Although fans awaited the finale of the Strikeforce heavyweight grand prix for more than a year, the attention on Saturday's Strikeforce card has shifted toward the co-main event where lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez will defend his title against Josh Thomson in their third bout. The card, which will be held at the HP Pavilion in San Jose, Calif., will air live on Showtime at 10 p.m. EDT/7 p.m. PDT.
Melendez, a 30-year-old California native, lost a decision to Thomson in 2008 and evened the series a year later.
"I think Josh is a durable fighter," Melendez said. "Again, he's always in great shape, and I know he has some tricks. But I'm more anxious to show the skills I've been training. Since our last fight I haven't stopped training once at all."
Melendez needs a victory over Thomson to continue his ascent in the lightweight division, where he hopes to be regarded as the best in the world. That hope was dashed temporarily when his proposed move from Strikeforce to the UFC never materialized.
"Obviously to be the number one fighter in the world you got to be the UFC champ," said Melendez, who has won six straight since the loss to Thomson to improve to 20-2. "It's just the way it is. And right now I'm just trying to put on shows and get better in the sport. It's just to get better and take some risk out there."
The main event will match former Ultimate Fighting Championship heavyweight champion Josh Barnett against former Olympic wrestler Daniel Cormier. Barnett dominated the tournament with victories over Brett Rogers and Sergei Kharitonov. Cormier, who began the tournament as an alternate, entered in the semifinals, where he defeated Antonio Silva.
-- Muhammed "King Mo" Lawal signed a contract last week that will allow him to compete under the TNA Wrestling banner and fight in MMA for Bellator Fighting Championships.
Lawal, who is out because of an injury and suspension, is expected to start for TNA this summer. He will make his Bellator debut early in 2013 when the promotion joins TNA on Spike TV.
"That's the magic of the synergy that exists underneath the Spike umbrella," Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney said. "This is the first of a lot of different kind of synergistic pieces of the business that we're going to put into play."
Lawal, the former Strikeforce light heavyweight champion who was suspended for failing a drug test and subsequently released earlier this year, will honor Bellator's format and enter the Season Eight light heavyweight tournament. With three wins, he would qualify for a title bout, likely next summer or fall.
"I will enter the tournament, and I'll win the tournament, and I'm going to get that belt," Lawal said.
-- Maiquel Falcao and Andreas Spang will meet in the middleweight tournament finale in the main event of Bellator 69 on Friday at the Caesars Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City, N.J. The event can be seen live on MTV 2 and EPIX at 8 p.m. EDT and on tape at 8 p.m. PDT.
David Rickels will take on Karl Amoussou in a welterweight tournament semifinal. The event will also feature a women's 125-pound fight between Megumi Fujii and Jessica Aguilar and a heavyweight battle between Ron Sparks and Kevin Asplund.
The preliminaries, which will air at 7 p.m. EDT/4 p.m. PDT and 10 p.m. EDT/7 p.m. PDT on spike.com and bellator.com, include: heavyweights Mark Holata vs. Abe Wagner; welterweights Andrey Koreshkov vs. Derrick Krantz; lightweights E.J. Brooks vs. Kalvin Hackney; light heavyweights Josh Burns vs. Rich Hale; lightweights Josh Quayhagen vs. Cliff Wright; and featherweights Shanon Slack vs. Booker Arthur.
-- Dominick Cruz, the UFC's bantamweight champion, tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee last weekend and will not defend his title against fellow "The Ultimate Fighter Live" coach Urijah Faber this summer.
-- The quarterfinals of "The Ultimate Fighter Live" will conclude on Friday night when Vinc Pichel fights Chris Saunders and Andy Ogle fights Al Iaquinta. The episode will air live on FX at 10 p.m. EDT and on tape delay at 10 p.m. PDT.