Gilbert “El Nino” Melendez (21-2-0) has been on the top of the lightweight division for the last few years, but because he was not fighting in the UFC, has never gotten his due credit. All that could change after Saturday. Totted as one of the most sought after transfer from the Strikeforce organization, Melendez will make his first UFC appearance fighting in the main event of UFC on FOX 7 as he challenges current lightweight champion Benson Henderson (17-2-0) for the title. Just this past December, Melendez’s teammate Nate Diaz got a crack at “Bendo” at UFC on FOX 5 but came up short. Although the stage is set up pretty much the same, Diaz and Melendez are very different fighters. The key difference in this main event will be that Melendez will bring the fight to Henderson and will most likely want to keep it standing.
Anyone who has followed Melendez probably remembers him most for his trilogy fights with Josh Thomson. Henderson is no stranger to stand up wars either as he has a few of his own from his WEC days against Anthony Pettis and Donald Cerrone, and most recently in the UFC against Frankie Edgar. In order for Melendez to pull off an upset win he must dictate the pace the entire fight and hope that it doesn’t go to the ground where Henderson is best at. For Henderson, as long as he stays just outside Melendez’s range and doesn’t get caught up in a rock-em-sock-em style of fight, he should have no problem retaining his lightweight title.
In the co-main event of the night, the other big, and when I say big, I mean heavyweight addition to the UFC family Daniel Cormier (11-0) makes his UFC debut as he faces former UFC heavyweight champion Frank Mir (16-6-0). If Cormier wins this fight and continues to climb the heavyweight divisional ladder, things could get interesting in that division. Cormier has made it very clear that he will not fight teammate and current heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez, but as we have seen before, minds quickly change once Dana White gives his opinion and title belts are thrown around.
Nate Diaz (16-8-0) versus Josh Thomson (19-5-0, 1NC) and Matt Brown (18-11-0) versus Jordan Mein (27-8-0) round out the televised portion of the fights as Chad Mendes (13-1-0) and Darren Elkins (17-2-0) headline the preliminary bouts on FX.
UFC on FOX 7: Melendez vs. Henderson is Saturday, April 20th live from the HP Pavilion in San Jose, CA. Fights start at 5PM PM and 8PM ET on FOX.