Gilbert Melendez(left) will defend his Strikeforce title against Tatsuya Kawajiri

I’ve already previewed the main event of the Strikeforce: Diaz vs. Daley fight earlier this week.

However, this is the other title fight on the card where Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert “El Nino” Melendez will be defending against Japanese standout Tatsuya “Crusher” Kawajiri. It’s a re-match from their first fight in 2006 where Melendez won a unanimous decision in Japan.

Tatsuya Kawajiri brings an overall record of (27-6) with 12 wins via TKO/KO and 6 wins via submission. Since the loss to Melendez, Kawajiri has won 8 out of his last ten with the two losses coming against top ten fighters Eddie Alvarez and Shinya Aoki. Kawajiri is coming off a big win against former Strikeforce lightweight champion Josh Thomson that took place in Japan last December. Thomson holds a win over Melendez as well, although he lost the re-match.

Gilbert Melendez brings an overall record of (18-2) with 10 wins via TKO/KO. Melendez has avenged the two losses he has on his record and took out the top Japanese lightweight in Shinya Aoki in his last outing back in October. That was a dominant performance which caused many to question the top two Japanese lightweights in Aoki and Kawajiri.

Linesmaker has Melendez as the betting favorite in this fight at (-270) with Kawajiri as the underdog at (+210).

The previous fight took place in a ring, but the fight this weekend will take place in a cage. I’ve always thought Kawajiri’s style was better suited for the cage opposed to the ring. However, it has been reported that Kawajiri didn’t spend much time preparing for this fight in a cage so it’ll be interesting to see how that plays out. Also, another earthquake hit in Japan on yesterday so that has to be weighing in at some point in Kawajiri’s mindset. Kawajiri is a large lightweight with good power, wrestling, and a good top game. Those were the three attributes he used to beat Josh Thomson back in December as he took Thomson down 6 out of 7 times.

I’m not sure that we can go on much from the last fight since it took place several years ago. However, the one thing I believe in that Melendez has evolved much more as a fighter since then when compared to Kawajiri as Melendez was practically a kid at the time compared to the experience of Kawajiri. In the first fight they both were able to take one another down with Kawajiri actually landing more take-downs than Melendez. However, the difference in the fight was the amount of strikes thrown and landed by Melendez.

I think Melendez has improved his striking a great deal since 2006, so I expect him to be able to replicate or surpass the work output in his last outing against Kawajiri. I think Melendez will be able to dictate the pace of the fight, and I think Kawajiri will have problems adjusting to the cage as well. Another thing to remember is that this is Kawajiri’s first ever fight outside of his native Japan, so surely that’s going to be a factor. However, if Kawajiri is able to get Melendez down against the cage while unleashing some ground and pound, that could make for an interesting fight. Kawajiri is as tough as they come and all of his losses have come against top guys. I don’t expect Melendez to be able to finish him, but he should win this fight on the scorecards.

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