UFC lightweight champion Anthony Pettis will finally make his return to fighting at UFC 181, to attempt the first defense of his title. In the opposite corner will stand former Strikeforce champion Gilbert Melendez, who earned his shot with a win over Diego Sanchez and a loss to Benson Henderson.
However undeserving “El Nino” may be on paper, he is a legitimate fighter, and very dangerous in his own right. Check out the LowKickMMA Anthony Pettis vs Gilbert Melendez fight breakdown:
Pettis has proved time and time again that he is one of the most elite strikers in the game. His diverse skill set is supplemented by his array of experience in Tae Kwondoe, Capoeira and kickboxing. Head kick finishes of Joe Lauzon Danny Castillo, a liver kick TKO against Donald Cerrone and of course the renowned showtime kick against Benson Henderson; all are a display of a world class striker.
Melendez is a durable, gritty brawler, and will need to keep Pettis on his back foot if he can. The only question is whether or not “El Nino” has the technical skill to douse the arsenal of “Showtime”, in my opinion he does not. His chin and heart may keep him from being finished, but I’ll eat my hat before Gil outstrikes Pettis. 60-40 “Showtime”
Here is where I believe Melendez will want to keep this fight-in close quarters, and up against the cage. The stats are as follows, Melendez has 80% success in takedowns, with 85% stopped, whereas Pettis completes 77%, with only 64% stopped. We’ve seen the champion strugle with wrestlers like Clay Guida in the past, although he is much improved now.
Melendez has a little more of a powerful physique, and is known for bullying his opponents on the mat. Experience and stats make it 60-40 Melendez
Here we have quite an interesting category; Pettis is primarily known as a stand up fighter, but has advanced greatly with his jiu-jitsu skills. His armbar finish of Ben Henderson at UFC 164 was a thing of beauty, and he is only a brown belt in the art.”El Nino” comes from a grappling background, training with the Diaz brothers and Jake Shields, Gil is a black belt under Cesar Gracie.
That being said, Melendez has never submitted an opponent in MMA, whereas Pettis has finished four with his grappling skills. Neither man has been finished, they both like to stand up, but I feel that Melendez wants to submit Pettis. All considered I’m calling it 50-50
Keys to victory for Melendez are stay in range, up close and personal, and look for the takedowns. Standing on the end of Pettis’ kicks would be a good way to make this a short night, and “El Nino” does not want to try and brawl from the outside. For Pettis, he needs to use his movement. Stay away from Melendez on the outside and punish him with those rangy kicks.
Be aware of the takedown, and get ready to attack from the back if it goes to the ground. What are your thought on the upcoming UFC 181 co-main event?