The main card for Saturday night's Strikeforce event on Showtime is nearing its end at the HP Pavilion in San Jose. After a pair of quick knockouts and a championship bout, the only fight remaining is the main event: the final of the Heavyweight Grand Prix Tournament between Josh Barnett and Daniel Cormier.
In the co-main event, San Jose's Josh Thomson took on Strikeforce Lightweight Champion and Santa Ana native Gilbert Melendez. The third fight between these two combatants was possibly their most exciting to date.
The first two round represented an extended feeling out process and the two fighters looked fairly evenly matched, but Thomson ended up taking plenty of hard shots in the final moments of the second round. Nothing that looked in danger of ending the fight, but a notable flurry of unreciprocated blows.
At the beginning of the third round, a graphic revealed that although Melendez had thrown over twice as many strikes as Thomson, the challenger was over two times as accurate in landing the shots that he was taking. The fighters stood and traded in the third round and by the end, Melendez was looking significantly more winded than Thomson and had a lesion under his right eye.
Melendez scored a big takedown in the opening minutes of the fourth round, but Thomson was quickly back to his feet. In the final two minutes of the round, Thomson knocked down Melendez and took his back. He spent the final minute attempting several rear naked chokes, but Melendez kept his chin down and kept squirming out and was able to make it to the bell.
In the fifth and final round, Melendez again scored an early takedown, but again Thomson was right back up. Melendez looked like he was attempting to be aggressive and press the attack, but Thomson landed several big combos and wound up on top as the fight wound down and went to a decision.
The fight was certainly close and the split decision bore that out, as all three judges scored the fight 48-47, but two judges came down in favor of Melendez, who retained his title as a result to thunderous boos. We will almost certainly see a rematch for this one.
Here are the results of the main card for Saturday's Strikeforce event leading up the the main event.
Lightweight Championship bout: Gilbert Melendez (c) vs. Josh Thomson
Melendez defeats Thomson via split decision (48-47, 48-47, 48-47)