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by Sharon Sanghera, May 20, 2012

photos credit: Esther Lin/SHOWTIME

Gilbert Melendez Retains Lightweight Title

In Another Fierce Battle With Josh Thomson

Catch The Replay Sunday, May 20 at 9:30 a.m. ET/PT on SHOWTIME®


SAN JOSE, Calif.(May 20, 2012) – Daniel Cormier, perhaps the freshest face in the heavyweight division, cemented his place among the world’s elite fighters with a brilliant performance against the renowned Josh Barnett at Saturday’s STRIKEFORCE Heavyweight Grand Prix tournament final at HP Pavilion in San Jose, Calif.


Cormier, fighting out of American Kickboxing Academy (AKA) in San Jose via Lafayette, La., won by clear Unanimous Decision (scores: 49-46 and 50-45 twice) to claim the Grand Prix championship belt and realize a dream that has been years in the making.


“I’ve lost a lot of people in my life and this is for them,” said the emotional champion after the fight. “For my kids, my daughter, my dad; this is for my family.”


Cormier went on to credit his AKA teammates who were in attendance. “Cain (Velazquez), Luke Rockhold, Mike Kyle. Those guys kick my (butt) everyday in practice so I know that I can go with anybody right here in the cage.


“Beating Josh Barnett, this is something a year ago that I never thought I could do.”


With less than 10 professional MMA starts, Cormier was a rising prospect when he entered the Grand Prix tournament as a replacement for Alistair Overeem.  On Saturday, Cormier used a perfect blend of the wrestling he honed at the Oklahoma State University and on the U.S. Olympic team and the sharp striking he’s acquired since joining AKA to defeat one of the most accomplished heavyweights in MMA history.






STRIKEFORCE Lightweight Championship – 5 Rounds

In the pair’s third fierce battle, STRIKEFORCE Lightweight Champion Gilbert Melendez (21-2) won the thrilling rubber match by narrow Split Decision over Josh Thomson (19-5). Through five championship rounds it was give-and-take as both men traded sharp shooting strikes and shrewd takedowns. Scores were 48-47 Thomson, and 48-47 twice for Melendez.


STRIKEFORCE Light Heavyweight Special Attraction – 3 Rounds

Former Light Heavyweight Champion Rafael Feijao exacted revenge on Mike Kyle in a rematch of their 2009 fight.  Kyle taped to guillotine choke early in round 1.  The emphatic statement by Feijao puts him back in line for a shot at the vacant STRIKEFORCE Light Heavyweight title later this year. 


STRIKEFORCE Welterweight Special Attraction – 3 Rounds

Chris Spang (5-1) added a third knockout to his short resume by dispatching Nah-Shon Burrell (8-2) early in the first round. Following a lethal left hook to the head of his opponent, Spang unleashed a relentless attack that force Burrell down to the mat and the referee to halt the contest.


Preliminary fights aired live on SHOWTIME Extreme


STRIKEFORCE Lightweight Special Attraction – 3 Rounds

Isaac Vallie-Flagg (14-3-1) defeated JZ Cavalcante (16-4-1, 1 No Contest) by Split Decision. Scores were 29-28 twice for Vallie-Flagg and 29-28 for Cavalcante. 


STRIKEFORCE Light Heavyweight Special Attraction – 3 Rounds

In a terrific fight, undefeated up-and-coming Brazilian Carlos Inocente (6-0) battered and beat Virgil Zwicker(10-3) for three rounds to take a Unanimous Decision. Several times during the contest, Inocente had Zwicker in trouble—including after a flush head kick in the first round—but he could not finish the dogged veteran.  Inocente won by scores of 30-27 and 29-28 twice and looks to the move up the ranks in the STRIKEFORCE light heavyweight division.


STRIKEFORCE Light Heavyweight Special Attraction – 3 Rounds

Gian Villante (10-3) earned a hard fought Unanimous Decision by scores of 29-28 and 30-27 twice over Derrick Mehman (12-5).


STRIKEFORCE Welterweight Special Attraction – 3 Rounds

Quinn Mulhern (18-2) handed Yuri Villefort (6-1) his first loss with a Split Decision by scores of 30-27, 29-28 and 28-29. 


Mauro Ranallo called all the action alongside analysts Frank Shamrock and Pat Miletich with Heidi Androlserving as cageside reporter. The executive producer of SHOWTIME Sports is David Dinkins Jr.


For information on SHOWTIME Sports, including exclusive behind-the-scenes interviews from immediately after Saturday’s fights, plus highlights and photo galleries, please visit the website at


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