When word came out early this morning that Gilbert Melendez had resigned with the UFC, and would coach opposite the current UFC Lightweight champion, Anthony Pettis on the next season of The Ultimate Fighter, I could not hide my smile. Don’t get me wrong, competition is a great thing, and the UFC needs more of it, but I’m concerned with big fights. I want to see the best of the best fight; I want to know who is the toughest person on the planet.
Anthony Pettis defending his title against Gilbert Melendez is a true dream match up.
Pettis made former champion Benson Henderson look like an amateur after tapping him out early on in their title fight. Melendez on the other hand, came up short against Henderson (according to the judges) and won what many consider the fight of the year against Diego Sanchez. However, this fight is more than just a fight between two well rounded fighters- it’s a fight that’s going to decide who the true king of the lightweights is. Melendez, as the former Strikeforce lightweight champion and Pettis, the undisputed UFC champ, are the two best lightweights alive today. A big proclamation? Maybe, but let’s look at who else is considered among the upper class of the division:
Benson Henderson: Pettis beat him twice, the second time, very convincing. Melendez lost, but in the eyes of many deserved the win. His recent victory over Josh Thomson didn’t prove much in the minds of many. He grinded out another victory, but did nothing to truly seperate himself from “The Punk.”
TJ Grant: With all due respect to Grant, he might be the former number one contender but his only big win was against Gray Maynard, who is tough as nails, but hasn’t really been a factor in the division for a long time. Match him up against Henderson and they can battle it out for the number one contender spot.
Nate Diaz? Too many recent losses. Josh Thomson? Already defeated by Melendez and by Henderson. Then there are wild cards like the undefeated Khabib Nurmagomedov and Rafeal dos Anjos who hasn’t lost in more than three years. They’ll square off soon enough and will eliminate one from immediate contention. Moreover, as great as those two fighters look, there are few who would put them in in the same class as either Pettis or Melendez, at this point. The x-factor is of course Jose Aldo who has to make his intentions known. Until then, he’s out of the conversation.
The UFC is doing the smart thing by hyping the fight between the two on a season of TUF that will have more eyes on it, than many of its recent incarnations due to the new women’s strawweight division. Throw in a little bit of the Diaz brothers, and perhaps an appearance from Anthony’s younger brother Sergio, and you get the makings of a new rivalry.
What do you think? Is Pettis/Melendez a true dream fight?
Let us know via twitter @cagepagesFS or @mattgalea