In a year that featured classic fights like Diaz vs Gomi, Edgar vs Griffin, and Huerta vs Guida, this clash between Melendez and Ishida still ranks right up there with those fights as one of the most exciting fights of 2007.
Yarennoka! took place on December 31, 2007 and was put together to be something of a farewell extravaganza to the PRIDE promotion. It had been exactly one year since Mitsuhiro Ishida’s last fight, which took place at PRIDE Shockwave 2006 on December 31, 2006. Ishida was riding high on a eight fight win streak, including a win over Marcus Aurelio (who had just choked Gomi out). At his prime and peak, Ishida might have been the most exciting wrestler/ground and pound fighter we’ve seen. Super fast shots that are beautiful to watch, and a relentless ground and pound attack that showcases how great his cardio was at the time. But unfortunately at PRIDE Shockwave 2006, Gomi absolutely destroyed Ishida in violent fashion to reclaim the lineal lightweight crown. So this was Ishida’s first fight back, and he was taking on the Cesar Gracie’s Gilbert Melendez.
Gilbert Melendez comes into this fight with a 13-0 record with wins over Rumina Sato, Clay Guida, and Tatsuya Kawajiri. If one wants to see an example of an exciting one sided 25 minute fight, check out Melendez dominating Guida to win the Strikeforce lightweight championship. After he beat Guida, he went on to PRIDE where he eventually faced Shooto’s 154 lbs champion Tatsuya Kawajiri. Lots of debate has gone on about this scrappy fight, Kawajiri could have gotten the decision but it ended up going the way of Melendez. Melendez then fought Shooto fighter Tetsuji Kato in a disappointing fight in front of Hugh Hefner, random celebrities and an audience of Playmates at the Playboy Mansion. Two months later, he was called back to Japan for the first time in over an year to fight against Kawajiri’s T-Blood stablemate – Mitsuhiro Ishida.
This fight is great example of exciting wrestling in the context of a mixed martial arts fight. Ishida is relentless with takedown attempts, he just never stops. Not even Clay Guida is as tenacious as this. Also, it must be pointed out that seeing Ishida and Melendez exchange head drops is one of the gnarliest things you’re ever going to see in an MMA fight. I feel that it’s actually Ishida’s aggressiveness that makes this fight as exciting as it turned out to be. But having said that, it’s apparent that Melendez was scrambling back up to his feet, defending, and landing so many strikes on Ishida. In the last few minutes of the fight, it’s even more clear that Melendez should get the nod as he gets the fight in the position that Ishida was trying to get all along. But even though Melendez is on top, reigning down punches, Ishida is still passionately fighting off his back as it creates an awesome image of Melendez and Ishida exchanges strikes on the ground as the fight comes to an end.