Plenty at stake in trilogy fight 

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Pledging violence upon a respected man might be a difficult concept for some to grasp.

But 10 combined rounds of malicious caged mayhem can make such a notion an easy one to comprehend.

For 10 rounds — split between two fights — Bay Area lightweights Gilbert Melendez and Josh Thomson clinched and kicked, struck and battered one another. Thomson, 33, of San Jose, handily took the first bout. Melendez, 30, based in San Francisco, avenged his loss in the second. And with the Strikeforce lightweight title on the line once more, the champion Melendez and challenger Thomson will again engage on Saturday at the HP Pavilion in San Jose. And both combatants, despite going the distance twice before, will be looking for the knockout.

“It would be nice to get that knockout punch,” Melendez said. “But more so, it would be nice to tactically break Josh Thomson, and take him out.”

Thomson, predictably, shares the sentiment.

“I really want to be the first person to knock him out,” he said. “No one’s finished him. He’s got a granite chin.”

But in the want to render the other unconscious, both men by way of their wars admire one another.

“I try not to have that relationship with people,” Melendez said, “And I try not to have that with Josh, but yet I can’t help but respect the guy for what we accomplished together twice. I respect him as a warrior.”

The two 155-pounders first met in 2008, with Melendez employing a complacent stubbornness to only brawl forward. That tactic cost him. And he changed for the rematch a year later.

“I just decided to reinvent myself,” Melendez said. “Josh taught me a lot.”

But while Melendez grew and regained his title with the rematch win, Thomson slumped due to injury-induced inactivity. And while considered not a top lightweight by some, Thomson likes his chances.

“I think the two of us bring out the best in each other,” Thomson said.

For Melendez, the rubber match is an opportunity to continue his quest in being the best lightweight in the world.

And as for Thomson, it’s a fistic chance for reclamation.

“All the pressure is on him to perform,” Thomson said.

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