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Gilbert Melendez To Defend Strikeforce Lightweight Title Against Jorge Masvidal In The Fall

Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez will defend his belt against Jorge Masvidal in an event planned for the late fall.

Gilbert Melendez
Gilbert Melendez

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.