by Tom Hamlin – MMAWeekly.com
Strikeforce lightweight champion Josh Thomson does not sound excited to face Gilbert Melendez.
Only hours after news broke that he’d be facing his sometime training partner again at “Strikeforce: Shamrock versus Diaz” – their second meeting since a five-round war last June – Thomson alternated between resignation, disappointment, and optimism.
On Saturday, the two ran into each other at the Cage Combat Fighting show in Santa Rosa, Calif., and Thomson thought the fight wouldn’t happen.
“My interpretation of what I got from him is that he wasn’t going to accept the fight,” he told MMAWeekly.com. “We both heard about it on the way up there. So I really don’t know what made him change his mind. I’ve always considered myself pretty straight forward. Maybe he wanted to get it over with so we could start training together again.”
While Thomson dominated their first fight, he’s absolutely convinced the same won’t happen again when they meet on April 11 in San Jose.
“I’m dreading the five rounds,” he groaned.
Thomson spent the last half of 2008 on the disabled list. He was forced to bow out of a title defense against Yves Edwards in November, hobbled by a nagging toe injury that prevented him from preparing for the fight.
He said the injury is not 100 percent healed, like his shoulder was not 100 percent before he turned in a brilliant performance against Melendez. But Thomson remains candid about his struggles, namely the ones he’ll face in the rematch.
“This one, the roles are reversed,” he said. “The pressure is all on me. I think people are looking for me to finish him, and I can’t go in there that way. I see it being another grueling five rounds of us scraping by. I actually see this one possibly being a split decision. I don’t think one person is going to dominate.
“There’s no pressure on him right now. He has nothing to lose. He could come out and go 100 miles an hour and gas out and be finished in the second, and everyone would be like, ‘we knew that was going to happen.’ He’s just got to perform like he always does and do what he does best, which is apply pressure.”
While Melendez was unable keep the fight at his strongest point – the mat – Thomson doesn’t think he’ll double his efforts this time around.
“I think he’s going to try and stand,” he said. “He’s going to try and make some changes to his game, and I think some of it will work.
“It’s not going to be the same Gilbert we all saw last year. It’s not. There’s no way in hell he’s going to come in and fight the same way. The same fight’s not going to happen.”
While he has mixed emotions about the meeting, he understands Strikeforce’s rationale behind it. They need a barnburner for their new Showtime deal.
“I guess the benefit of it all is if I do win, hopefully he can come back and train with us knowing that there won’t be a rematch for a long, long time,” said Thomson. “If I lose, than we might do it again for a third one. I’ve always wanted a trilogy; I’ve always wanted a nemesis, and what better person to have than a close friend of mine and somebody I respect 100 percent. Like Barrera and Morales, Marquez and Vasquez – those are all great fights. That’s where we’re going to try to put this one at.”
But give him a few days to warm to the idea.