UFC

Thomson wrong guy to challenge for belt

Inside Fights Scott Sawitz
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Josh Thomson fought a poor fight against K.J. Noons at Saturday night's Strikeforce: Tate vs. Rousey event and managed to notch a victory in the least impressive way possible.

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Outside of a submission attempt that almost succeeded late in the fight, Thomson fought noticeably poor by his own admission. He admitted as such to Showtime announcer Mauro Ranallo immediately after the fight.

And while he’s probably the next in line for a shot at Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez, nothing he did in that fight justifies his position as such.

Thomson's history as a former champion and the intrigue of a rubber match with Melendez can justify it from a hype standpoint. But the fighter who should be facing Melendez for a title shot also notched a victory on Saturday's undercard earlier in the night.

Pat Healy ought to be next in line.

Coming off a thrilling submission win over Carlos Fodor on the preliminary card, Healy is on a four-fight win streak and doesn’t have the extensive injury history Thomson does. Healy has also progressed as a fighter since his loss to Thomson in 2010.

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Thomson has been in a slow decline since his win over Melendez in June 2008. His injury hiatuses have masked this but it was evident in that Melendez went from being swept on the scorecards the first time to be the one doing the sweeping in the rematch in December 2009.

Melendez now would make quick work of the Thomson that showed up Saturday night and it was evident when he discussed a potential rematch while giving commentary. It would be a paycheck and another victory for Melendez, most likely, but it wouldn’t be the sort of grand trilogy that one imagines Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker and his matchmakers imagine it to be.

Melendez-Thomson III would be the culmination of the downfall of one fighter and the rise of another over an approximate four-year span. Thomson’s decline wasn’t evident despite his being one of the best lightweights in the world outside the Zuffa banner because he’s been hurt for such long portions of his career.

Injuries have robbed Thomson of a lot of the explosiveness he once had. Lightweight fighters tend to decline quicker than in any other division and Thomson now is a shell of his former self. If and when he steps in against Melendez it’ll be one final run at glory. But the current version of Melendez will wreck the fighter Thomson is now.

Noons is a good Strikeforce fighter but will never be good enough to fight in the UFC on a consistent basis. He has all the tools you’d want in a fighter, from good looks to a pro boxing background, but just doesn’t have the total abilities to be able to survive in the UFC lightweight division. This is the type of fighter Thomson would’ve put away not too long ago. The fact that he struggled with him says volumes about where he is as a fighter right now.

Healy, on the other hand, is on a remarkable rise, going from mediocre welterweight status to a burgeoning lightweight fighter. On a four-fight win streak, all of which were in the past 12 months, Healy is an exciting fighter who would present an interesting challenge for Melendez, one of the top three lightweights in the world. He’s made a leap up after hitting a plateau. Dropping to a more natural lightweight from welterweight, Healy has gotten better incrementally and has shown quality submission work.

Healy is an entirely different and better fighter than he was when he lost to Thomson two years ago. Right now Healy looks to be potentially a fringe top-10 lightweight in the world if matched up against the best of the UFC lightweight division. With some better competition one can imagine he’d be competitive with guys like Clay Guida and Donald Cerrone in the near future.

You can’t say the same about Josh Thomson right now. And that’s why despite his placement in the co-main event of Saturday night's card, and the implication with Melendez’s prominent spot on the broadcast team during his fight, he shouldn’t be next in line for the championship.

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