Image via Esther Lin for Strikeforce
In the co-main event at Strikeforce: Tate vs. Rousey, former Strikeforce lightweight champion Josh Thomson (18-4, 1 NC, 9-2 SF) takes on former EliteXC lightweight champion K.J. Noons 911-4, 3-2 SF). The bout could decide who will be stepping up next to challenge current Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez. This will be Thomson's first fight in over 14 months due to a variety of injuries, while Noons fought just three months ago.
Thomson is one of Strikeforce's homegrown stars and probably has more fights in the organization than anyone else. He made it to the UFC after just 6 career fights way back in 2003 and won his first two bouts, but an infamous head kick loss to Yves Edwards (and the death of the UFC lightweight division at the time) ushered "The Punk" out of the organization. After one fight and one win the Pride Bushido series, he was off to Strikeforce.
His first bout there was a controversial decision loss to Clay Guida in a Strikeforce lightweight title bout. He rebounded from that with a few wins and a run with the Strikeforce US lightweight title (Melendez had the real belt but was fighting in Japan - it was basically an interim title). Eventually the two squared off for the "undisputed" title, and Thomson fought the fight of his life and defeated Melendez 50-45 on all three cards. Injuries sidelined him for a while though, and it was Gil's turn to hold an interim title for a while. Eventually they met once again to unify the titles, but this time it was Melendez that was the victor in an excellent fight. Thomson has fought three times since, going 2-1 with a loss to Tatsuya Kawajiri in his last fight 14 months ago.
Noons is a kickboxer and boxer along with being an MMA fighter, and first rose to prominence in EliteXC when he stopped Nick Diaz via cuts and won their lightweight title. A huge in-cage brawl featuring the Diaz brothers and KJ's dad in Hawaii was EliteXC at it's cheesiest, but when they went under he was one of the prized possessions picked up by Strikeforce. After two quick wins, he moved up to 170 to rematch Diaz, this time for Nick's Strikeforce welterweight title. He lost, but put in a valiant effort. A loss to Jorge Masvidal back at 155 damaged his title aspirations, but he rebounded with a win over Billy Evangelista and will now look to take out the former champ.
It goes without saying that this bout will probably be contested on the feet. Thomson has the ability to take it down, but prefers to engage in crowd-pleasing brawls even if it's to his detriment. And crowd-pleasing is likely what this will be. KJ has the better technical boxing, but Thomson has a more well-rounded striking arsenal. Thomson is a marginal favorite going into the bout, but the long layoff and the injuries add intrigue to the fight. Should be pretty good.