Saturday Strikeforce Lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez will be facing Shooto vet Tetsuji Kato in a non-title bout. Melendez pretty much crushed Clay Guida to take the Strikeforce belt and beat Tatsuya Kawajiri on New Year's Eve in a barn burner of a standup war. He comes from the Cesar Gracie camp and trains with the Diaz brothers and Jake Shields.
Yahoo sports will be streaming the fights free on Saturday. That's very cool but I wish Strikeforce was still working with Elite XC and putting their fights on Showtime.
Here's a nice highlight reel from Melendez:
Here's the full Strikeforce at the Playboy mansion fight card:
Saturday, September 29th
Playboy Mansion in Beverly Hills, California
Gilbert Melendez vs. Tetsuji Kato
Josh Thomson vs. Adam Lynn
Joe Riggs vs. Eugene Jackson
Daniel Puder vs. Richard Dalton
Trevor Prangley vs. Emyr Bussade
Jorge Masvidal vs. Matt Lee
Bobby Southworth vs. Bill Mahood
Billy Evangelista vs. Anthony Njokuani
HT Cage Today
MMAFighting has an interview with Melendez, here's his thoughts on Kato and the fight, his training partners and where he ranks in the world:
Melendez: He's a living legend and has been around forever. He's fought the best. He's fought Sakurai (and) Anderson Silva. I definitely respect the guy. People think that I should beat him up, but I know that he's going to be a tough opponent. I'm not underestimating him.
MMAFighting.com: He's also bigger and is coming down in weight.
Melendez: Exactly. He's a big guy; a lot of people don't understand that. He fought Anderson Silva and Sakurai at 170.
MMAFighting.com: Kato is also a good submission fighter with eight career submissions. In terms of the guys you train with--the Diaz's, Shields, Terrell, etc.--how does training with guys with that caliber of jiu-jitsu help in getting ready for a guy like Kato?
Melendez: Definitely helps. I've got all kinds of jiu-jitsu styles being thrown at me so I do feel prepared. But you're never as prepared as you want to be and you're never used to the exact style. But I'm pretty sure that I've seen most of the secret moves out there (laughing).
MMAFighting.com: Anybody who has ever seen you fight realizes that you're known for putting the pedal to the metal in fights. In other words, you just keep coming and your cardio always seems to be great. That said, you're coming off of a long layoff in terms of actual fights; you haven't fought since December of last year. Do you feel that layoff will impact your conditioning or overall game? Or do you think everything's going to be fine?
Melendez: I think I'm just going to be fine, and to make sure of that I trained extra hard for this fight. I started about ten weeks out training really hard, maybe even eleven weeks. Putting on the pressure, making sure I'm in good shape. If anything I trained too hard.
I know my cardio is there. I don't think I didn't do enough wrestling, enough jiu-jitsu, (or) enough stand up. . . But one thing I know for sure is that my cardio is there.
MMAFighting.com:: In your last fight against Kawajiri--obviously a big time opponent--you got floored in the first round and came back to floor him later on. Along with that, the guys coming out of your camp--again, the Diaz's, yourself--you're just very hard to stop and never seem to quit. Why is it that so much heart and pride comes out of your camp?
Melendez: I don't know, maybe the fighting gods were good to us because for some reason they just put us altogether. I'll tell you what, we've got a group of savages. I've been to other gyms, and I've seen other people train. I've seen eagles come and play. When we meet up, we just meet up and fight. We just really fight each other. It's great training, we have no time for anyone to complain or cry. We get frustrated and all, but we're just there to fight. I think we really love to fight (and) we're pretty genuine about what we do.
MMAFighting.com: Where do you feel you rank among lightweights right now in MMA?
Melendez: You know, there's a lot of great lightweights right now. Some people have got me in the top five. I appreciate that a lot, I dig that. But right now there's about 15 lightweights that probably have a chance of being number one in the world on any given day.