NEW YORK – On a night when STRIKEFORCE will present a World Championship Doubleheader that includes a grudge rematch between defending welterweight champion Nick Diaz and KJ Noons, former STRIKEFORCE belt-holder and local favorite Josh Thomson (17-3) will meet world-ranked Gesias “JZ” Cavalcante (15-3-1) of Brazil in an important lightweight fight Saturday, Oct. 9, at HP Pavilion in San Jose, Calif., live on SHOWTIME® (10 p.m. ET/PT, delayed on the West Coast).
The winner between Thomson and Cavalcante, both world-ranked at 155 pounds, could be next up to challenge STRIKEFORCE World Lightweight Champion Gilbert Melendez.
Healthy again after injuries sidelined him for 15 months in 2008-‘09, Thomson turned back a determined bid from game Pat “Bam Bam’’ Healy of Portland, Ore., to score a hard-fought, third-round submission in his most recent start last June 26 at HP Pavilion.
The popular, exciting, crowd-pleasing Thomson earned the victory over Healy in a tight, even match via rear-naked choke at 4:27 of the third despite injuring his ribs along the way.
In his first effort back after the lengthy layoff, Thomson, who shut out Melendez across five rounds to capture the STRIKEFORCE world 155-pound belt on June 27, 2008, lost a thrilling rematch to Melendez by the scores of 49-46 twice and 49-47 on Dec. 19, 2009, at HP Pavilion.
“Fans expect me to fight guys the caliber of JZ and so do I. I want to fight all the best lightweights,’’ said the 5-foot-10 Thomson, who turns 32 on Sept. 21. “Right now STRIKEFORCE has a bunch of top fighters at 155 pounds. There’s always going to be talk about a third fight with Gilbert, but that will come when the time is right.
“In the meantime, I need to keep taking it one fight at a time and I need to continue to win. There are plenty of great fights out there for me, and this is definitely one of them.’’
A prominent member of American Kickboxing Academy (AKA) in San Jose, Thomson is 9-1 in his last 10 starts.
It will be the eagerly awaited STRIKEFORCE debut for Cavalcante, a former consensus top five-ranked lightweight and two-time K-1 Hero’s lightweight Grand Prix champion who signed with the San Jose-based organization earlier this year.
Not unlike Thomson, Cavalcante has had to fight through injuries the last few years — most significantly, a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his knee that sidelined him for several months.
“I train very hard against very good guys every day,’’ said the 5-foot-8, 27-year-old Cavalcante, a top performer in Japan the last few years who is coming off a split decision victory over Katsunori Kikuno last July 10 at DREAM 15 in Japan. It was JZ’s first start in nearly 13½ months, the longest layoff of his career.
“I think I could have performed better in my last fight,’’ JZ said, “but it was my first in a long time and ring rust was a factor. But, now, I feel great and I’m excited to be able to get back to doing what I love to do.’’
After suffering his initial pro loss in his third outing in July 2004, Cavalcante went 12-0-1 before fighting a hotly disputed No Contest with former world No. 2-ranked lightweight, Shinya Aoki, in a March 2008 fight that was called due to illegal elbow strikes. Six weeks later, he dropped a decision to Aoki in a match in which the Brazilian sustained a severely bruised rib and tore cartilage in his costal area.
Cavalcante has performed in Japan for several years so he doesn’t figure to be intimidated by the surroundings when he faces Thomson on his home turf.
“I’m happy to be 100 percent healthy and fighting in America,’’ JZ said. “Once the bell sounds, it will just be Thomson and I in there. This is a tremendous opportunity to re-establish myself against a former world champion. The fight is very important. The winner could be fighting for the STRIKEFORCE title.’’
Tickets for STRIKEFORCE: Diaz vs. Noons II are on sale at Ticketmaster.com, at the HP Pavilion ticket office, or by phone at (800) 745-3000. Doors will open at 4 p.m. PT. The first live, non-televised fight is at 4:30 p.m.
Diaz (22-7, 1 NC) will defend against Noons (9-1) in the main event. Diaz, of Stockton, Calif., has not lost a fight since he faced Noons, losing via disputed first-round TKO on Nov. 7, 2007. He has won seven in a row. Noons, of San Diego, Calif., has won his last six fights, including the thrilling slugfest against Diaz that ended when a cageside physician halted the proceedings due to excessive cuts around Diaz’ eyes.
In the co-feature, undefeated STRIKEFORCE Women’s Welterweight World Champion Sarah Kaufman (12-0) of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, will make the second defense of her 135-pound title against No. 1 contender and Dutch superstar Marloes Coenen (17-4).
Another featured fight will pit an emerging star, up-and-coming Luke Rockhold (7-1), of Santa Cruz, Calif., against the vastly more experienced, 2000 Olympic Games wrestling silver medalist, Matt “The Law” Lindland (22-7), of Oregon City, Ore., in a middleweight (185 pounds) contest.