While there remains little doubt surrounding Strikeforce lightweight champ Gilbert Melendez’s eventual move to the UFC it appears “El Nino” won’t be hitting the Octagon until 2012.

According to an official statement from Strikeforce, Melendez will defend his belt against Jorge Masvidal on December 17 in San Diego. Other fighters expected to appear on the card include Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos, Keith Jardine, Gegard Mousasi, and K.J. Noons.

Melendez vs. Masvidal had been on fight fans’ radar for a few months but recently came into question when UFC President Dana White spoke publicly about his interest in bringing the 29-year old title-holder over to the UFC as soon as possible.

Masvidal should provide a stiff challenge for the 19-2 Melendez, as “Gamebred” holds an overall record of 22-6 and is coming off back-to-back wins over Billy Evangelista and Noons. He also holds past victories over Yves Edwards and Joe Lauzon.

Match-ups for Jardine and Noons are expected to be revealed in the next few days while Santos will take on 12-1 JEWELS veteran Hiroko Yamanaka with Mousasi locking horns with Ovince St. Preux.


MMATraining Take: If December 17 marks the promotion’s final event it appears that Strikeforce is going out with a bang! Melendez vs. Masvidal should be a competitive match-up and, though I favor him in the bout, I wouldn’t say Melendez is a lock to win. Also, putting Melendez in the ring before year’s end makes sense because UFC champion Frankie Edgar is medically suspended until late November and the Skrap Packer needs to stay active given that he only has a single fight thus far in 2011.