One of the more appealing bouts on the Strikeforce: Carano vs. Cyborg main card is the Lightweight Interim title match-up between Gilbert Melendez and Mitsuhiro Ishida. Most of the interest surrounding the bout revolves around their previous tilt back at Yarennoka! on New Year's Eve of 2007 in which Ishida was the first man to defeat Melendez in his career and put some criticism to Melendez's ranking at the time.
The battle featured two very good wrestlers that also have solid boxing skills, but Ishida was visibly the much quicker opponent. He also came into the bout with a strategy to tie up Melendez, put him on his back as many times as he could, and control Melendez till the final bell. It worked fantastically as Melendez really couldn't get any sort of offensive rhythm going during the fight. Ishida took the decision along with Melendez's undefeated record.
Melendez has been a bit vocal recently about the speed at which Strikeforce replaced the injured Josh Thomson with Mitsuhiro Ishida. He spoke with MMAJunkie.com about it recently:
"I was definitely a little frustrated when I started hearing rumors (that Thomson may pull out)," Melendez said. "I just wanted [Thomson] to either commit and fight injured or commit and not fight because he's injured. You can't be like, 'Maybe I'm going to fight you' for three weeks.
"If you're injured, it's cool, man. But I know there was three weeks where I was just wondering if I was going to fight him or not. Ishida has known he's going to be fighting me, but I've known I'm going to fight Ishida for (only) a week and a half."
Melendez said he felt the speed at which Strikeforce secured a replacement led him to believe Ishida may have enjoyed a slight advantage by having a few additional days to prepare.
"I have no problem with, 'Hey, the guy just pulled out and we've got a replacement,'" Melendez said. "The day Josh pulled out, one second later Ishida was in. I was like, 'That doesn't really work that way.' It doesn't. It takes a couple of days, usually. So it's a little fishy to me, and I'm a little bothered by that."
From a few other interviews I've read, it sounds like a combination of Thomson's reluctance to back out of the fight and Strikeforce's slowness in officially announcing the replacement may have given his new opponent, Mitsuhiro Ishida, an advantage.
To be perfectly honest, Melendez's suspicions aren't unwarranted. Strikeforce must have already had Ishida training for a bout with Melendez, and while they probably thought that he would need to get his body in-shape and build a gameplan for Melendez... I doubt they thought about Melendez's side of the new bout. Melendez may have trained more than Ishida, but he still has to adjust to a completely different opponent than that of Josh Thomson now on a shorter timeframe.
Strikeforce ultimately has a good strategy in place though. They likely booked a replacement ahead of time when Thomson hurt himself, and he began to train for the possibility of fighting Melendez. I think it would have been a better practice to let Melendez know that Ishida was on the docket as a potential replacement though instead of leaving him in the dark.
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