Trying to pick a winner between Gilbert Melendez and Diego Sanchez is not an easy task, mainly due to the fact that both fighters have very similar styles and records. Melendez made his name in Pride FC, WEC and Strikeforce before signing with the UFC this year. His debut was a disappointing decision loss at the hands of the then Lightweight boss Benson Henderson.
Sanchez went from The Nightmare of the original TUF show, winning the Middleweight bracket of the ground breaking reality series, to The Dream with a 24-5 record also competing for a title in the UFC. Sanchez’s attempt at the 155lb. strap resulted in a brutal beatdown from BJ Penn at UFC 107, one that was mercifully stopped once Sanchez started to resemble Marvin Eastman.
So both guys have similar histories in the sport and they love to fight hard. Let’s take a look at the wrestling, striking and submission game of each man ahead of this Saturday's UFC 166:
This is an area in which both guys are very strong; they like to slam guys around and hurt them on the mat. Sanchez was the NMAA state wrestling Champion at High School and often displays brutal strength while picking opponents up above his head. Melendez has a solid wrestling game that he utilizes to keep opponents down and land with big punches and elbows. Sanchez has a slight edge with his high school experience: 60-40 Sanchez.
Another field where it is hard to separate the two sluggers, as both have big power on the feet and the mat. Sanchez likes to throw big uppercuts and hooks like we saw in the Guida fight, he also has very strong knees; just ask Joe Riggs. Melendez has big power in both hands and likes to use harsh elbows like the ones he used to absolutely savage effect against Tatsuya Kawajiri. One thing to also remember is that neither man has ever been finished with strikes.
Melendez is the owner of 11 T/KO’s to Sanchez’s six, and also the owner of the record for most significant strikes landed in Strikeforce history (749). This sets him apart from Sanchez, so I’ll call it 60-40 Melendez.
Another very close call, as we know Gilbert Melendez trains under Cesar Gracie with the Diaz brothers. The whole camp has a very high level Jiu Jitsu game, although Melendez only holds one submission victory to Sanchez’s nine. That being said, the only two submission wins that Sanchez has in his 13 for the UFC have come by tap outs to strikes.
They each have adopted a heavily striking based style and mainly use their grappling for control or position to land gnarly strikes. One area that Sanchez has the advantage here is in competition experience; he is a seven-time Grapplers Quest winner and Hall of Famer. His black belt in BJJ to Melendez’s brown belt also adds weight to the argument for Sanchez taking the nod at 60-40
Once you analyze these two warriors, it’s hard to imagine any other fight at UFC 166 being awarded Fight of The Night while El Nino and The Dream are going to collide.