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Opening Round: The San Diego Showdown

Though Strikeforce’s future may have gotten more attention than their present over the past week, the lack of audible buzz certainly doesn’t change the notion there’s a very good show on Saturday night headlined by highly-ranked lightweight Gilbert Melendez defending his divisional belt against underrated scrapper Jorge Masvidal.

The card also features female featherweight champion Cristiane Santos putting her gold up for grabs against 12-1 grappler Hiroko Yamanaka, as well as Gegard Mousasi vs. Ovince St. Preux and Billy Evangelista vs. K.J. Noons.

Below you’ll find some quick picks for the night’s earlier bouts followed by a more detailed breakdown of the four featured contests including both title-fights.

After reading my predictions make sure to check back here at MMATraining tomorrow night starting at approximately 7:45 PM EST when preliminary results start rolling in to see if things unfolded as I’ve expected (or as you may have guessed they would instead depending on where your opinions differ from mine).

Herman Terrado def. Chris Brown via TKO Round 2
Fernando Gonzalez def. Eddie Mendez via Submission Round 1
Devin Cole def. Gabriel Salinas-Jones via Unanimous Decision
Roger Bowling def. Jerron Peoples via TKO Round 3
Justin Wilcox def. Caros Fodor via Split Decision

Billy Evangelista vs. K.J. Noons

Evangelista is solid but I’ve always felt as though he would be a better featherweight, as he’s a bit small for 155 and doesn’t have the necessary power (or wrestling) to compete at too high a level against bigger opponents. On the other hand, Noons has been competitive as a welterweight against top talent and has knockout power in multiple limbs. Since Evangelista is a kickboxer I see this fight primarily involving stand-up and in that department there’s no question Noons is superior, plus he’s probably hungry to win after falling in his previous fight against Masvidal.

Winner – K.J. Noons def. Billy Evangelista via KO Round 1

Gegard Mousasi vs. Ovince St. Preux

St. Preux has been on a tear as of late, winning his last eight fights while beating some respectable adversaries like Benji Radach, Antwain Britt, and Jason Day. However, Mousasi is a level above St. Preux in all areas other than perhaps conditioning. He’s a terrific striker with slick submissions and a 31-3-1 record to show for them. I see their bout being competitive but in the end Mousasi’s superior skills should take over and earn him the judges’ nod.

Winner – Gegard Mousasi def. Ovince St. Preux via Unanimous Decision

Cris Santos vs. Hiroko Yamanaka

Poor Yamanaka. She’s been fed to a hungry lioness in her Strikeforce debut, as Santos hasn’t fought since June 2010 due to a contractual dispute and general lack of opponents. Ring-rust could be a factor but Santos has been trying to stay sharp by competing in BJJ competitions, something that should assist her against a grappler like Yamanaka, and I’m fairly certain her every-day training at Chute Boxe isn’t too far off from the level of violence she’ll see from the JEWELS veteran who has picked up 8/12 wins by decision. I see Santos starting out slow before hurting Yamanaka with some crisp striking and locking in an Armbar or Rear-Naked Choke after some furious follow-up on the ground as a means of proving a point.

Winner- Cris Santos def. Hiroko Yamanaka via Submission Round 3

Gilbert Melendez vs. Jorge Masvidal

I think this fight could turn out to be much closer than a lot of people think. Masvidal is no joke, possessing a well-rounded skill-set and durable chin. I also think it has to be considered that Melendez hasn’t fought many strikers so in that regard his stand-up is still unproven. Furthermore, with all the talk of Melendez joining (or not joining) the UFC I wonder if perhaps his focus hasn’t been on point this camp. Still, I can’t pick against “El Nino” who is an elite talent from what I’ve seen in the past. It should be an extremely entertaining fight but one Melendez takes home in the end.

Winner – Gilbert Melendez def. Jorge Masvidal via Unanimous Decision

What do you think about the subject on today’s “Opening Round”? Tell us on our Twitter account (@mmatraining)!

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