Opinion: Gilbert Melendez Deserves to be Back in Title Talk
By Michael Hatamoto
Following one of the best fights in UFC history, former Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez has propelled himself back into the title mix.
A fight between UFC lightweight champion Anthony Pettis and Melendez would be a high-pace, action-packed fight that the UFC could easily market. Pettis has excellent standup with improving wrestling and BJJ, while Melendez has an excellent wrestling and grappling background with solid boxing.
Melendez also may have thrown a wrench in the plans of lightweight contender T.J. Grant, as the injured fighter was originally supposed to meet Pettis later this year. Instead, Grant’s knee injury allowed former Strikeforce lightweight champion Josh Thomson step in and face the Duke Roufus-trained fighter.
Here is what UFC President Dana White said following UFC 166:
“T.J. Grant’s in one of those unfortunate situations where he had the title shot and he had to pull out twice. He’s in limbo. He might come back and have to fight another fight. We’ve got to keep this thing rolling.”
Melendez lost a close split decision to then-UFC champion Benson Henderson at UFC on Fox: Henderson vs. Melendez in April – but a solid performance against Sanchez immediately puts him right in line.
Pettis meets Thomson in the main event of UFC on Fox: Pettis vs. Thomson in December, and Grant was supposed to face the winner.
Assuming Pettis gets by Thomson – which I expect he will – a fight with Melendez is the only one that seems to make sense at this point. If Pettis loses to Thomson, and an immediate rematch isn’t scheduled, then Thomson vs. Grant in the lightweight title shot would be ideal.
White and UFC matchmaker Joe Silva have some things to sort out in the lightweight division, and I can’t wait to see what they decide to do.