The ProMMAnow.com (www.prommanow.com) staff has come together to give their thoughts and predictions for “Strikeforce: Melendez vs. Masvidal” which takes place Saturday night, Dec. 17, at Valley View Casino Center in San Diego and airs LIVE on Showtime starting at 10 p.m. ET/PT. Gilbert Melendez and Cris “Cyborg” try to hold onto their crowns as champions, Ovince Saint Preux tries to break into the upper echelon of competition against Gegard Mousasi and K.J. Noons pits his boxing style against the Muay Thai of Billy Evangelista.
K.J. Noons vs. Billy Evangelista
GARY THOMAS: I like KJ Noons to snap his TWO-fight losing skid against a very tough Billy Evangelista. I look for this to go the distance and Noons to get the win by decision.
BRIAN FURBY: K.J. Noons.
JOSH CROSS: Both of these guys are coming off of unanimous decision losses to Jorge Masvidal and there has been a lot of speculation that the loser of this fight might be gone from Strikeforce. Regardless of what ultimately happens, both guys really need this win. I think Noons has an advantage over Evangelista no matter where this fight goes. I don’t see either fighter getting put away, but I do think that it’s Noons’ boxing that gets him the win in this fight. Pick: Noons via Decision.
KELVIN HUNT: Evangelista via decision.
RICHARD MANN: Evangelista is a brawler by trade. He can make some exciting fights, but against superior strikers he really struggles. Noons will be the better striker and take this fight. Noons by TKO.
JACK BRATCHER: Both guys are coming off losses, and Noons is coming of two losses. Noons has better boxing than most MMA fighters, Evangelista included. These guys will stand and slug it out, Noons should be able to put him away in the first or second via TKO.
Gegard Mousasi vs. Ovince Saint Preux
GARY THOMAS: OSP is on the rise and will face his toughest opponent yet in Mousasi. I think it’s a matter of time before St. Preux is in the UFC title chase. OSP by TKO.
BRIAN FURBY: Gegard Mousasi.
JOSH CROSS: This is a very intriguing matchup. While OSP is a definite underdog, I think he has a very real chance at pulling off an upset in this fight. Mousasi has shown to have problems when it comes to wrestlers and I think OSP’s best chance to win this fight is by taking Mousasi to the ground constantly and grinding out a win. On the other hand, Mousasi has significantly more experience in the cage, and while he might have problems getting taken down, he has shown that he can be very dangerous off his back. In the past OSP has shown some fatigue in the third round, and that could come into play in this fight. While I think OSP has a very real shot at pulling off the upset, I think he will tire in the third round enough for Mousasi to finish the fight. Pick: Mousasi via Submission.
KELVIN HUNT: OSP via decision.
RICHARD MANN: OSP’s advancement as a prospect has been impressive. However, he never looks to be in control even when he is stomping an opponent. Mousasi is always calm and collected. OSP might be able to put a lot of offense together, but Mousasi will eventually catch him on the feet or on the ground. Mousasi by submission.
JACK BRATCHER: This is the biggest and most important fight of Saint Preux’s young career. After six straight wins in 2010 and two more earlier this year, Strikeforce has finally given OSP a top level opponent. OSP even asked for this fight which shows he is confident. Mousasi’s wrestling disadvantage could be his downfall in this fight and OSP’s cardio issues could be his downfall. Lots of factors going into this bout. Mousasi is much more experienced, and has the better technical striking and submission skills. However, the strength, size, speed and power and wrestling all go to OSP. In the end, I think OSP will find a way to shock the world… or at least shock those that doubt him — I’m not one of those. OSP via TKO round one.
Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos vs. Hiroko Yamanaka
GARY THOMAS: Not much to even talk about when it comes to Cyborg. I don’t see this coming out of the first round. Cristiane Santos by TKO.
BRIAN FURBY: Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos.
JOSH CROSS: Despite being on an eight-fight win streak, Yamanaka is a massive underdog going into this fight. I think Yamanaka will be a challenge for Santos early on, but I’m not sure how Yamanaka will do the longer the fight goes. In all of her 13 fights so far Yamanaka has only been into the third round once. I think ultimately Yamanaka will tire so much that she will let her guard down and Santos will be able to finish the fight. Pick: Santos via TKO.
KELVIN HUNT: Cyborg should win this one via TKO ala Wanderlei Silva in his PRIDE days against Japanese competition.
RICHARD MANN: Naturally “Cyborg” is going to win this fight in devastating fashion. She is light years beyond any woman in the 145-pound division. On the other hand, Yamanaka is a pretty slick grappler and Santos once pulled mount. There is a small chance that Yamanaka could take this by submission if Santos gets sloppy, but it is a very small chance. Santos by TKO.
JACK BRATCHER: This is going to be a fun fight because it is such a different type of opponent for Cyborg. It will be interesting to see how she deals with the height and reach of Hiroko who is almost 6 feet tall. She has decent skills. Most of her wins are by decision. Hiroko does not have the best takedown defense so if Santos does have trouble on the feet, she can probably get Hiroko down pretty easy. Cyborg will have a big strength and power advantage. Cyborg wins via TKO in the first or second round.
Gilbert Melendez vs. Jorge Masvidal
GARY THOMAS: Melendez is a top 3 lightweight in any promotion. Masvidal is a worthy opponent but is not on the same level as Gilbert. I am going with Melendez via TKO in the 3rd round.
BRIAN FURBY: Jorge Masvidal.
JOSH CROSS: This should be a very entertaining fight from start to finish. Both fighters are known for their toughness and I expect that we’ll see some pretty good exchanges throughout this fight. While I think Masvidal could present some problems with his striking, I don’t think it will be much of an issue for Melendez who should be able to successfully counter the challenger. I think Melendez has an advantage wherever this fight goes and I think he should ultimately get the victory. The only issue I could see Melendez having is if he gets too reckless chasing a highlight reel finish that would expedite him to the UFC and he ends up getting caught by Masvidal. I don’t think that will happen though and I think Melendez ultimately retains his title. Pick: Melendez via Decision.
KELVIN HUNT: I think Masvidal will put up a valiant effort, but I think Melendez takes this via decision.
RICHARD MANN: Masvidal does seem to have a bit of the Nick Diaz-war of attrition mentality, but I just can’t shake the images of Melendez completely owning Tatsuya Kawajiri. Look for the champion to close the distance and control a clinch battle. Masvidal will have enough staying power to make this a good fight, and fans should appreciate that. Melendez by TKO.
JACK BRATCHER: This is a fun fight as well. Melendez’s boxing has improved so much it’s going to be fun to see if he how he does against Masvidal who is known for his great hands. Melendez’s wrestling will be the biggest factor in this fight. He should be able to dictate where the fight takes place which is always an advantage. It could go the distance though. No submissions in this one. Slugfest and ground and pound for five rounds. In the end Melendez via unanimous decision.
All photos courtesy of Strikeforce.com.