Exclusive | Luke Rockhold on Thomson's keys to winning; Melendez's #1 status

May 8, 2012 2:05 pm by Sean McClure

Josh Thomson is in the final stages of preparation for his trilogy sealing fight with Strikeforce Lightweight Champion Gilbert Melendez. In the first fight Josh made all the right moves and was victorious – only to fall short in their second bout via a disappointing decision loss. On Strikeforce’s May 19 card headlined by teammate Daniel Cormier versus MMA legend Josh Barnett, Thomson will attempt to take back the Lightweight Championship from Melendez. Strikeforce Middleweight Champion Luke Rockhold has been with Josh during this training camp and feels that this time the outcome will definitely be different.

Gilbert Melendez is known for his endurance, ability to absorb punishment, and his well-rounded game. Many of Melendez’s opponents unwittingly fall in to his rhythm and allow him to easily execute his gameplan. Thomson has fought him twice and because of that Rockhold believes Josh has an advantage over Melendez’s other victims.

“Thomson’s keys to beating to Melendez are that he can’t get caught in a brawl”, said Luke. “He needs to be the faster cleaner striker, and score a takedown from time to time. He’s got to mix it up. That’s the most important thing. You can’t get in to brawls with Gilbert Melendez. Nobody should do that. Gilbert is going to win brawls 99.9% of the time”.

After defeating Jim Miller at UFC on Fox 3 Nate Diaz proclaimed that Gilbert Melendez is the best lightweight fighter in the world. Unfortunately for Gilbert he is stuck in what has been coined a “promotional hell” with Strikeforce, and has not had a chance to prove he is the best against the mainstays of the UFC’s 155 pound division. Regardless of where Gilbert fights Luke believes Melendez is the king of 155.

“Yeah I happen to agree with Nate Diaz right now. I think he is the best, I think Gil is the best lightweight in the world. I mean it’s a tough thing to call because anyone can be beaten on any given day. I think on average he’s the best. He’s proved it and if he’s not number one he’s right there”.

Josh Thomson is also a frequently ranked world lightweight contender, and this fight does have notable significance. Should Josh win he climbs the ladder closer to that elusive top 5, and if Melendez wins he stays at or near the top of the heap. Both fighters respect the other and understand the consequences of a loss. Rockhold understands the implied effects the result of this bout may have, but he also feels that the time is right for Thomson to shine.

“Thomson is a threat to him. He is very capable of beating Melendez”, Luke stated. “He’s done it before and he’s looking really good in the gym. I am expecting a great fight out of the two of them”.

Josh Thomson fights Gilbert Melendez for the Strikeforce Lightweight Championship on May 19, 2012.

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