by Ricardo Mendoza – MMAWeekly.com
Two undefeated Lightweight Champions are set to clash at Pride Bushido 12, as Strikeforce Lightweight Champion Gilbert Melendez takes on DEEP Lightweight Champion Nobuhiro Obiya this Saturday in Japan.

Both fighters acquired their titles in their most recent fights. Melendez became the Strikeforce Lightweight Champion after a five-round war with former champion Clay Guida at Strikeforce: Revenge, while Obiya became the DEEP Lightweight Champion after beating the tough Ryan Bow by decision.

Both fighters are also making their Pride debuts and will be putting their undefeated records on the line. Both of these fighters have tons of potential, and either one of them could end up becoming the Pride Lightweight Champion in the future.

Gilbert Melendez has a 10-0 record in MMA and trains out of Cesar Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, along with Rumble on the Rock Welterweight Champion Jake Shields. Melendez last saw action in June, as he became the Strikeforce Lightweight Champion with a decision victory over former champion Clay Guida in a five-round war that stole the show. Both fighters fought at a frantic pace, but it was Melendez who was the quicker and busier of the two fighters. Melendez was able to secure takedowns and land the harder strikes. A defining moment in the fight came in the second round, when Guida secured a rear naked choke and Melendez was able to slam his way out of it by dropping Guida on his head.

Melendez is not a stranger to Japan, as he had a successful run in Shooto, where he eventually became the number one contender for the Shooto Lightweight Championship. Melendez made his Shooto debut at the Shooto Year End Show 2004, where he dominated Hiroyuki Takaya en route to a unanimous decision. Next came a fight with Shooto fan favorite Naoya Uematsu, in which Melendez once again dominated by brutalizing Uematsu throughout the entire fight. The fight was finally stopped in the second round after the doctor intervened to save Uematsu from further punishment.

In his biggest win to date and also his final fight in Shooto, Melendez took out Shooto legend Rumina Sato by TKO in the first round. During an exchange of strikes, Melendez landed a big knee that opened a severe cut over the eye of Sato, which forced the doctor to stop the fight. Melendez had been waiting for his chance at the Shooto Lightweight Championship, but then-champion Alexandre Franca “Pequeno” Nogueira pulled out of two scheduled fights, and Melendez never got his shot. Melendez has excellent wrestling, his striking has been improving over his last couple of fights, and he has a purple belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

Nobuhiro Obiya has a 6-0-1 record in MMA and trains out of Team Rascal with Pride Lightweight Champion Takanori Gomi. Obiya is one of Japan’s top lightweight prospects, as he was initially brought up through Shooto and then made the move to the DEEP promotion, where he has been fighting for the past two years. In recent action, Obiya became the DEEP Lightweight Champion when he defeated Shooto lightweight standout Ryan Bow by decision this past April. Obiya was the busier of the two fighters throughout the fight, landing the crisper strikes and using his strong wrestling base to control Bow on the ground.

In his most impressive performance to date, Obiya fought a three-round war with Pride Bushido veteran Milton Vieira at DEEP 22 in December 2005. Vieira landed a flying knee that hurt Obiya, and Vieira then took Obiya’s back and nearly sunk in a rear naked choke. However, Obiya was able to escape this predicament, as well as a few other tight submissions. Down on the judges’ score cards, Obiya made a comeback in the fight by unleashing some brutal ground and pound on Vieira in the last round of the fight. In the end, Obiya took home the decision in a fight that made him a strong candidate to debut in Pride in the future. Obiya has great wrestling skills and has shown that he has the toughness that is needed to succeed in MMA. Training with Gomi can only help in the development of this young fighter’s career.

This fight could be a strong dark horse candidate for fight of the night when all is said and done. Melendez and Obiya both bring the fight every time, and this time will likely be no different as both fighters try to make an impression in their Pride Bushido debuts.

At this point in both fighters’ careers, I feel that Melendez is the better of the two fighters. Melendez has shown in the past that he can adjust his game plan during a fight and impose his will on his opponent. Melendez is the better wrestler of the two, although by only a small margin. In what should be a fifteen-minute war, I feel that Melendez will impose himself on Obiya and push the pace of the fight on his way to earning a unanimous decision in what should be an excellent fight. Don’t be surprised if you see one of these fighters competing for the Pride Lightweight Championship at some point in the future.

Prediction: Gilbert Melendez by decision