PRESS RELEASE; New York (April 9, 2009)–Sengoku star Rodrigo Damm (8-2) has made his way from his native Brazil to California to replace injured Strikeforce World Lightweight (155 lb. limit) Champion Josh Thomson in the matchup with Gilbert “El Nino” Melendez (14-2) this Saturday on the live SHOWTIME televised portion of Strikeforce: “Shamrock vs. Diaz” mega-fight card at HP Pavilion in San Jose, Calif. (Pending California State Athletic Commission approval)
The winner of the five-round bout between Melendez and Damm will be crowned the Interim Strikeforce Lightweight Champion and be granted a shot at Thomson when the injured fighter is ready to return to action.
Damm captured the attention of MMA fans worldwide on June 8, 2008, when he scored a second round TKO on rising American Top Team star Jorge “Gamebred” Masvidal at Saitama, Japan’s Saitama Super Arena.
The victory over Masvidal capped off an eight fight win streak for Damm, a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu specialist who has produced submissions in five of his eight career wins. Damm has been fighting professionally for five years.
Thomson sustained a broken leg last week while sparring and was forced to withdraw from his rematch with Melendez. Thomson won the title in his initial encounter with Melendez, a five-round, non-stop-action battle via unanimous decision at the HP Pavilion on June 27, 2008. Thomson underwent surgery shortly after the break occurred. His estimated recovery time has not been determined.
The 26-year-old Melendez, an expert in both Muay Thai and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, is looking to return to the win column after his last start, the loss to Thomson. A resident of San Francisco, Melendez went unbeaten in his first 13 professional appearances, a run that catapulted him into the world top 10 rankings.
The “Shamrock vs. Diaz” event represents the dawn of a new age for Strikeforce as it will be the first one under the world championship MMA promotion’s new television agreement with Showtime Networks Inc. The live telecast will feature five fights including a thrilling main event between four-time world champion and MMA legend Frank Shamrock (24-9-1) and fellow knockout artist Nick Diaz (18-7, 1 NC), contested at a catch weight of 179 pounds.
Middleweight (185-pound limit) sluggers Scott “Hands of Steel” Smith (16-5, 1 NC) and Benji “Razor” Radach (19-4) will also meet in a featured contest.
Heavyweight mixed martial arts (MMA) forces, Brett “The Grim” Rogers (8-0) and “Abongo” Humphrey (12-0) will put their unbeaten records on the line when they face off.
Women’s MMA power houses, Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos (6-1) and Hitomi “Girlfight Monster” Akano (14-5) will slug it out in a 145-pound showdown.
Strikeforce “Shamrock vs. Diaz” will air live on SHOWTIME (10 p.m. ET/PT, delayed on the West Coast) on Saturday, April 11.
Tickets for “Shamrock vs. Diaz,” priced from $30, are available for purchase at the HP Pavilion box office (408-287-7070) as well as at all Ticketmaster locations (408-998-TIXS), Ticketmaster online (www.ticketmaster.com), and Strikeforce’s official website (www.strikeforce.com).
HP Pavilion doors open at 4:30 p.m. for “Shamrock vs. Diaz” on Saturday. The first preliminary bout will begin at 5 p.m.