In the midst of all the lightweight action over in the UFC lately, a very important lightweight bout that will be going down in Strikeforce in 13 days is completely flying under the radar. With Nick Diaz moving over to the UFC to fight champion Georges St. Pierre at UFC 137, a lot of people are assuming the next one to make the jump will be Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez. Could it happen? Sure. But if it doesn't, the focus will be on who Melendez is going to defend his title against next in the confines of a Strikeforce cage. And it almost assuredly will be the winner of June 18th's bout between KJ Noons and Jorge "Gamebred" Masvidal. Well, that's what Noons told MMA Weekly Radio last week, anyway:
"This is for the No. 1 contender for the 155, and then I get a title shot," Noons said about his fight with Masvidal.
"I was actually supposed to get a shot back last year, but that opportunity came up to fight (Nick) Diaz, they asked me if I would move up to fight for the title, and a lot of people wanted to see that, so I said sure no problem so we made it happen. Now I’m back in my original weight class, and I’m just going to put on exciting fights."
Noons is clearly confident that he can hang with Melendez:
"But I have to say, I know he [Melendez]'s probably shooting for trying to unify the belts or fight somebody else because he knows and I know it wasn’t no gimme that last 170lb title shot."
In an interview with BuddhaSport, KJ opined on his opponent and thinks it's going to be boxing vs. boxing:
"I think he's a great boxer; he chooses his shots well and he knows how to win fights. I think that makes him a good boxer. His strategy is to hit and not get hit. I love that strategy and have to say it's very similar to mine, which I think will make for a great fight." "I know he has a good ground game. I've seen good takedowns, kicks and punches. I really think he is a threat everywhere, like a lot of the opponents I've fought in the past. This guy is really good and that's why we are fighting for the #1 contender slot."
In a separate interview with Masvidal, Jorge says he had been promised a title shot before as well:
They said I would get Gilbert after the Evangelista fight but that didn't happen. If they tell me that I have to whoop someone else's ass after this one to get the title shot, then so be it.
Masvidal also discussed Noons, and it almost sounds like he's dismissing him as a potential threat. He makes it clear that welterweight Paul Daley had better standup than Noons does ("I don't consider him [KJ] to be my biggest test"), and isn't even training on the ground because he believes KJ can't and won't take it there:
DH: Will this fight even go to the ground?
Gamebred: You never really know. I don't really have a gameplan when I fight. My gameplan is to hit my opponent and not get hit. I know I won't need to shoot for a takedown. I wouldn't be surprised if he shot for one on me though. Most strikers I have fought end up trying to take me down because they can't hit me. They get frustrated and shoot to try and score some points. Even Daley went for takedowns against me. My takedown defense is right where it needs to be though so I'm not too worried about being taken down.
DH: KJ has great takedown defense...are you confident you can take him down if you need to?
Gamebred: If I need to, it won't be a problem. Everything will be in order for this fight. My cardio, striking and ground game are looking sharp. To be honest, I'm not even really working on my ground game for this fight. Trust me; it's going to a stand up war. I am working on everything I need to work on to neutralize his standup. I'm going to punch him in the face and educate him with my jab. I have a doctrine with my jab.
However it turns out, this is one of the top non-UFC lightweight matchups of 2011 and should be a very entertaining fight. And if the rumors are true and the winner does indeed get the next shot at Melendez, it's a hugely important fight too. You can catch the action on the undercard of Strikeforce: Overeem vs. Werdum, which will be aired live on HDNet on June 18th.