Despite the urgings of coach Cesar Gracie, Strikeforce lightweight champ Gilbert Melendez will not make his next title defense against someone from the UFC. In fact, his next opponent will be a familiar one, as Strikeforce officials have announced “El Nino” will take on Josh Thomson for the belt.

Melendez-Thomson will be part of the May 19 Strikeforce: Grand Prix Final card from San Jose, California. This will be the third meeting between Melendez (22-4) and Thomson (19-4) with the duo splitting their prior two fights. Thomson won the first, while Melendez took the second. All three will have had the lightweight belt on the line.

It had been rumored Melendez would defend his title against a fighter currently in the UFC with names such as B.J. Penn and Anthony Pettis floating around, but many more felt Thomson gained another crack at Melendez with his victory over K.J. Noons earlier this year.

Melendez has won his last six scraps while Thomson is 1-1 in his previous two bouts. However, “The Punk” has emerged victorious in his last three bouts in Strikeforce including Noons, Pat Healy, and Gesias Cavalcante.


MMA Training Take: If Melendez takes care of Thomson, as he should, Strikeforce and Zuffa may have no choice but to bring over someone from the talented and deep pool of fighters competing in the UFC’s lightweight division. There are plenty of interesting opponents, but if Thomson is healthy, Melendez cannot afford to overlook him completely.