It’s strange to label a champion as “underrated,” but that’s exactly what Strikeforce 155-pound king Gilbert Melendez is. Although everyone had him ranked in their Top 10, no one saw him higher than #8 heading into this weekend’s scrap.
His “Strikeforce: Nashville” opponent, Dream lightweight champion Shinya Aoki, was widely regarded as the second best lightweight in the world, but that has all changed now.
“I think I’m top three, I think I earned it. I beat the #2 guy in the world, possibly the #1. I think I deserve a little bit of love now,” Melendez said following his dominant win over Aoki.
One could argue that with his lopsided unanimous decision win over the jiu jitsu wizard, coupled with Frankie Edgar’s upset of top dog BJ Penn at UFC 112, Melendez could be the top lightweight in the world.
We’ll save that argument for another day, but with what went down inside the Bridgestone Arena, there aren’t too many that he’s looking up at in the 155-pound standings.
Melendez dominated the Japanese superstar for the complete 25 minutes and showed how far he has evolved as an MMA fighter.
After losses to Mitsuhiro Ishida and Josh Thomson, Melendez knew that being a strong wrestler with solid ground and pound wasn’t good enough.
That’s when he started to go to work on his striking game, which he has showcased in his last four victories over Rodrigo Damm, Ishida, Thomson and Aoki, respectively.
“I had to make that decision. Did I want to run this division or do I want to just be #2 in the world and that’s that? Do I make a career out of this or do I do this [expletive] for fun?” Melendez told 5thRound.com of his re-dedicated ways.
“I decided that I wanted to be the best. I want to make a career out of it and I want to make some money out of it.”
“El Nino” has now morphed into one of the most well rounded mixed martial artists available, and possibly the top lightweight in all of MMA.