Strikeforce recently announced lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez would remain in the promotion for at least one more fight instead of abandoning his belt and following teammate Nick Diaz to the UFC (not to mention other former title-holders Dan Henderson, Jake Shields, and Alistair Overeem).

While the decision may have irked those who were hoping to see “El Nino” storm into the Octagon before year’s end and lay claim to the divisional throne, having Melendez defend his belt against Jorge Masvidal on December 17 makes more sense than sending him to the UFC tomorrow.

And trust me, upset folks, I get it. I’ve been a calling for Melendez’s presence in the UFC for years. When his contract came up before Zuffa had purchased Strikeforce I was baffled by his decision to re-sign and I was as excited as the rest of you when Dana White implied the Skrap Packer would be coming on board sooner than later.

However, consider that Frankie Edgar is medically suspended until November 23 based on damage he sustained last weekend during his exciting comeback win over Gray Maynard at UFC 136. That means the 155-pound champ likely won’t be available to actually fight until late January, and I suspect the UFC might even consider waiting until Super Bowl Weekend since it’s in mid-February and a title-fight certainly wouldn’t hurt the card’s appeal.

Melendez fought a single time in 2010 and only once thus far in 2011. A 29-year old “Top 3” competitor to having lone bouts in back-to-back years is unacceptable barring some sort of health-related issue (not the case with Melendez who missed time based on subpar business practices on the part of Strikeforce and in order to spend time with his newborn child). He needed to fight again by the end of December to stay active/sharp as much as Strikeforce needed him to be on that particular card to try and pull ratings.

Add into the equation that the UFC is also likely to give Clay Guida a crack at the belt if he beats Ben Henderson in November and the case for Melendez vs. Masvidal over Melendez vs. UFC Limbo becomes even stronger.

It’s only a matter of time before Melendez joins the UFC. What’s another fight or few months in the big picture considering all of the involved factors?

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