True, there is no UFC this weekend, but that doesn’t mean MMA takes a seat in the back.

Strikeforce is promoting an event featuring Gilbert Melendez defending his Strikeforce lightweight title against #1 contender Jorge Masvidal along with a championship bout between women’s champ Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos and Hiroko Yamanaka.

For fighters like Melendez and Santos, this is a big-time opportunity to show that Showtime/Zuffa made the right decision in keeping Strikeforce around with the new deal between the sides. It also is a chance for unknown – and even some known – fighters to hit the bright lights without the UFC taking away the spotlight.

Melendez is one of the most intense, high-energy, always-looking-to-finish fighters out there. The Cesar Gracie student is 19-2 in his career and has avenged both losses. Currently, “El Nino” rides a five-fight win streak and will be looking to finish Masvidal and earn his 13th early-stoppage victory. Masvidal, however, is no paper contender, having defeated KJ Noons to earn a shot at Melendez. Masvidal is 22-6 and has won five of his last seven, including 10 knockout wins in his career.

With Santos and Yamanaka, it is the typical “David vs. Goliath” match, as the “Cyborg” looks to be unstoppable and is making her return to the cage after several months away while working on a new contract. If that didn’t get Santos fired up, hearing word that women’s MMA will remain in Strikeforce for the foreseeable future likely has, giving her plenty of motivation to put on a show against Yamanaka.

Add in bouts consisting of Ovince St. Preux against Gegard Mousasi, and K.J. Noons vs. Billy Evangelista, and Strikeforce: Melendez vs. Masvidal is sure to be a great treat to conclude 2011 and give Strikeforce momentum for 2012.

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