Once Thought To Be A Done Deal, Gilbert Melendez vs. Khabib Nurmagomedov Off UFC 170

Former Strikeforce lightweight champ Gilbert Melendez made his UFC debut last April, taking the fight to former UFC 155-pound champion Ben Henderson in the early rounds of their title bout at UFC on Fox 7. “El Nino” ultimately lost a close split decision after fading in the championship rounds, but he sent notice to the tough UFC lightweight division that he was here to stay.

He followed his failed title bid with an impressive decision win over the always-tough Diego Sanchez in a rousing war at UFC 166. It was the leading candidate for “Fight of the Year,” and left Melendez in prime bargaining position for his next fight.

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News soon broke that Melendez would face surging undefeated prospect Khabib Nurmagomedov at February’s UFC 170, putting the wheels in motion for what was potentially an unbelievable fight.

However, bad news surfaced today when it was announced that the proposed bout has been scrapped. UFC president Dana White detailed the situation to Fox Sports with two simple words:

“Not happening.”

Fair enough. Apparently the 21-0 Nurmagomedov is still slated to appear on the February 22 card. The No. 7-ranked “Eagle” was last seen dispatching the gritty Pat Healy at UFC 165 in September. His lethal blend of Sambo, grappling, and kickboxing is enough to give fits to any contender in the talented UFC lightweight arena.

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But even without Melendez, UFC 170 from Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas is still set to be a blockbuster card. It features a women’s bantamweight title bout between Ronda Rousey and Olympic silver medalist wrestler Sara McMann. Daniel Cormier will also make his long-awaited light heavyweight debut on the card, taking on former UFC 205-pound champ and training partner “Suga” Rashad Evans. A pivotal welterweight showdown between Rory MacDonald and Demian Maia is slated for the main card as well.

Who is your leading candidate to replace Melendez against the soaring “Eagle?”

Here’s a rundown of the card thus far:

Francisco Rivera vs. Raphael Assuncao

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Stephen Thompson vs. Robert Whittaker

Mike Pyle vs. TJ Waldburger

Thiago Silva vs. Ovince St. Preux

Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. TBD

Rafael dos Anjos vs. Rustam Khabilov

Demian Maia vs. Rory MacDonald

Rashad Evans vs. Daniel Cormier

Ronda Rousey vs. Sara McMann

Photo Credit: Andrew Richardson for USA TODAY Sports