MMA returns to the octagon at HP Pavillion

Analicia Najera

Mixed martial arts and kickboxing organization Strikeforce will return to its home base at HP Pavilion on May 19.

Strikeforce: Grand Prix Heavyweight Tournament Final will feature eight mixed martial artists whose fights in the octagon will be broadcast live on Showtime.

The matches are: former Strikeforce light heavyweight champion Rafael “Feija” Cavalcante vs. Mike Kyle, Bobby Voelker vs. Nan-Shon Burrell, Gilbert Melendez vs. Josh Thomson and Josh Barnett vs. Daniel Cormier.

Founder and CEO of Strikeforce Scott Coker, a resident of San Jose, said San Jose has always been a great city for martial arts.

Strikeforce lightweight champion Melendez is set to defend his belt against San Jose’s contender, Thomson.

“If you think about Melendez and Thomson fighting in a trilogy, it is exciting because Strikeforce is the birthplace of this match,” Coker said.

Melendez and Thomson have met twice in Strikeforce with each fighter taking home a win.

Thomson (19-4) stole the lightweight championship in a five-round unanimous decision in 2008.

Seventeen months later,  Melendez (20-2) sought revenge, taking the judges’ votes in another 25-minute decision.

“I think this fight is going to be entertaining and exciting,” Thomson said. “I’m getting myself ready to be the first one to finish him.”

Thomson struggled with injuries in the past two years before returning from a 15-month layoff to defeat K.J. Noons in a unanimous decision at Strikeforce: Tate vs. Rousey on March 3.

“I made some changes in my training at American Kickboxing Association where it’s not training but technical style, so I won’t get injured,” Thomson said.

His match airing on Showtime does not faze him. Thomson said he looks at it like another fight or another opponent.

Heavyweight grand prix finalists Barnett and Cormier headline the night’s main card on Showtime.

Cormier started wrestling in high school and realized his dream after college graduation when he was on the 2004 and 2008 Olympic freestyle wrestling squad.

“In 2008 I was working in my office, and I said to myself, ‘This wasn’t for me,’” Cormier said. “I knew MMA was the logical next step.”

Cormier began his MMA career in 2009, and the May 19 fight is Cormier’s first major event.

Cormier said he thinks the wrestling aspect is where he has an advantage.
Coker said Cormier had no experience with fighting but transitioned well because he was an Olympic wrestler.

Thomson and Cormier said they want to put on a good show for their fans and hope that they come out to support Strikeforce.

“It’s been a life long journey to see martial arts where it is today,” Coker said. “It makes me feel good inside.”

Tickets for Strikeforce: Grand Prix   Heavyweight Tournament Final went on sale to the general public April 6 and prices are ranged from $45-$175.