KNOXX’s Josh “The Punk” Thomson to defend title against Gilbert Melendez

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Strikeforce lightweight champion Josh Thomson will face the man he wrestled the title from, Gilbert Melendez, in a five-round rematch at Strikeforce “Shamrock vs. Diaz” on April 11 at the HP Pavilion in San Jose, Calif.

Strikeforce Director of Communications Mike Afromowitz confirmed the matchup to Sherdog.com on Tuesday. The bout was first reported as a possibility by FiveOuncesofPain.com on Monday.

Thomson’s five-round shutout decision over Melendez last June is considered one of the high points of the San Jose fighter’s career.

As a 3-to-1 underdog, the American Kickboxing Academy product established confidence with the Pride Bushido star early, and actively used lateral movement to keep Melendez at bay throughout the 25 minutes. The loss marked only the second in the highly touted Melendez’s career, and solidified what many suspected of the 29-year-old Thomson’s potential in the lightweight division.

Thomson (16-2) made quick work out of an overmatched Ashe Bowman in a non-title bout last September, cutting down the Lion’s Den prospect in only 74 seconds at Strikeforce’s second event at the Playboy Mansion. He told Sherdog.com that he had “mixed emotions” about the rematch with Melendez.

“All those people who saw the first fight — don’t expect the same thing from either fighter,” Thomson wrote via text message, “[but] it’s gonna be fight of the year.”

Melendez (14-2) hasn’t stepped back into the cage since his loss to Thomson. The voracious 26-year-old wrestler holds key victories over standouts Clay Guida and Tatsuya Kawajiri.

“Not too many (fighters) get this opportunity,” Melendez wrote via text message to Sherdog.com on Tuesday. “I feel very lucky and now all that’s left is to take advantage of it.”

Though it’s a well-matched lightweight tilt comprised of two top-10 entries, Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker hasn’t hidden the fact that the pairing wasn’t the first one he had in mind for Thomson’s first title defense. The promotion offered the fight to former EliteXC 155-pound champ K.J. Noons in early February, but Noons turned down the opportunity to honor previous commitments to his pro boxing career.

Former UFC lightweight Jorge Gurgel and Japanese star Caol Uno were also rumored to have been under consideration for the slot.

Thomson-Melendez 2 joins a previously announced roster that includes a featured welterweight non-title matchup between EliteXC 170-pound champion Jake Shields and heavy-hitter Joe Riggs. In the main event, former UFC middleweight champion Frank Shamrock will take on the equally outspoken Nick Diaz at a 179-pound catch-weight.

Strikeforce “Shamrock vs. Diaz” will be broadcast live on Showtime.

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