Opinion: Gilbert Melendez Proved He’s One Of The Best
By Michael Hatamoto
Former Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez stepped into the UFC octagon for the first time on Saturday night, and engaged with champion Benson Henderson in a five-round war.
Here is what Melendez said post-fight:
“I thought I won the first two and fifth, for sure. I took my foot off the gas a little bit after the second. The third was close, but I thought I came strong. I thought it was going to come down to the last round, and I thought I won the last round.”
What’s next for the former Strikeforce champion?
Even though he was unable to beat Bendo, I expect to see Melendez in a number of different competitive matchups in the future. It’s possible the UFC matches Melendez up with a few different fighters, including some of his former Strikeforce lightweight counterparts, but he should be in some exciting scraps.
It’d be fun to see Melendez fight the winner of Donald Cerrone vs. K.J. Noons, as both veteran fighters are most likely going to stand and bang. I’ve seen some discussion on Twitter about a fourth fight between Melendez and Josh Thomson, though I don’t know if the UFC would be anxious to match the two Northern California fighters against one another again.
Depending how things go for Bendo over the next fight or two, I think a Henderson vs. Melendez II would be appealing – the first fight was extremely close and fans could be convinced to see it one more time.
Ultimately, I think the best matchup would be the winner of Jim Miller vs. Pat Healy, as both fighters are extremely durable, scrappy fighters that might provide an interesting stylistic matchup for Melendez.
Regardless of which opponent is selected next, expect Melendez to be in the cage against a highly ranked lightweight.