The long-awaited champion vs. champion bout at lightweight looks like it is close to becoming a reality.
UFC 155-pound champ Benson Henderson has a good chance to next defend his belt against the last reigning Strikeforce lightweight title holder, Gilbert Melendez, at UFC on FOX 7 in April. MMA Fighting first reported the news on Monday.
The event is being targeted for the HP Pavilion in San Jose, California. This would give “El Nino,” a Santa Ana, California native, somewhat of a home field advantage.
The Cesar Gracie Jiu-Jitsu fighter brings a solid 21-2 record to the Octagon, including a seven-fight win streak.
However, Melendez has suffered a ton of criticism in recent months. For one, he was awarded a razor-thin split decision in a rubber match with Josh Thompson in May, a fight many fans and analysts felt he lost.
Additionally, he was scheduled to defend his Strikeforce belt against Pat Healy in September and last week, respectively, but pulled out of both fights due to a lingering shoulder injury.
Many believe Melendez could have fought on the last Strikeforce card if he wanted to, but instead opted to wait and see where he would end up in the UFC title picture.
Henderson should prove to be a very tough match up for him, as “Bendo” is 6-0 under the UFC banner, already successfully defending his title against Frankie Edgar and Melendez’s teammate, Nate Diaz.
Diaz had no answers for Henderson’s high-level wrestling and vicious ground and pound, though Melendez is recognized as a better-rounded grappler than Diaz.
While contenders such as Anthony Pettis, Donald Cerrone, Gray Maynard and Jim Miller cannot be thrilled by the news, is Henderson vs. Melendez the right fight to make in a crowded lightweight division?