Gilbert Melendez Vs. Khabib Nurmagomedov Rumored For UFC 170

It was recently announced that UFC 170 would feature a blockbuster light heavyweight matchup between former champion Rashad Evans and new-to-the-weight class Daniel Cormier.

And it looks like it will add a pivotal lightweight match to the card, as well.

Fresh off of his rousing decision win over Diego Sanchez in many fans’ “Fight of the Year” at UFC 166, Gilbert “El Nino” Melendez is rumored to face surging prospect Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 170 from Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada. Russian site reported the finding.

Nurmagomedov was last seen pushing the pace to win a decision against gritty veteran Pat Healy at UFC 165 in September. Despite his extensive Sambo background, Nurmagomedov showed effective kickboxing to match. All told the Russian contender sits with an impressive 21-0 record in MMA and is set to take the talented lightweight division by storm.

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But he’ll have to get by “El Nino” first.

The number two-ranked Melendez narrowly missed an opportunity at UFC gold when he lost a close split decision to former champion Benson Henderson at April’s UFC on Fox 7. Melendez will have his hands full with the number seven-ranked “Eagle.”

“El Nino” has made a career of putting on great fights against top competition. Nurmagomedov is undoubtedly the future at 155 pounds, and he may be champion one day. This fight has all the makings of an unpredictable war. Both fighters are well rounded and hungry for a big win.

Unfortunately for both Melendez and Nurmagomedov, however, the title picture at 155 pounds is bit cloudy right now. With champion Anthony Pettis sidelined by a knee injury, Josh “Punk” Thomson will meet Henderson in the main event of UFC on Fox 10 on January 25 to decide the division’s next title contender.

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Pettis is tentatively scheduled to resume training within six to eight months, but it’s clear that knee injuries have become the flashy striker’s kryptonite. Regardless of when the champ returns, Melendez and Nurmagomedov will need to emerge victorious at UFC 170 to have any hope of fighting for the belt anytime soon.

Who is your early pick to stake their claim at a lightweight title shot?

Photo: Don McPeak for USA TODAY Sports