Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez (19-2) will return to the cage this fall to defend his belt against Jorge Masvidal (22-6), according an announcement from head trainer Cesar Gracie. No date for the bout has been finalized, though a November or December showing is likely.
The news was expected after Masvidal dismantled former number-one contender K.J. Noons in a poorly-planned lightweight title eliminator at Strikeforce: Overeem vs. Werdum. At the time, few believed that "Gamebred" would emerge victorious -- as he entered the bout having dropped two of his previous four fights -- and it was all but assumed that the always-exciting Noons was being hand-delivered a title shot. However, Strikeforce's plan backfired, and the promotion stuck with the result in good faith.
A former amateur boxer now fighting out of American Top Team, Masvidal is a nine-year veteran that holds noteworthy knockout victories over UFC veterans Joe Lauzon and Yves Edwards. The 26-year-old Floridian battled in the welterweight division for most of his career, before returning to 155 pounds for his current run under the Strikeforce banner.
He will face a man considered by many to be one of the premiere lightweights in the world. Melendez has served as the lightweight champion since 2009, and is riding high on a five fight win streak that includes dominant victories over Shinya Aoki and Josh Thomson. After his latest success -- a demolishing of Japanese star Tatsuya Kawajiri in April -- the 29-year-old Californian publicly mulled the option of taking his talents to the UFC, however it appears those plans have been put on hold for the time being.