“Strikeforce: Evolution” recap: Melendez reclaims lightweight title, Smith stuns Le, and “King Mo” KO’s Whitehead

Photo: Sherdog - "Hands of Steel" is a perfect nickname, but "Cardiac Kid" would work too.

SAN JOSE, Calif. – Josh Thomson and Gilbert Melendez are no strangers to each other or five round wars. Another five round battle was in the cards for tonight’s “Strikeforce: Evolution” lightweight title bout, with both fighters throwing everything but the kitchen sink at each other as the bell sounded on the fifth and final round.

This time around, it was Gilbert Melendez that dominated the fight scoring a unanimous decision victory to regain the title that he lost to Thomson back in 2008.

Melendez (17-2) used his jab, often doubling up with it, to control the pace of the fight and utilized a stifling attack on his feet, dropping Thomson in the second and fifth rounds of the fight. Thomson battled back each time he found himself on his back, scrambling to his feet to stand in the pocket and trade bombs with “El Nino.” Melendez employed a very effective left hand, leg kick combo to set the pace in the later rounds, but both fighters were ineffective in their take down attempts.

It was apparent in the later rounds, that the long lay off was affecting Thomson as he was visibly fatigued and breathing out of his mouth and winging wild punches while Melendez continued to land crisp strikes mixing in knees from the clinch on his way to a dominating win.

“Josh, hands down, is the toughest guy I’ve ever fought.” said Melendez. “The toughest matchup for me, maybe the toughest match I’ll ever have.”

Scott Smith stuns Cung Le

In the main event of the evening, it was starting to look like Scott Smith was as outclassed as Diego Sanchez when he fought B.J. Penn. Through the first two rounds, Smith (17-6) landed only a handful of punches and was completely dominated by Cung Le’s speed and pinpoint kicking, getting dropped numerous times with kicks to the head and body.

Cung Le was looking to close out his highlight reel of a performance going into the third and final round.
The final frame was more of the same as Le punished Smith to the body, head and legs. It was more like target practice then an MMA match, but by now, all of us know to never count out Scott Smith.

“Hands of Steel” showed the world how he got his nickname by faking a right hand and coming across with a short left hook that rocked Cung Le. Le was down briefly, but stood back up trying to shake the cobwebs off before Smith stepped forward to land his patented, one-punch power in his right hand, crumpling Le to the canvas.

Smith followed up the assault on Le with big punches before being pulled off by Big John McCarthy. Talk about a Hollywood ending to a fight, Cung Le couldn’t have acted in a movie with a better script then this fight turned out to be. The loss was the first ever for Cung Le (6-1) in his fighting career and adds to Smith’s highlight reel of unbelievable come backs and finishes.

“Jacare” displays world class grappling (and some boxing!)

Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza (11-2) came into his bout with Matt Lindland as a world class grappler and submission specialist. No surprise there. However, it was Souza’s boxing that was impressive against Lindland that ended up giving Lindland fits.

Souza worked his jab effectively and looked very crisp on his feet while Lindland looked slow and lethargic. Once the fight hit the ground, it was “Jacare” that was on top and looking to pass the guard of Lindland. Earlier in the fight, Lindland escaped an armbar attempt from Souza, but he could not survive the fight ending arm triangle that he found himself in later in the round.

I say “King”, you say “K.O.”

Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal had irritated Mike Whitehead coming into this bout. Whitehead couldn’t understand all the hype behind Lawal, but now understands first hand the threat that “King Mo” brings into the cage.

Lawal looked very confident in the fight from the beginning, changing stances often, and keeping his hands down by his waste as he looked to pick Whitehead apart.

That’s exactly what he did as Whitehead looked to continue his strategy of leg kicks against “King Mo”. Lawal in a traditional stance at the time, countered a leg kick with a huge right hand that dropped Whitehead to the canvas. “King Mo” delivered a couple more shots that K.O.’d the big heavyweight on his way to a perfect 6-0 record and showing that he is a threat at “money weight.”