“El Nino” Never Strikes

Written by Tom Ngo
June 28th, 2008

Strikeforce fans waited a long time for the lightweight matchup that took place Friday night, however the storm only came from one of the competitors, and not the one that you would expect.  Defending Champion Gilbert “El Nino” Melendez is known for his nonstop aggression, however his inactivity this night cost him his belt to challenger Josh Thomson.

“I really don’t got much to say, besides Josh was the better man today,” the former Champ said in his post-fight press conference. “I did the best I could do today. I still think I’m a better fighter than that, but I think I did the best I could do today.  And Josh just threw me off my game. He fought his fight and was a better man today.“

Melendez wasn’t able to get anything going, as Thomson’s diversified kicks kept him off balance all night.  He continued to lose the stand up battle round after round and was never able to get Thomson to the ground.

“For some reason, I tried a takedown or two, and I couldn’t just grip it, man. Like on the first one where I locked him, I swear, anyone else I would have picked him up and slammed, but something was funky about it. I just couldn’t lift it up and slam,” he stated.

“Funky” is an understatement, as Thomson’s kicks kept Melendez at bay throughout the fight.  In addition to that, he was the dominant wrestler, putting Melendez on his back at will and forcing the former champion to scrap his game plan.

“I shoulda put him on his back and ground and pound, but that was the game plan (to stand). I knew that I was going to have to bang with him on my feet and I did the whole fight so I was ready for that too,” Melendez continued.

When asked if the time that they spent together as training partners a few years back helped Thomson walk away with the belt, Melendez didn’t think that made the difference.

“Yeah maybe, but I shoulda had the same advantages, right?,” asked Melendez. “There’s no excuses. I trained with him, he trained with me. Maybe he learned more from it. Maybe he was a smarter guy about it. (But) He knew what to expect from me. I knew what to expect from him. He just fought his game and I didn’t fight my game.”

Thomson didn’t need to whether the storm this day, because it never even came. Much of that was to his credit.
“He had his game plan and it worked, I had my game plan and it didn’t work,” Melendez mused. 

But just because the sky was clear this day, doesn’t mean that a violent and deadly storm won’t be coming another day.

“Yeah, I would like to run that back,” Melendez stated about a possible rematch. “Definitely. Josh is cool too. We’ll talk about it if he wants to do it. I want my belt back. I don’t like losing.”

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