He may have lost a one-sided decision to Jeremy Stephens in his featherweight debut at last weekend’s (Sat., September 9, 2017) UFC 215 from Edmonton, but former Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez earned the respect of the MMA world when he fought through an absolutely destroyed left leg from an onslaught of vicious Stephens low kicks.

Many wondered if “El Nino” was seriously injured in the bout, as the referee repeatedly stopped the aaction to check on the battered fighter, only to see him fight on when he could barely stand. Thankfully, however, Melendez has avoided serious injury according to his wife Keri, who thanked his supporters by posting an update online that Melendez had avoided knee damage and would heal up quick.

However, that doesn’t mean that he isn’t dealing with a nasty recovery, as she also posted some photos of his grotesquely swollen and bruised leg. Check them out:

Ouch.

Indeed Melendez is a soldier, as he had numerous chances to give up last weekend and no one would have blamed him. But he chose to fight on against one of the most powerful pure strikers at featherweight, and for that, he clearly deserves the respect of his fans and everyone else.

Yet it begs to be asked what battle that soldier is fighting, because after coming to the UFC as possibly the hottest fighter outside of the octagon, Melendez has gone a highly disappointing 1-5 with the world’s MMA leader, with his last win coming in an all-out battle with Diego Sanchez at October 2013’s UFC 166 that many still feel is one of the best MMA bouts of all-time.

That’s his only UFC win, however, and even reinventing himself at featherweight lead to defeat after more than a year off from his last loss, another one-sided affair with top-ranked lightweight Edson Barboza where he was again battered with low kicks. Training with the Diaz brothers, who are also susceptible to low kicks, it appears that’s become Melendez’ kryptonite of sorts, and Stephens clearly knew that on Saturday.

“El Nino” has hearts for days – that much will never be questioned. But just where does a 35-year-old “El Nino” go from here?