a good one and is a testament to Scott Coker's ability to find a suitable replacement on short notice. Assuming Melendez is able to win on Saturday, this might actually even help improve the storyline if a Melendez-Thomson rematch does occur later in the year since it would be the only remaining unavenged loss for Gilbert. Ishida is a high quality fighter and deserves a ton of respect for taking this fight on short notice. Ultimately, I have to pick Melendez in this one. I think that he's the more talented fighter and will break down film on Ishida (including the footage of his previous loss) to create a winning gameplan. My prediction: Gilbert Melendez by TKO in the 4th.