Gilbert Melendez is regarded as one of the top two or three lightweights in mixed martial arts. There had even been rumblings that he might soon compete in UFC.
But if all the talk of rankings and UFC competition was intended to put additional pressure on Melendez as he placed his 155-pound title on the line Saturday night against hard-hitting Jorge Masvidal, it didn't work.
Melendez went after Masvidal from the opening horn, and despite eating hard left jabs throughout the bout, never took his foot off the pedal to earn a unanimous decision and retain his title in San Diego.
The fight was scored 50-45, 50-45 and 49-46 for Melendez. ESPN.com scored it 49-46 for the champion.
Masvidal came in known for his solid striking skills, and the expectation was that Melendez would work to take him down. But Melendez (20-2) rarely attempted a takedown in the fight -- and he didn't have to.
He never allowed Masvidal (22-7) to get in a rhythm by keeping the pressure on the challenger throughout the fight.
"I had to do what I had to do," Melendez said. "Jorge isn't the easiest matchup for me, especially stylistically. I beat him at his own game; I think I am better than a decent striker.
"I knew he was going to be working the sprawl and brawl pretty well. I know he was underestimating my striking. And he's not an easy guy to take down."
Melendez had expressed a desire to compete in UFC in hopes of proving he is MMA's top lightweight. But those hopes were dashed this week when UFC president Dana White announced Melendez would remain in Strikeforce.
That announcement, however, has done nothing to prevent Melendez from seeking fights against UFC's top lightweights.
"I'm proud to be a part of Strikeforce," said Melendez, whose right eye was swollen from being hit by numerous Masvidal left jabs. "They [Zuffa LLC, the parent company of UFC and Strikeforce] need to bring some guys over here to challenge me.
"I'd like to challenge the champ, whoever it is in UFC. Come in my Hexagon and let's fight."
Time will tell whether Melendez's plea is awarded. A showdown between Melendez and the UFC champion is something MMA fans would welcome.
Santos KOs Yamanaka in 16 seconds
The most dominant fighter in women's mixed martial arts, Cristiane Santos, returned to action for the first time since June 2010 to put her Strikeforce featherweight title on the line.
Despite Santos' long layoff, due to contract negotiations with the promotion, her opponent, Hiroko Yamanaka, was not expected to pose much of a threat. And Yamanaka did nothing to disprove that assumption.
Santos hit Yamanaka immediately with a hard right hand and followed it up with many more punches to finish the fight in 16 seconds to retain her crown.
"I trained hard for a year and a half, and I want to fight more," Santos said after upping her pro mark to 11-1.
Yamanaka had her eight-fight win streak stopped and drops to 12-2 overall.
Veteran Mousasi holds off St. Preux
Former Strikeforce light heavyweight champion Gegard Mousasi dominated Ovince St. Pruex standing and during most of the ground action throughout the first two rounds to earn a unanimous decision.
Each judge gave Mousasi the edge 29-28. Mousasi seemed on his way toward a sweep of all three rounds, but St. Preux was the fresher fighter in the final stanza.
Mousasi offered the reason for his sluggish finish.
"I was sick before this fight, and it took a lot of my conditioning away," said Mousasi, who improved to 32-3-2. "I think I did enough to win."
The win was the more experienced Mousasi's second in a row but his first in Strikeforce since a disputed draw against Kieth Jardine on April 9.
St. Preux suffered his fifth professional loss against 11 wins, but Mousasi represented his stiffest test. The loss also halts St. Preux's eight-fight win streak.
Noons edges Evangelista in striking battle
KJ Noons managed to get Billy Evangelista to engage him in a striking match, which worked to his advantage and helped him earn a unanimous decision win.
All three official judges scored the bout 29-28 for Noons, who improved to 11-4, while also ending a two-fight skid.
"It is great coming off a couple of losses," Noons said. "I'm ready to get back in there; I've got that fire back."
Both Noons and Evangelista entered this lightweight bout coming off loses to top contender Jorge Masvidal.
With the loss, Evangelista slips to 11-2 (1 no contest). Although he came up short on the scorecards, Evangelista landed the more telling strikes, but was outworked for most of the fight by Noons.
Franklin McNeil covers MMA and boxing for ESPN.com. He also appears regularly on "MMA Live." Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/Franklin_McNeil.