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Maggie Hendricks

Melendez dominates Aoki, wins unanimous decision, keeps belt

Cagewriter

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Fighting for the Strikeforce lightweight belt in Nashville, Gil Melendez dominated DREAM champion Shinya Aoki, winning by unanimous decision. All three judges scored the bout 50-45 for Melendez, who held onto his Strikeforce belt.

In the first round, Aoki inadvertently poked Melendez's eye, causing a short break in action as Melendez wiped his eye with referee Mario Yamasaki's sleeve. Melendez took Aoki down and then shook off Aoki's attempt at an armbar. After they returned to their feet, Melendez again took Aoki to the ground and landed a number of shots.

Aoki's nose began to bleed early in the second round, which Melendez dominated with more ground and pound. This pattern continued in the third round, as the fighters were stood up after lulls in action several times, just for Melendez to take Aoki down and pepper him with punches again. Aoki was unsuccessful with every takedown attempt in the third.

As the championship rounds began, Melendez threw a series of body punches while the two were on the ground. After Melendez stood up to try to engage Aoki in standup, Aoki started butt-scooting around the cage until Yamasaki told him to stand up. Every time Aoki tried to take Melendez down, he wasn't successful. In a weird moment, Yamasaki reached in to tell Aoki to stand up after more butt-scooting at the same time Melendez was throwing a punch. The fight was stopped for a second in the confusion but after it was restarted, Melendez continued to dominate.

The fifth and final round followed the same script. Aoki couldn't get a takedown, and Melendez continued to hammer away on top. Melendez finished the round telling Aoki to stand up, then throwing a series of punches and knocking Aoki on his back as the round ended.

"I think I'm top three," Melendez said when asked if he is the best lightweight in the world. "I beat the number two guy in the world. I think I deserve a little bit of love."

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