Strikeforce: Melendez vs. Masvidal - K.J. Noons vs. Billy Evangelista Dissection

A surefire slug-fest between lightweight strikers K.J. Noons and Billy Evangelista will kick off the main card of Strikeforce: Melendez vs. Masvidal.

K.J. Noons rose to prominence in the EliteXC promotion and is heralded for his boxing prowess, where he holds a professional record of eleven wins and two losses. Noons holds the extremely rare honor of being one of two fighters to stop the infallible Nick Diaz with strikes. The 2007 win crowned Noons as the EliteXC 162-pound champion.

After backing up this career-defining feat with a vicious knockout of Yves Edwards, Noons faded out of the spotlight to concentrate on boxing. He reappeared in Strikeforce in 2010 and contested his first match overseas against Andre Amado in Dream, then ventured back stateside to bring his returning streak to three with wins over Conor Heun and Jorge Gurgel.

The rematch with Diaz was too appealing to pass up even though the Stockton fighter had settled in at welterweight. Noons agreed to face Diaz at 170-pounds and lost a five-round decision; an outcome that recurred in his next foray against Jorge Masvidal on the Strikeforce: Overeem vs. Werdum card.

Billy Evangelista is also coming off a loss to Masvidal, which was the first blemish on his thirteen-fight record. Evangelista debuted with a bang at WEC 18 where he stopped Ryan Healy with strikes in the second. All but three of Evangelista's future bouts would take place in Strikeforce, where the Fresno kickboxer defeated all comers barring Masvidal and a No Decision ruling against Mike Aina for some confusion on the legality of a fight-ending knee.

Match up analysis in the full entry.

SBN coverage of Strikeforce: Melendez vs. Masvidal

Noons has an austere boxing acumen with good footwork, defense and overall technique. He's got a nice jab and one-two and usually loads up the power on his brutal left hook, which is probably his best punch. To complement his hands, he does throw an occasional kick and has a solid clinch game to boot. His grappling isn't as far along as his striking but Noons has been ultra-feisty with takedown defense and in scrambles to get back on his feet.

Noons transitioned well to MMA because his boxing is aggressive and powerful. He's freely relented on traditional boxing mechanics in order to pack a severe wallop with his combinations. What I mean is that Noons has been "acceptably sloppy" with his MMA striking. Instead of maintaining tight form and traditional fundamentals at all times, Noons will violently head-hunt with strikes that are much more deliberate -- bordering on wild -- with a focus on inflicting damage.

In most cases, Noons has found a happy medium between artful tactician and effective brawler. While his rocket-fueled left hook is wicked and accurate, slinging it from the waist with his hands are down and feet planted are tendencies that he recently paid for. Diaz and Masvidal were unafraid to duel in the pocket and capitalized with precise counter-punching. Additionally, Masvidal clearly keyed on Noons' habit of bending at the waist and dipping his head low in close-range exchanges.

Whether he was in a southpaw or traditional stance, Noons was repeatedly clobbered with kicks and flying knees when this flaw continued to actualize. In fact, Masvidal's keen awareness to prey on the mistake may have made all the difference, as the scenario was the common thread in almost all of his memorable knockdowns and flurries. It should be mentioned, however, that both Diaz and Masvidal are elite strikers in their respective divisions.

Evangelista is similar to Noons in that he's a sound boxer who splices in kicks and has a strong clinch, but throws his hands with malicious intentions. He's definitely more of a raw scrapper and prefers to trade at phone-booth range or grind away with dirty boxing in the clinch. Against Noons, he'll assume the role of the brawler against a more proven and technical boxer. That particular mix might very well cause some problems for Noons. Evangelista is fearless in his stalking, he hits hard and has a great chin that forgives him of some defensive shortcomings.

The cliche that "anyone can get caught" has a high presence in this match up. In light of Noons' questionable traits on the defensive end, Evangelista will have some opportunities to gain ground if he can pinpoint them. Masvidal cracked him with knees and kicks that were directed just to the left or right of Noons' waist where he swoons his head, and Evangelista is quite competent with that same selection of strikes. His stiff striking, physical strength and high pace could make for some surprises if he tailors his attack to Noons' weak spots and steals momentum with well-timed takedowns.

On the flip-side of the match up, Noons is probably better in every facet that Evangelista excels in and has encountered a far superior level of opposition. He's also demonstrated a rock-solid chin and should walk away with a win here.

My Prediction: K.J. Noons by decision

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