Gilbert “El Nino” Melendez has been on a mission to prove himself the best Lightweight fighter in all of Mixed Martial Arts. With the exception of veteran warrior Pat Healy, Melendez has essentially cleaned out the Strikeforce Lightweight Division. In his last 7 fights, Josh Thomson has been the only one to defeat Melendez (unanimous decision), and Melendez has already gotten his win back twice, the first being a barn-burner of a fight at Strikeforce: Evolution, and the second being recently at Strikeforce: Barnett vs Cormier. And while there have been slight rumblings of a fourth fight between the two, the liquidation of the Strikeforce brand opens up a lot of new fights for the Lightweight kingpin.
However, one must keep in mind that Melendez’s teammate Nate Diaz has the next UFC Lightweight Championship opportunity at Benson “Smooth” Henderson. So what happens to Melendez if Diaz captures the gold belt at 155 pounds? It has long since been tradition within the Cesar Gracie camp to never fight your teammate, so Melendez could potentially be left in a tight spot if Diaz pulls out the victory.
Would “El Nino” drop to 145 pounds to pursue Jose Aldo? Assuming Aldo gets past former Lightweight Champion Frankie Edgar in February 2013, and assuming Melendez does not succumb to octagon jitters, this is a fight that will quickly climb to the top of the list of potential dream fights. This is quite the reach, as Melendez has never said anything about dropping to 145, and there are still many appetizing fights for Melendez within the UFC Lightweight Division in pugilists like Anthony “Showtime” Pettis, Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone, Joe Lauzon, and Gray Maynard, among others. UFC fans may also see Strikeforce Lightweight champion Melendez collide with former Bellator Lightweight king Eddie “The Pitbull” Alvarez, providing Alvarez signs with the UFC.
The bottom line is that after months upon months of clamoring to fight in the Octagon, Melendez is finally getting what he wants. And if Melendez gets past Healy at the final Strikeforce event, his stock coming into the UFC will be at its all-time highest. UFC fans can be sure that whether it is at Lightweight, Welterweight, or Featherweight, Gilbert Melendez is here to stay.