Gilbert Melendez’s dominant 17-2 professional record has come against some of the world’s best lightweights. Saturday at “Strikeforce: Nashville,” the champion rolls out the welcome wagon for Japanese sensation Shinya Aoki, a scrap he’s been training years for.
Aoki is arguably MMA’s craftiest grappler, seemingly able to pull off submissions in the blink of an eye. However, Melendez has long been under the tutelage of Brazilian jiu jitsu guru Cesar Gracie, whose famed academy stockpiles BJJ black belt fighters like no other.
“I’ve been training [my jiu jitsu] 7-8 hard years, I’ve been training with [Nick and Nate Diaz],” Melendez told 5thRound.com of his extensive knowledge. “I’ve seen his rubber guard, I’ve seen it for years. It’s nothing new to me.
“I’ve already anticipated fighting this guy, and that’s why I want to fight him because I feel I can handle that stuff.”
Aoki’s resume reads an impressive 23-4, however 14 of his wins came by way of tapout. Despite the challenger’s decorated ground game, Melendez believes he’ll be able to impose his will and leave the Bridgestone Arena with his 155-pound crown in tact.
“I predict a war. I think Shinya is a tough, amazing fighter,” Melendez said. “I think he has some holes in his game, I’ve got holes in my game and I think we’re going to matchup perfectly.
“But a perfect fight from Gilbert Melendez will see a 2ndRound knockout!”
The lightweight scrap will kick off a trio of championship bouts on the CBS broadcast. Strikeforce’s second primetime show starts at 9PM ET/PT.
Please click the media player below to watch 5thRound.com’s exclusive interview with Gilbert Melendez: